The day before yesterday, Annegret and I left Istanbul for a journey that would take us some 1500 kilometers from one end of Turkey to the other, by ferry from Istanbul to Bursa, by bus from Bursa to Eskişehir, and then by train from Eskişehir to Ankara and from Ankara to Kars. View Map
The highlight of the journey was the Ankara-Kars leg in the “Dogu Express” train. (Which, by the way, we only caught because in Eskişehir the cleaners found us sitting all alone in the wrong train which they were about to tidy up and fortunatley they sent us off to the right platform just in time… Annegret still insists the information on the screen in the train station was incorrect…)
We weren’t quite sure what to expect of the Dogu Express, where we were to spend the next 26 hours. The first welcome surprise was the very spacious sleeping compartment – where we found a fridge, slippers and real (!) towels waiting for us.
But the real treat was the personnel on the train who hardly spoke any English but seemed delighted at trying to ask us questions and tell us about themselves. We were also invited to a glass (or two) of raki later in the evening.
I guess part of the attention we got was due to there hardly being any passengers at all on the train – and no non-Turkish tourists except for the two of us… It seemed rather incomprehensible to our friends why we would want to go to Kars to cross the border to Georgia from there, and indeed as we continued onward, the landscape appeared more and more remote:
It also got colder and colder, and we started to see patches of snow as it became dark outside and we came closer to our destination. Now, we had been joking about whether it wouldn’t be fitting to find Kars in snow, because of the novel “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk which is set in the very same city, but now we started to get a little nervous…
Arriving in Kars, no snow, but it was cold, dark and rainy, and we had no idea where our hotel was. The conductor from our train insisted on accompanying us – and carrying my backpack – all the way to the hotel, and we ended up having a drink and snack together. He tried to convince us one last time to just come back to Ankara with him and the others on the train the next morning, but then seemed to realized that he wouldn’t change the minds of these two crazy Germans.
We met so many wonderful people during those two days who were fun and who helped us. Though our attempts to learn at least a few phrases of Turkish during our journey weren’t too successful, the words for “Thank you” we won’t forget too quickly: Teşekkür ederim!
This post is also available in Deutsch.