Friday, 3 August 2012


Following 3 days, 5 trains and 8 countries, the final leg of the journey into Istanbul is by coach. Arriving at around 6.00 in the morning I have an opportunity to explore the city in the absence of the swarms of tourists. Bigger than London, Istanbul has a distinctly local feel to it, with the residents lining up in single file along the Galata Bridge to cast their fishing rods into the Bosphourous at first light.

From the narrow lanes that climb up the hills it is easy to make out the geography of the city, the 3 major spreads of land laid across 2 continents. The local feel of the city is reflected in being able to comfortably visit most places by foot, ambling around the surprisingly un-pushy restaurant and shop owners. Along with ample amounts of kebab, the fresh fish sandwiches and plenty of Efes made Istanbul a city that is all too easy to enjoy, at night we struggled to venture far from the hostel bar and saw little reason to, all of them being so similar.

After 4 days it was time to leave and head east, towards the Caucasus. The train line between Istanbul and Ankara is closed and a coach replacement was necessary. From the rather hum-drum looking city of Ankara I took the Dogu “Express” train service towards Kars in the very East of Turkey, about 900 miles from Istanbul. The term “express’ appears to have been applied fairly loosely as it seems to meander lazily across the landscape at around 40mph, occasionally stopping and taking about 27 hours to reach its destination. I had considered taking the faster bus but a meal in the restaurant car along with a beer reminded me why I’m on a rail trip.

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