Thursday, 8 November 2012
Only 24 hours from Izmir (#EWBC)
Gateway to Izmir
The man@Seat 23 (Andrew Barrow)
Deciding to travel by train from Istanbul to Izmir was a brave and possibly foolhardy decision, especially as their is no direct rail service. Instead you have to catch the ferry across to Bandirma and then pick up the train from the station that adjoins the ferry port. Still it seemed more attractive and adventurous than taking the plane and we would see more of the countryside.
The ferry for Bandirma leaves at 7.00, the three of us (CRM, Andrew Barrow and myself) met in the lobby of the Armada hotel just after 6am - the fourth early start of the week - ready to take a taxi for the short ride to the ferry terminal.
All went smoothly until we reached the terminal only to discover that today the Bandirma ferry was cancelled. Unfortunately the ferry to Bandirma does not run when the weather is rough - it had certainly been very wild late yesterday evening with torrential rain.
What to do? We were rather committed to the train, having already bought tickets on line - not that they were expensive: only 22 Turkish lira each. More important taking the plane instead would be expensive. Fortunately there was ferry for Bursa leaving at 7.30. This is a much larger ferry so able to travel in rough conditions.
We were advised that we could get a coach from Bursa to Bandirma or alternatively one from there direct to Izmir. The port of Bursa (Mudanya) is about 15K from the main town, so we would probably have to get into town and from there to Bandirma. A taxi all the way to Bandirma soon looked to be the best option, then we would be sure that we could catch our 13.30 train.
We quickly negotiated a ride to Bandirma for 250 lira - not too bad shared between the three of us for a ride that would take us around an hour and a half. We were in Bandirma before 11.30. Our driver was entertaining - delighted that we were from the UK and not French, as he clearly had not appreciated Sarkozy's negative attitude to Turkey's application to join the European Union.
You would be hard pushed to get on the wrong train at Bandirma Gar as there are only four a day: two that leave for Izmir and two that arrive.
Initially we thought the train might be empty but we were way ahead of time - a good number turned up with around 30 minutes to go. It filled up as we slowly made our way southwards. The train stopped fairly frequently - mainly at stations but also to let trains pass in the other direction as this is largely a single track line. Turkish Railways seem to be adding an extra line over some of the route, so the train has to crawl through these sections. Not that it ever goes very quickly, so makes for a leisurely trip to Izmir leaving Bandirma at 13.30 and not due to reach Izmir until 19.48.
Initially we passed through flat, open land. As we moved further south this became more rugged like the limestone causse of South West France making it a pretty ride with the autumn colours despite the greyness of the day. We passed by many olive groves - in some parts olives are likely to be one of the few things that will grow in a thin soiled limestone land.
Bandirma Gar: 1960s new brutalism courtesy of British Rail
The Izmir Flyer awaits@Bandirma
The café@Bandirma station
The long wait