It’s nice when friends stop by and pay a visit. This, in part, was the thinking behind the construction of the commemorative Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain in Istanbul. But the fountain is a symbol of much more significant events in Turkey’s past.
The fountain was built in 1900 to celebrate the second anniversary of German Kaiser Wilhelm’s visit to Turkey and sits at the far end of Sultanahmet Square in the heart of the Old City. It’s constructed in the neo-Byzantine style, with marble columns and a dome whose interior is lined with golden mosaic tiles. It’s a small but lasting tribute to an alliance that both countries would probably rather forget.
Germany and the Ottoman Empire fought on the same side in World War I after forging a secret treaty that brought the Turks into the war in 1914. Though there are few noticeable traces of World War I in modern Istanbul, the impact of its legacy is written in the very DNA of modern Turkey. The Ottoman Empire’s loss to the Allies in 1918 weakened the military significantly and paved the way for a Turkish War of Independence led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who eventually became the first President of the Turkey we know today. You could argue that this chain of events all began with a friendly visit from the Kaiser in 1898.
The Ottoman Empire’s alliance with Germany and subsequent loss in World War I pretty much spelled the end for the Sultan and his friends, but this fountain still stands as a testament to their doomed alliance. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Know Before You Go
Right across from the obelisk near the Old Hippodrome.