Guide to SKOPJE

The Oldest Witness of Historic Fires


Imagine that you are travelling to a city for the first time. When you enter the city, what is the first thing attracting you? Is that today’s buildings devoid of artistic features or wondrous historic works that managed to come these days successfully?

If you choose the second one, lend an ear to the story of one of these historic works:

kula1Not so many, but a few days ago, I decided to scout Istanbul which is surrounded with towers, castles and ramparts. My first destination was Beyazıt tower in Beyazıt district. I learned from university officers that the tower which is located within the main campus of IstanbulUniversity was built for spotting fire threats. In Republic period of Turkey, the tower had an additional duty: informing about weather forecast. This duty went on by means of the tower’s lights until 1995. (According to my last research, the tower’s blue light means clear weather; yellow light means foggy weather; green light means rainy weather; red light means snowy weather for tomorrow.)

The officers of the university went on telling: “The wooden tower which was originally made of wooden burned on Cibali fire in 1774. After that, it was rebuilt by Sultan Mahmud II. Unfortunately, the wooden tower was exposed to another fire which was started by the Janissary Corps. In 1828, the architect Senekerim Balyan built it again by the command of Sultan Mahmud II; thereby, the tower took its final form.

The length of the tower was originally 85 meters but, its length became 118 meters because three floors were added a few years later. Today, the tower has four floors with the additions: one for observation, one for signaling, one for signal baskets and one at the top for flags.


On the tower’s frontage wall facing Beyazıt Square, there is an inscribed stone panel which belongs to Sultan Mahmud II. Besides, there is a tughra belonging to Sultan on top of the panel. I tried to read it because it is quatrain.


Immediately afterwards, I heard the voice of the tower attendant who would accompany with me: “We have to climb up 180 stairs to arrive the observation floor. Hard to do! There is no elevator to get on.” Firstly, I was afraid, but after a while, I plucked up my courage and said: “Today is the day! I’ll do it!” …

Ultimately, tiny door of the tower which I awaited to visit impatiently opened:


It is easier said than done; we climbed up 180 wooden stairs step by step. Fortunately, the lamps on the wall helped us to see our way easily.

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At the end of the “climbing up stairs” marathon which lasts nearly 10 minutes, we arrived on the observation floor. This is last destination of our sight-seeing since top floors are close to visit because of ladder devastation.

The first thing to meet us in this floor is 12 windows. On the edge and top of these windows, there are some motifs and figures painted with pastel colours. To be honest, I loved the great paysage which attracts people’s attention artistically.

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The only and important stuff in observation floor is historic, steely ladder. The ladder with opening handle must have helped to save so many lives, who knows?


Why you should go and see the tower? The significant answer of this question is that you’ll have a chance to watch Istanbul from bird’s eye view. Thanks to its 360 degree panoramic sight, the tower provides opportunity to view the Golden Horn’s and Bosphorus’ unique and fabulous scenery by looking out of its 12 windows. So, don’t miss the great opportunity!


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A Tradition of Beyazıt Tower: “You have a baby”

In ancient times, the fire-watch tower was called “fire mansion” so; fire watchmen was also called “mansion resident”. According to tradition of the tower, mansion resident who saw fire said: “Agha! You have a baby.” After that, agha asked to mansion resident: “Is that a boy or girl?” If fire was in Anatolian side, Beyoğlu or Rumeli side of Bosphorus, the answer would be a girl. However, it would be a boy if fire was in center of İstanbul.