I love travelling by long distance train and have gone from The Baltic to The Pacific via The Trans Siberian Express, and the other great journey The Orient Express which used to travel from Gare de l'Est in Paris and arrive at The Sirkeci Terminus at the Golden Horn in downtown Constantinople-later Istanbul - on the European shore.
October 4th 1883 the first vovage left to the fanfare of Mozart's Turkish March. Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Ulm, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Varna. 80 hours and 3,094 km of luxury travel to Sirkeci.
The present ticket office with its signs in 6 languages is closed, and i was told that the next long distance train would not arrive until September, the yearly Venice Simplon Orient Express, a private luxury train. However there is lots of traffic at the escalator taking passengers down four flights to the Marmary Line Metro under the sea to the Asian shore in 5 minutes of air conditioned travel, opened a couple of months ago.
I did visit The Orient Express restaurant, still a favourite with tourists, and took some photos of its elegant interior, chatted with the maitre d' and bought some souvenir postcards, copies of its romantic and exotic travel posters.
Next door to the restaurant is the waiting room and I purchased a ticket for a show later in the day for the Whirling Dervishes, The Mevlevi Dervish Order, a Sufi religious order founded in the 13th Century in Konya, Anatolia. in 2005 UNESCO proclaimed the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony 'A Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage of Humanity'.
Prior to the show i crossed the road to the promenade, busy with families on a Sunday afternoon, with countless little kiosks and handcarts selling hot chestnuts, corn on the cob, kebabs, fish sandwiches (my favourite), ice cream, candy floss, pancakes, cold drinks, cigarettes, balloons, mechanical toys, souvenir T shirts and more.
I strolled across the double decked Galata Bridge with its many cafes, restaurants and fishermen. You can even hire rods and tackle at either end. Diving into the water, beak first were hundreds of cormorants trying to fish for their own supper.
Back to Sirkesi and chairs were arranged three deep in a U shape in the waiting room and we were served hot Turkish or green apple tea in small tulip shaped glasses. Then the 6 man orchestra appeared, bowed and took their seats at the open end.
The six dancers appeared with dark cloaks and light brown furry camel hair conical hats, which evidently represent the tomestone of the ego, and slowly started their performance, in four acts. Their wide, white floor length skirts(tennure) represent the ego's shroud. At the beginning of the Sema they left their cloaks in front of me on the floor and they hold their arms crosswise, testifying to God's unity.
While whirling, faster and faster their arms are open, their right arms to the sky, revolving from right to left, the left hand upon which their eyes are fastened, is turned towards the earth.
The whole performance is mesmorising, and lasts about 90 minutes and is a must see for tourists, after which you should read more about it.
Outside on the station concourse a steam train pulled up and passengers and guards alighted. I asked the guard some questions but I was whisked away. I turned round to see movie cameras on rails, producers, light and sound engineers and make up artists. I had evidently walked into a TV soap opera set . CUT !!!!!! whoops, sorry.