Denizli to Istanbul by overnight sleeper train.

I have been a regular visitor to Turkey since the late 1980’s and, having lived here now for 3 years I found myself rather embarrassed to admit that I had never visited the metropolis of Istanbul. I resolved to put this gap in my education right without further delay, I liaised with my cousin in the UK in order to arrange a visit which would take in the heady mix of culture, history and shopping that this great city affords. She was to take advantage of the new Easy Jet Service from Luton and I, for some unfathomable reason (apart from temporary insanity) decided that I would travel from Fethiye via Denizili and catch the Pammukale Express overnight train to Haydarpasa Station on the Asian side of Istanbul. We would meet in a convenient central hotel in Sultanahmet booked with considerable ease through the internet.
 
{mosimage}Living in the environs of Fethiye, I found that no local agent actually sold tickets for the train so, I either had to chance my luck when I turned up at the railway station or book on line. As I was a single European female travelling alone, I wanted the security of my booked seat so the wonder of the web was my obvious option and together with a friend (for moral support) we approached the TCDD (Turkiye Cumhuryeti Devlet Demiryollari) website
www.tcdd.gov.tr  with trepidation but, low and behold – it had the dual option of English or Turkish Language! The booking was fairly straightforward, but you need to register as a customer first before it allows you to choose your options. Once the booking is made, you simply print off your booking confirmation and present it at the station ticket office when you arrive. One word of warning though – if your seat option is not available – the site doesn’t actually say so. It simply gives you the first available date that your chosen option is available. If the option date is not the date that you want to travel do not, under any circumstances, confirm the booking! Just start again and try other seat options – of which there are several, Pullman seats (1st class reclining seat in an open plan saloon)/1st class ordinary seats in 6 seater compartments/2nd class seats in 8 seater compartments/sleeping cars with private 1 and 2 bed rooms with washbasins and couchettes (which is a shared 4 bunk compartment). I eventually opted for a couchette and for the princely sum of 29.50ytl was transported with relative comfort to Istanbul over night.
 
The train leaves Denizili station at 5.00pm sharp each evening and in order to get there I caught the local bus which leaves Fethiye Otogar at 11.45 each day (15ytl). The journey through the mountains was beautiful and we stopped at Cameli for a quick stretch of the legs and a glass of tea before continuing en route to Denizili where the Otogar is directly opposite the train station – but if you have a friendly word with the driver before you get there, he will, very obligingly drop you outside the rail station before entering the otogar.
 
{mosimage}I was shown to my compartment by the train chef, a lovely man who, being a multi tasker, cooked me a lovely chicken shish in the buffet car later that evening. Being a single woman of European origin travelling on this train overnight on my own, I naturally attracted a bit of attention but at no time did I feel unsafe and was met with nothing but friendliness and hospitality the whole way. I shared my compartment with a delightful female student from Denizili University and with a combination of her limited English and my fledgling Turkish, we passed many a happy hour before retiring ‘neath the crisp clean bedding provided by a very solicitous steward.
 
{mosimage}We pulled into a rather grand and imposing Haydarpasa station bang on time the following morning to a bright cold autumn day and took a short ferry ride (they run every 10 minutes or so and cost 1.30ytl)  across the Bosphorus to Karakoy on the European side of this wonderous city. The adventure had begun!

JJ

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