Stamboul Train

The Orient Express it definitely wasn’t: in fact I burst out laughing when I saw the couple of shabby carriages that were supposed to be scheduled to take me to Istanbul after my delay in Bulgaria. The train got as far as the border then, at about 0200am, we were decanted out for immigration, customs and a (free) coach ride for the final leg of the journey. Surprisingly enough the bus arrived early and I found myself dropped off at Istanbul Railway Station at 0600am with absolutely nothing open and no-one around but a trio of taxi drivers circling like sharks.

I knew that Arzu’s family lived some way off on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and, having already had my visit cut short, I decided that I’d at least use a taxi to get to the train station on the other side. The taxi driver swore that the local train from Haydarpasa wasn’t working but after a lot of eye rolling on my part agreed to take me to the bus station instead. I agreed to half his asking price and held onto my money until I was actually sitting in the front seat of a bus to Gebze: I’m obviously learning.

The mobile phone decided that it would work in Turkey after all and a helpful passenger explained to the family (who speak no English at all) where and when I would be arriving. Arzu’s Mum overcame her nervousness over the communication difficulties by attempting to feed me every two hours and, as the photos show, we got along fine. She pronounced all my clothing in need of a good wash (Belgrade still lingered), admired the money pockets stitched my undies and dressed me in an interesting combination of stripy clothes while the washing machine did its much appreciated duty.

There was an unexpected visit from Hassan, Arzu’s brother the dentist-and-soon-to-be-bridegroom so a stroll down to the pretty local park overlooking the Sea of Marmara was proposed. As we sat sipping tea in the balmy evening air I looked across the water to see Europe twinkling in the distance and, for the first time, reflected on just how far I had actually come. Poor weather was expected for the following day so I explained that I would leave early and take in a couple of the Istanbul museums before transferring to the airport for my evening flight to Athens.

With my (clean) belongings packed, a few additional snacks secreted about my person, Arzu’s father Suleyman took me back to the bus stop. The train really wasn’t working. I found the ferry very easy to use this time but as I disembarked an unexpected problem surfaced. The sun came out. Now, this left me with quite a dilemma because on the two previous occasions that I visited Istanbul it was bucketing down with rain and the museums were closed. This is a magical city which cannot fail to produce some enjoyable experiences whatever the circumstances but I obviously felt that I had some serious catching up to do.

Of course, the opportunity to wander the city centre for a few hours taking photographs in the sunshine won out over the museums. In fact, when one of the absurdly friendly city cats decided to get into my handbag as I sat writing postcards outside the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, I ended up being snapped a few times myself. The museums will just have to wait for my next visit, I certainly can’t regret the way I spent my time even though the visit was so brief and as soon as I set off for the airport – it began to rain heavily.

 

Categories: Europe, Middle East

2 Comments

  • Chris says:

    I agree that the Museums can wait but you’ll have to see to the captions when you get home. You’re not telling us that you travelled in the train shown in picture 02, are you?

  • nicola ainsworth says:

    Yes, I’ll see to the captions when I get home. It can be surprisingly time consuming and needs time spent ON-LINE to check out so many of the locations. Since I usually prepare my pictures on trains and buses I prefer to leave them un-captioned rather than get them wrong.

    No, the train in picture 02 isn’t going anywhere. Just like those outside so many railway stations around Europe (actually I’ve seen it done in India too) it is just a picturesque relic. I snap them all for my grandson though.

    I travelled in the one shown in 03!

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