Day 16 - Wed 13 Dec 06
Awake at 07:30, the western style toilet is in a bit of a state, so I stick with the squat toilet which is much cleaner. The cabin was quite hot last night, but I think I've managed to turn the heat down by using the unmarked control next to the light switch! I met the Swiss girl in the corridor and she said that she hadn't slept due to the heat.
Tom (my cabin mate) is doing his Arabic homework and showing me the Christmas presents he's bringing back to his family. He's got his father a set of nut crackers in the shape of a pair of women's legs.
The land we're passing through here is heavily agricultural, every bit of land seems to be growing something, or to have been turned ready to grow something. Unlike the Trans-Mongolian they don't let you off the train when it comes into a station. The doors remain shut.
The wide open fields have been replaced by rocky outcrops and pine trees. There's a threat of rain, and defiantly a feel of European winter here.
The final leg of any train journey are the slowest, I tried to sleep it out, and when I immerge there's only 15km to go! A few more local stops and lots of trains heading the other way full of commuters. At 19:00 we arrived at Haydarpasa. Tom got some cash from the cash machine, and then we headed for the ferry terminal right outside the station. 1.70 Turkish Lira gets me a ticket to the European side. Got a great view of the blue mosque etc. from the ferry - there's no better way to arrive in Istanbul.
Docked, and walked up to the other European train station with Tom and the Swiss couple. Passed through an open air market on the banks of the Bospforus. Got to the station and had to wait for the man to finish his supper before he'd sell me a ticket. I needed 117.40 Turkish Lira to pay for the ticket, so I headed for the cash machine. Then it was off to find my hotel, which was quite easy as I spotted it from the station platform while I was waiting to buy my ticket!
My room is good, and I do have a view of the Bosphorus and the Asian side of Istanbul, and the train station of course! I've just seen the train that I'm on tomorrow just leave tonight.. So I need one more ticket to complete my house of cards - the Belgrade to Vienna ticket.
There is one similarity between the Tarus Express described by Agatha Cristie and todays is the way the compartments are heated. In the book Mary Debenham tried to force the window lower at Aleppo but she couldn't manage it!