In 1890, the newly opened Sirkeci Station was the last stop on the Orient Express, that fabled train route that led from staid Vienna to exotic Istanbul. Then and now, it is as far east as one may travel by rail, arriving in the Old City along the shore of the Bosphorus, skimming the outer edge of Europe.
The building itself is small. But the ornate, eclectic architecture - compass rose windows under variegated stone arches, vivid plaster echoed in the solid red brick and white marble façade – does not hint at the final decades of a crumbling Empire, but of the entrance to another world. 120 years later, Sirkeci Station is the anchoring point to our currently charted journey, as new residents of Istanbul.
Abit and I have taken up temporary residence at the end of the line. Literally, as the Sirkeci train tracks end just beyond our street (that narrow space to the right of the ‘hotel’, above). It’s somehow welcoming that those tracks, which long travel east and finally circle the Old City, end up heading west for their last few hundred meters, since we frequently find ourselves traveling in multiple directions.
The end of the line has become our beginning. The hustle and bustle that encircles us will invigorate our days here, after long times in quiet, out-of-the-loop places. The trains to the north of us and the trams that endlessly wind their way through this ancient neighborhood remind us to keep going forward, their (thankfully) near-silent electric powered movement the backdrop to planning our future in this megacity.
If the streets become too hectic, we can look toward the water, just beyond the station, from our 4th-floor windows. Or walk the few blocks to Gulhane Park, the rose-filled green oasis surrounding the Topkapi Palace and the Archaeological Museum.
Beyond the roofs to a compelling view of rolling if densely populated hills, massive bridges and a busy waterway, though this photo is atypically devoid of traffic.
Our street is lined with buildings soon to be torn down to make way for the new underwater tunnel that will connect Sirkeci to Hadarpasa, the station that links greater Istanbul with Asian Turkey…in other words, 97% of the country. But for now, we can see the dome of the station as we walk home to our small studio, a nondescript but extremely affordable interim home (with the window open and hinting pink, top left corner)
Five minute walks south takes us to the tourist mecca of Sultanahmet or the vast shopping area of the Grand Bazaar. Places we’ll be spending time in by day, researching and developing, or being inspired by the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, to name just two on a very long list of nearby wonders. And by night, mingling in the restaurants and listening to the Babel of languages spoken in this crossroads of the world.
Otherwise, while we’re getting our bearings within the coiling lanes of this timeless place, I’ll be here by the window, gazing out across Sirkeci Station and the Bosphorus and plotting new directions.
What reorienting moves have you made lately?