It’s May 2013 and, so far on our journey, we’ve travelled from Fethiye to Eskişehir by bus and spent three nights in the city, taking in Odunpazarı (the old town), Kent Park and the Porsuk River. Of course, we had fuel stops at a few bars and cafes in between, too. Eskişehir was the Türkiç Capital of Culture for 2013 and we wanted to see what the city was all about. Glad we did go. We’ll be back.
And Eskişehir is quite a compact city, so, when the time came to press on with our journey, we walked to the train station to take the Yüksek Hızlı Tren – YHT high speed train from Eskişehir to Ankara. Uncertainty surrounding our next onward train journey eastwards meant an extra night in Ankara – but we were happy with that…more time to visit the mausoleum of Atatürk; Anıtkabir.
And now, finally, here we are at Ankara Garı (the train station). We’ve messaged our friend in Patnos, Ağrı to say we’ve got a train – but not the one we wanted. We wanted the Van Gölü Express that would take us to Tatvan on the shores of Lake Van. ‘Exceptional circumstances’ (the official reason) meant it didn’t leave – and so now we’ve got ourselves on the Doğu Express from Ankara to Kars. We’ll be getting off at Erzurum. Hey, at least we’re going eastwards. We’ll worry about Erzurum to Patnos when we get there.
Inside, the station is beautifully romantic – there’s just something about old train stations and trains. I guess it also helps that this is finally realising two dreams – crossing Turkey by train and we’ll be in the east of the country for the first time when we get off the train.
Seriously; butterflies in the stomach and a happy glow when we see our train with this destination board on the side. Trolleys packed with food, kitchen goods and other supplies for the journey are being unloaded, and we set off along the platform to look for what will be our little home for the next 20 or so hours. It’s 5:30pm and we’re due to pull out of the station at 6pm.
We’re greeted at the door by an attendant who takes our ticket and shows us to our cabin. You can see he takes his job seriously – people in these types of jobs usually do, don’t they? He tells us his name as we walk to our cabin door (it escapes me) and, as he pushes the door open we’re pushed back by a whoosh of heat that has obviously been eager to escape for some time.
The attendant tells us he’s here to look after us. If we need anything, call him. The restaurant car is just down there, toilets either end of each wagon. “And, whatever you do,” he says, “don’t open the window in your cabin.”
“The heat will escape and the heating system in your room will close itself off.” He makes a shivering sign.
“Ahh, right, thanks.”
He strides off purposefully down the corridor and we close the door and open the window of the cabin. “If this is an Agatha Christie book,” says Barry, “he did it.”
Long distance rail travel in Turkey is just the best. 80 TL each has got us a 20 hour overnight train journey in a private cabin. We’ve got a couchette, the back of which pulls down to make a bed. Another bed pulls down above that, complete with ladder. The beds are already made. All very clever.
There are hooks to hang your clothes, a unit with cupboard and a little fridge – complementary carton of fruit juice and a bar of chocolate inside. A small sink with hand towels and soap completes the furnishings. AND you have an electrical socket. Time to put our feet up, recharge the laptops, tablet and camera – and gaze out of the window as our train, ever so slowly, rolls out of the station. This is it; the journey we’ve been waiting for!
It is an amazing journey – and one that we’ll show you in part 2 of Ankara to Erzurum by train.