Jools, a loco driver from UK, had traveled on several routes of Turkey by rail in September 2014.
Well that was my first bash in Turkey. An interesting place for sure, and good value for money too. Thee locos are good. The GMs are rateable in their own ways, and the Alsthoms make a right racket even if they look a little odd. The rover ticket is fantastic value, £60 or so for a month just can’t be beaten. The sleepers are excellent. They varied in price a little between TL60 & TL80 for a single berth compo. I personally think that this is a total bargain, especially if you are doing the long runs to the east of the country as it provides you with a quiet private compartment from which to enjoy them from. They are well equipped and in good order from what I saw, everything including the fridges were working and clean as is most of the stock we encountered. The internet is useful to be able to check the loadings of the sleepers to work out if you have a chance of getting a berth or not. We found in general the Kars sleepers were all full about a week before departure, and the others generally filled up over the last few days, such as the Izmir which isn’t really a surprise as it has gone from 3 to 1 overnights over the last couple of years.
The food is fantastic. Of all the kebabs and casseroles we had here, the worst was the one in Ankara, and that was acceptable and they ranged up to the two meals we had in the back streets of Izmir which were delicious. The standard chicken or lamb on a skewer, or kofte, with salad is just so nice I could eat them every day, and practically did! The other things should not be overlooked though, with the casserole type dishes proving good for a change and very tasty too. Desserts are sweet and very good too, sponge soaked in syrup? Oh go on then! Ayran on the other hand is beyond my comprehension!
Hotels are a bit of a mixed bag. The one we stayed at in Sivas claims to be 4* and it may just about scrape that. The Ibis are Ibis, so you know what to expect, although they are expensive by comparison to some local places. The local places are variable, like the one outside Adana station. It will do, but I was not very impressed and there are plenty of other options nearby.
Think out of the box to maximise moves. Trains are slow and distances long in Turkey. In the report I mentioned the possibility of flying between moves and I was totally serious about this. I looked up flights in advance and the Pegasus ones were stupidly cheap (£15 single Adana to Istanbul for example) and remained cheap to the day in question (£40 Samsun to Istanbul for that evening) which is of more use to my style of doing these trips, although others seem to plan things to the nth degree so could benefit from the lower advance fares maybe? I am sure that there are busses as well, and even taxis would be an option.
So many good things that there has to be a bad side, and there is. We all found the staff to be very tiring to deal with. Some were trying to help us to death, although only a few. A lot just seemed to consider us an inconvenience, and I think that this applied to any passenger and not just us. They have their section at the front of the first coach next to the genny van fenced off, and no matter what is going on they seem content there. The performances of trying to reserve seats and sleepers was frustrating at best, to soul destroying at times. I am sure that there may be a knack to dealing with this, but sure as hell I haven’t got it yet!
So was it a “Delight”? No. So would I go again. Yes I would, but it would be despite the country and people rather than because of it to be honest. Maybe I was unlucky, maybe not, but I will go again sometime and see for myself which it was.
Other stories about this train
TCDD restaurant cars review - Steve, British citizen and English teacher at Bilkent University in Ankara, had tested the new concept of restaurant cars of TCDD while travelling by Izmir-Ankara train in June 2016.
Towards Armenian Border with Kars Express - Serhan Sevin, photographer at Haberturk, wrote his 30-hours-long travel from Istanbul to Kars by train.
18 days on Turkish rail - Jools, a loco driver from UK, had traveled on several routes of Turkey by rail in January 2015.
Maybe I was unlucky - Jools, a loco driver from UK, had traveled on several routes of Turkey by rail in September 2014.
Sound of diesel engine - Dusko from Bosnia and Herzegovina had travelled from Ankara to Bandirma via Izmir with main line trains of TCDD in October 2015.
Through high snowy mountains and deep valleys - Onur, a railway professional from Turkey, had travelled from Amasya to Kars using every regional and main line trains possible in January 2015.
Cover photo by Jeff Hawken