Kilitbahir Castle

There are two ferry crossings from Canakkale to the opposite side of the Dardenelles. You are effectively crossing from the Asian side to the European continent by either taking the ferry to to the town of Eceabat or to Kilitbahir. In this video we take a look at Kilitbahir Castle, located by the village of Kilitbahir which gets its name from the Turkish Kilit-ül-bahr, meaning the Key of the Sea. The impressive castle here can be seen from the Canakkale side and is impossible to miss if you take the Kilitbahir ferry and the short walk from the ferry terminal.

When you arrive on the Kilitbahir side you will find several fish restaurants and a small fishing harbour. It is easy to forget that there is also an old village that surrounds the castle and a particularly good cafe called Kale Cafe just behind the castle walls. The beautifully renovated house by the cafe is also the local centre for Culture and Arts and contains displays of relics from the First World War as well as ethnograqphic exhibits from around Kilitbahir.

Kilitbahir Castle was built to control the shipping of the Dardenelles. The castle fortress faces another fortification just over the water in Canakkale which is called Kale-i Sultaniye or by its modern name Çimenlik Castle from which Canakkale gets its name. Both castles were built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet also referred to as Mehmed II and commonly known as Mehmed the Conqueror. The castle was build in 1463 at the narrowest point on the straits. Visitors coming from Eceabat or from the ferry will pass through the impressive stone gate tower and on to the castle entrance. There is plenty of parking for cars and coaches. The impressive citadel with its central clover shapped tower dominates the castle grounds.

It is the clover leaf shape that makes Kilitbahir Castle unusual. The plans were drawn up by overlapping three circles partially which many have said was done to symbolise the shape of a key and its name. The walls are not straight but are arched as if drawn with a compass and give the castle its unique shape. The seven story tower which is now an exhibition was built during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent or Suleiman I. This tall vantage point has a commanding view of the Dardenelles. The castle would have been well armed with a full garrison of Ottoman troops. This heart shaped tower in the centre of the inner fortress is a magnificent piece of architecture. Visitors can scale the staircases of the outer walls and walk around these impressive fortifications.

When we came here some 8 years ago it was basically a shell with not much to see apart from the basic structure. It is quite a different story today. Having been expertly and painstakingly renovated it provides an interesting insight into Ottoman history. The Sarikule Müzesi or museum by the main entrance is a showcase for relics of the battle of the Gallipoli campaign. Kilitbahir Castle was repaired and expanded during the dynasty of Sultan Suleiman and the Sari Kule was built in 1541.

The grounds of the castle feature several statues and have been carefully restored with extensive grass lawns which make it all the more impressive. There is a small section dedicated to Piri Reis or Ahmed Muhiddin Piri, an Ottoman admiral, navigator, geographer and cartographer who was born in 1470. There is also a documentary film which informs you about the castles history.

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