Ankara To Erzurum By Train: Part 1 – The Doğu Express

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.

Ankara Train Station, Turkey

Ankara Train Station

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.

Doğü Expresi - The Doğu Express Train

Doğü Expresi – The Doğu Express 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.

Cabin, Doğu Express Train, Ankara To Kars

2-berth cabin on the Doğu Ekspresi

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.”

“Why not?”

“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.

WC Facility, Dogu Express Train

Freshen up on the Doğu Ekspresi

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.

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  1. . . my sort of posting – you’ve got my attention! We were hoping to start our trip to Iran by taking the train to Tatvan and then across the lake – the Iranian train waits at the other side of the lake. Proved too much of a bureaucratic nightmare and so we’ll be flying there.

    • We know a couple of bloggers who did it the other way around – from Iran to Turkey. Guess it must be easier that way. Hey great you’re getting to Iran though. Looking forward to finding out all about that. 🙂

  2. I can tell from your pics there has been major improvement since I used to travel by train between Istanbul and Ankara. We also used the cabins with the beds and it was always fun for my daughter. We did not have the electrical socket back then. I will have to take a trip by train when I make it back to Turkey. Looks like you are having lots of fun!

  3. Love train journeys in Turkey; great value and fab hospitality – glad you enjoyed yours!:)

  4. I have tried travelling by bus… from Gebze terminali to Kapadokya… and such a long trip but contented.. since the bus has it’s comfort, and even the wifi…. but i should try the train ride the next time i go back and visit Turkey again… this gives me a “push2 to try it… thanks for sharing – rakyv

  5. Doğu ekspresi is known to be the worst train in Turkey. If you liked it than you will love other ones.

    • Ha ha, why, Atilla? We loved it. Maybe the carriages have been made smarter? We’ve been on the overnight train from Greece into Istanbul, too. That was good. Really want to go on the train to Tatvan. We’ll do that journey one day. 🙂

      • It is known to be the worst because it is the cheapest and slowest. As you already seen most of Turkish railways are single track, and doğu ekspresi is known to be the most junior, so it has to stop and let other trains to pass. In Turkey almost nothing arrives on time but doğu ekspresi always arrives late.

        But I must admit it; train travel is always something special in Turkey for long distance travels. Especially if you are in a sleeping car with a friend/partner and enough wine.

        • Ahh, well we did arrive in Erzurum two hours later than we should have done. 🙂 Like you say though, Atilla, we were very comfortable in our cabin and we enjoyed a beer while we travelled. 😉

  6. Ohhh, you make me want to hop on the next train going anywhere. 🙂 I really, really love train travel. 🙂

  7. In 33 years here, I have never boarded a train. Time to rethink.

    • Oh yeah, give it a whirl. So comfortable – and nostalgic, too, of course. The YHT high speed ones are good for convenience but we do love the older trundling ones if you’ve got time on your hands. 🙂

  8. I wonder what is going on with the Tatvan train because they told us it wasn’t going when we were there in October 2013 also!

    • The train to Tatvan does leave and did end up leaving on the day we wanted – it was just too late for us to change our mind by then. Where were you trying to get it from? It only leaves from Ankara now rather than Istanbul because there is work on the lines and Haydarpaşa is closed. Maybe there was just a problem with it on the day you needed?

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