Former Foes' Naval History on Display
Both Madrid and Istanbul boast navy museums—the Museo Naval and Deniz Muzesi, respectively—but the collections on display are so different it's difficult to recall that once the fleets of these former great powers shared a common history. In 1571 Spain and Ottoman Turkey met in one of history's largest and bloodiest battles at sea, Lepanto. In a few hours on a Sunday afternoon in early October more than 30,000 men were slain or drowned in shallow waters at the mouth of the Gulf of Patras, and nearly 200 oared galleys were sunk.
Spain led the Holy League's polyglot formations to sudden victory over the fleet of Sultan Selim II in that immense battle, which (thanks to events elsewhere) seemingly changed very little in the balance of the centuries-long clash between the Muslim East and the Christian West. Other than a handsome, full-size reproduction painting of Don Juan of Austria—the Holy League's young commander—and his broadsword, there's little to commemorate this huge collision at sea in the Spanish naval museum, and nothing at all in its counterpart in Istanbul.