The ‘Dogu Express’ from Ankara to Erzurum

It’s 17.05 on a warm September afternoon on the wide and peaceful platform 1 of the old Ankara station, still functioning behind the modern YHT (high speed) station. If you arrive at the back there are no stairs to deal with, no escalators, just an x-ray machine and you are in at platform level. The woman screening my bags asks me if I have a knife. I tell her it’s little one and just to prepare my food. She accepts this explanation without my needing to open anything to prove my innocence. The ‘Dogu Express’ pulls in slowly from the […]

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The Istanbul – Ankara YHT (High Speed Train)

Pendik station on the outskirts of Asian Istanbul isn’t the easiest place to reach, especially with heavy luggage. Deciding to avoid multiple forms of public transport, in the end I took a taxi, which took about an hour and cost £17. Please don’t tell my insurers, as Istanbul taxi drivers must rate as some of the maddest in the world, and the traffic can be crazy. But today I’m lucky and I arrive in good time and without any injuries. Descending into the tunnel that forms the working part of the station, I discover that it isn’t possible to get […]

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The Sofya – Istanbul Ekspresi

I keep thinking of this train as the mythical ‘Midnight Express’ from Alan Parker’s 1978 film, which made a big impression on me when I was old enough to watch it. But there were of course no real trains in that film. For Istanbul train based films you have to look to James Bond (‘From Russia With Love’) or Hurcule Poirot (‘Murder on the Orient Express’). Sofia station seems to be a good place to me. It’s a large, slightly brutal, Soviet inspired building, but it is clean and seems safe. Getting a ticket for the Istanbul train proves very […]

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Mad to go to Istanbul by train, or mad not to?

Having just competed a one week run from London to Istanbul on the train (mostly), I’m contemplating if it’s a journey that I would recommend to others. Whilst just a modest 3000 km, it contains some real highlights, but also a couple of challenges. The major highlight of such a trip is the huge cultural diversity that you can encounter in just a few days. Every day is a new currency, a new favourite beer, and a place that feels very different to yesterday. If you are unlucky you may discover a new top scam too. Living in Europe we […]

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On the route of the "Bosfor" from Bucharest to Istanbul

Bucharest Nord is a good station for the long range train traveller. It has loads of shops close to the platforms selling fruit, local pastries and fresh coffee. I’m sure it’s not the safest place in the world, but on a sunny Saturday morning it feels just fine. If you are interested in rail travel you will probably know about the problems getting by train to Turkey. There is no direct service, and hasn’t been for several years owing to extensive engineering works on the line in Turkey and also in Bulgaria. Over the next 18 hours I’m therefore taking […]

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