Day 14: Kars → Istanbul

Continue reading: →Day 15: Istanbul

Ankara
Endless vastness, part III - near Ankara
In the night before, our friend the conductor asked, whether we would like to have tea or coffee in the morning and at what time. At nine o'clock would be fine, we said. Now it's exactly 9 in the morning - et voilà - here comes the conductor, with hot coffee and a smile in his face. What a service! Looking out the window offers a completely different view - now we have entered the semisteppe with more or less green hills. At around half past eleven in the morning, we arrive in the capital of Turkey, Ankara. There we have half an hour time to walk a few metres and get something to eat and to drink. And to buy an English newspaper. Ankara is a very modern and cosmopolitan city, but when I see the people beleaguering the kiosks, with everyone trying to order at the same time, I have my doubts.

When I was in Ankara in 1995, I had the feeling that one day in the city would be enough. The young capital has a very, very long history, but there's not so much left of it. It's just another big capital - only the two hills right in the centre of the old town are definitely worth a visit. And since 1995, a lot has changed - the city looks even more modern and could be everywhere in Middle Europe.

Sometime in the afternoon we are in the dining car again. The clients have changed - many modern dressed young Turkish women are sitting around. The difference to East Anatolia can't be much bigger. There's still a huge gap between Turks in bigger cities and Turks in the countryside - two different worlds, united in one large country.

It's almost six o'clock in the evening, and while looking out the window, I'm thinking "only four more hours to go". Which is already quite a long time for a train ride, but compared to 39 hours it's nothing. Around eight o'clock we pass Izmit, from where we are going to follow the seashore. The whole area between Izmit and Istanbul is heavily industrialized and densily populated, and so it's hard to tell where exactly Istanbul begins.

Sultanahmet
Yeni Mosque at night, Istanbul
Shortly before ten in the evening, with a delay of a few minutes only, we arrive at the big Haydarpasha train station in Istanbul. Soon we take a ferry from the adjacent quay and cross the Bosporus to get to Karaköy. The nocturnal view of Istanbul along the Bosporus is just beguiling and another highlight of this trip.

Half an hour later we arrive at Hotel Cem, where we already stayed before we started the trip to Georgia and Armenia. Since we'd known that we would come late, we'd already phoned the hotel from Kars. They'd told us that they would reserve a room with shared bath for 33,000,000 TL, but now staff is telling us, that all of these rooms are taken. And so they offer us to stay in a room with bathroom for one night and in the reserved room without bathroom for the remaining two nights. The price for the room with bathroom is substantially higher - € 33 for one night. But it wasn't our fault, and so we only pay € 23. The room is completely different to the one we had before - it's much bigger, brighter and has a very nice bathroom. The manager asks if we like the room and if we want to spend the remaining two nights there as well. "Oh, we like it", I reply, "and we would love to stay here if the price doesn't change". The manager just smiles and - nods.

Buying cigarettes in a touristy area: I'm asking for a special brand. The shop assistant replies "I can recommend these menthol cigarettes! Give it a try!". I don't like menthol cigarettes and neither did I ask for them. Of course, I answer "no, thanks". Suddenly the man glowers at me and slams my cigarettes and the change onto the counter. Ouch!

Continue reading: →Day 15: Istanbul

 

 

  • For detailed information on the train between Istanbul and Kars see →Day 13.
  • The fastest way to get to the Haydarpasha train station (Asia) from the European parts of the city, take the ferry from Karaköy (opposite Eminönü). It takes around 15 minutes only, the fare is appr. € 0.50.

 

 

 

 

 

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