Haydarpasa Station:
Turkey's largest and most magnificent railway station, Haydarpasa was built in the early 20th century by the German architects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Cuno. A monument to the close Turkish - German relations of the time, the station is in neo-renaissance style and has a U-plan. The inauguration ceremony took place on 19 August 1908, just after the proclamation of the Second Constitution.

The facade is covered in textured sandstone, and the main facade overlooking Kadikoy Bay rests on a foundation of 1100 timber piles. The steep pitched roof is slated, and the interior is decorated with trailing foliage cartouches and garlands, and stained glass window. The ceiling of the circular room at the base of the southeast tower has ribbed vaults, and the upper landings have groin vaults. Flights of marble steps lead up from the quay to the monumental facade flanked by circular turrets with conical roofs, clock tower rising in the form of a crest at the centre, baroque decoration, balconies, molded cornices, and pilasters.

This splendid station building welcomes those arriving in Istanbul from Anatolia by train, and is the last sight of this enchanting city for those leaving with a mixture of emotions. Since 1908 Haydarpasa Station has witnessed many memorable events, both tragic and joyful. During World War I troops boarded trains for the front from here, many never to return, and in 1917 it was badly damaged in a bomb attack. Exuberant crowds welcomed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk here on many occasions when he arrived from Ankara.

Once upon a time, passengers of the Orient Express arriving at Istanbul from Europe and those who wanted to continue towards Baghdad, had to take a boat across the Bosphorus and board a train from Haydarpasa station.

Although with the increase in road transport and the advent of motorways Haydarpasa Station has lost its former importance, this magnificent building is still a landmark on the Asian shore of the city, together with the nearby Selimiye Barracks (of Florence Nightingale fame) and Haydarpasa Medical School.

Sirkeci Station:
Sirkeci Station is Istanbul's terminus for trains from Edirne and Europe. Though officially named Istanbul Gar, everyone knows it as Sirkeci (to differentiate it from Haydarpa?a Gar? on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.)

This is where the famed Orient Express ended its run from Paris, at the 19th-century Orientalist station near Seraglio Point beneath the walls of Topkap? Palace, right next to Eminönü, its ferry docks, and Galata Bridge.

Whether you take a train or not, it's worth it just to stroll through the station and imagine the famous 19th-century luxury train pulling into Sirkeci with its eminent passengers being met by uniformed dragomans (guide-interpreters) from the great European embassies.

The Sirkeci district is becoming known for its good—and good value—hotels and restaurants. More...

Buses and airplanes now carry more passengers between Istanbul and Europe than do trains. The conflict in Bosnia during the 1990s further reduced train traffic, as the trains couldn't run through the war zone of dismembered Yugoslavia.

Several trains still run between Sirkeci and Edirne each day, and one, the Bosphorus Express, heads off to Eastern Europe, but the best train out of Sirkeci is the Dostluk/Filia Express to Thessaloniki, Greece.

As for Edirne, it's much faster to go there by bus from Istanbul's Büyük Otogar (main bus terminal).

If you ride trains in Turkey, they'll most likely depart from Haydarpa?a Station on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, reached by frequent ferries from Eminönü and Karaköy (Galata), at either end of the Galata Bridge.

Sureyya Plaji

Contributors: Selay Karasu, Avsar Gürpinar