Day 15 - Tue 12 Dec 06
Had a fitful nights sleep, up at 07:30 to shower, get all my stuff together and have breakfast. Checkout was fun. They weren't really happy with me paying by credit card, but they found the machine. Then it became apparent why the un-ease, they didn't know how to use it! I stepped in and helped them out, the biggest issue was trying to locate the slot to insert the card. Once that was discovered the rest was a doddle.
I walked up to the station with all my stuff, which has grown in weight due to all the food, and I got there by about 09:40. I thought I might have been the only westerner on this little jaunt, but another couple have arrived. I'm not sure of their nationality, but they are reading an English copy of the "Syrian Times". Then a Brit turns up, and he's heading for Istanbul as well - we end up sharing a cabin.
We depart Aleppo spot on time, and arrive at the border at about 15:00, we're the only carriage being pulled by two diesel engines! Got across the border by about 16:00 and then headed into Turkey proper. At 17:00 stopped at the first big town and hopped of the train to get a Visa. The Immigration officer then takes me off to another building so can pay my $15 for the visa, and escorts me back so he can place a stamp in the passport.
Of course by this time the train has moved off, so it was a chase down the unlit station to catch up with it. They were just hitching the carriage up to a local Turkish train, but I'm glad that I didn't have to wait too long for the visa otherwise the train could have left without me!
We're on our way to Istanbul!
The Turkish sleeping cars that have been attached seem to be more spacious than the Syrian ones, and they even have a shower at the end. Head for bed at about 22:00. At one point during the night we seemed to descend a huge gradient in one long run (i.e. not via a series of swish backs), and we seemed to do it a quite a speed !