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Overnight to Europe (Part 2)

Mai 14th, 2010 · Keine Kommentare

(Es gibt auch eine Deutsche Version dieses Eintrags, siehe: „Über Nacht nach Europa (Teil 2)“)

This is the second part of my adventures in Istanbul – the first part is „How to lose your passport – in Istanbul“. I really recommend to read the first part first – otherwise you may not understand everything.

We continue at the international counter of the Turkish state railway company in Istanbul Sirkeci:

~18:02 o’clock

After a few minutes of asking he offered me a ticket but only with sleeping wagon till Dimitrovgrad, which will be reached at 6:19 in the Morning. From there he told me I would have to wait for the next regular train to Sofia. Not really aware what I was doing but just wanting to start away from Istanbul (although the city is very, very nice) I agreed and for 58,30 Lira (29,81 Euro) I got a ticket home!

18:16 o’clock

The tram brakes very hard. Just normal, for this tram line – unbelievable how many people, cars and whatever else is crossing this line. After one minute it goes on – but than another even more hard brake and a few people couldn’t hold themselves. To their luck, the tram was full enough that no one felled. We recently hit a car.

The tram I was on…. – easy to see: the left front side is damaged.

After 5 minutes: an announcement – in Turkish, for sure. After a few more minutes someone released the emergency door blocking and we could go out. As I had only two stations left and no idea how long it would take, I also jumped off. As visible, not much happened – also the car was only slightly damaged, no one was injured. While I walked down the street, my tram overtook me:

The tram just went on after 10 minutes – not a big problem….

18:50 o’clock

I finally reached the hotel – all my baggage was still there and I could drink some more water. I also ordered a tea and used the free WiFi-connection to post an image to twitter.

My secound turkish tea – in the hotel lobby of Emos hotel

I also had my second Turkish tea. But after the accident I was even more stressed to catch my train and after a new shirt (I had my baggage back :-)) and after the tea I started back to the station.

19:30 o’clock

…which I reached 2 hours and 30 minutes before the train departure.

I used the time to make a picture of the timetable:

Timetable of Istanbul Sirkeci – all arrivals, all departures for one day.

A bit different – as I’m used to Frankfurt am Main central station. 5 trains arrive and 5 trains leave at the whole day. 3 from these are national trains, one of these reaches the border to Bulgaria. One night train to Thessaloniki – the other to Sofia and Bucharest (with spilt in Dimitrovgrad)….

Platform one of Istanbul Sirkeci – the only for non-commuter trains.

I used the further time to write postcards. In case you did not receive one: sorry. I forgot you, had no Lira left or the post is to slow ;-)

20:30 o’clock

Departure of the train to Thessaloniki – called „Dostluk Ekspresi – Friendship Express“. I used the time to make some photos….

Dostluk Ekspresi: Istanbul-Thessaloniki at Sirkeci Terminal
Train destination plate of Dostluk Ekspressi
The Dostluk Ekspresi leaves Sirkeci
Atmosphere at Sirkeci Terminal

21:00 o’clock

Bosporus Express is made ready for boarding.

Bosporus Express – the end of the train: the Bulgarian Wagon

Same type of wagon as in Varna – but this time without coke heating. When I saw this wagon compared to the next two wagons (it had only three at all)….

Bosporus-Express – the Romanian Wagon

…I was somehow happy, to have a reservation for the non-Bulgarian wagon (sorry Bulgaria…).

Bosporus-Express – Train destination plate at the Turkish wagon

My reservation was for wagon 479 – and as I could not find it (yes, you can see it in the image, but I was not intelligent enough…) I asked the conductor of the Romanian wagon, which is my wagon. He mentioned that my reservation does not fit to my ticked (Istanbul – Sofia vs. Istanbul – Dimitrovgrad) – and that the reservation is in a cabin for six persons. There was the possibility to gain a first class ticket upgrade to a single cabin in the Romanian wagon – after ten Euro changed hands.

22:00 o’clock

We are driving. Absolutely on time. But being alone in a train somewhere between Istanbul and the Bulgarian border feels really strange. And to be serious: I really missed the company of other Erasmus. As visible in the schedule I could get some sleep till 2:45 – than I would have to get up for border control. 4,5 hours of sleep – I seriously slept less….

02:45 o’clock

*knok*knok* – the conductor waked all passengers up to be ready for the border control.  I woke up some 10 minutes earlier – so I could see the station before the border. We had 10 minutes delay – just for the log.

~3:10 o’clock

We arrive in Kapikule – everyone has to get off, walk along the platform, trough an undercrossing to the passport control. I was seriously fraught if my ID card and the sheet from the police will be accepted.

~3:30 o’clock

I’m out! It worked – the border policeman looked twice at the document, scanned my ID twice and than I got a small paper with only the exit visa on it. Did not took even more than 3 minutes – rest was waiting.

04:10 o’clock

The train moves slowly into the European Union. The policeman got someone who slept the border control and had to jump over the rails to the passport control – so we had 5 minutes delay. But also this was not a big problem.

04:12 o’clock

Some Bulgarian policemen get on the train – and there is a difference visible. We enter the European Union – the Bulgarian control is on the train with mobile scanners and a laptop and some other electronic stuff, which I could not identify. The policeman – who also controlled the small space below my seat – asked my where I want to go – Sofia – and looked at me. But I could explain him, that I’m an exchange student and the Turkish document showed once more, that I got rid of my passport. He understood – Няма проблем.

~04:30 o’clock

Another man came into my cabin and asked me for my baggage to control. He asked if I have alcohol or cigarettes with me – I denied and he was happy with that. Survived also this control….

~04:50 o’clock

Someone knocked on my window. I hardly saw anything outside because the window was mirroring quite well – but I saw known faces. Due to the implausibility of such a situation – being at the end of the world in a train at the Turkish-Bulgarian border – I cast doubt on myself. But it turned out – there were 3 guys from the Erasmus delegation, who waited for this train at the border. For 8 hours – in the middle of nothing.

05:08 o’clock

Scheduled departure of the train from the border station Svilengrad.

later than 05:08 o’clock

Actual departure of the train from the border station Svilengrad.

~05:30 o’clock

David and Arrowe came over for a short talk – they just waited at the border for the train because they wanted to go to Burgas. Seemed to be not so much fun to wait 8 hours at a train station in no man’s land between Turkey and Bulgaria. Sadly no one of us knew when the train was about to be seperated, so we just had a short talk and the two left back to their wagon.

05:46 o’clock

Sun is rising

05:59 o’clock

Simenovgrad – scheduled departure: 5:54 o’clock.

06:20 o’clock

We reach Dimitrovgrad. My sleeping car ends here – well, not really. At first I meet the Irish again on the platform. But we don’t talk a lot – to tired. I ask someone who looks like official from the train company if there is a wagon to Sofia. Lucky me the train has another wagon directly to Sofia – it got coupled at the border or any other station. Hard to say where, in every station we stopped at least for 30 minutes…

In Dimitrovgrad

Dimitrovgrad station. Visible: a sign of the Europan Union - they fund the "revitalisation" of the railwaytrack Plovdiv-Dimitrovgrad

06:39 o’clock

The journey continues. Two minutes early – but not problem. Soon we will be behind the schedule….

Starting from here I did a lot of pictures.

View back to Dimitrovgrad - to cross the railways is very common...

As visible right behind the train everyone crosses the railway – very common. And as a lot of level crossings don’t have lights or barriers, the train used the honk very often. Sometimes until just seconds before crossing the street. Obviously a lot of drivers want to stay „fast“ and cross right before the train. Crazy.

Ride over Mariza river

Still the sun is rising and dunks the landscape in wonderful colors.

View into the train - I'm not alone, but everyone else is sleeping

The next picture you may know from this blog already – I use it as header now :-)

My train from Istanbul to Sofia

Passing by some ruins.

A building next to the railway line. "Shittines chic..."

Still the sun is rising…

Sunrise - view back over the landscape

…and one can see the very nice landscape of Bulgaria :-)

A railroad embankment - supported by old, broken swells...

Very annoying: the embankment is supported by old broken concrete swells. The train has to drive slow….

09:11 o’clock

In between I slept some two hours – so I missed the uncoupling of the train part to Romania. And I don’t know what happened. We are a ‚bit‘ late. Now we are waiting in a small station. I don’t know where exactly, but some 50-70 km away from Plovdiv. Scheduled arrival at Plovdiv: 08:01 o’clock….

Waiting for the Express-train Sofia-Burgas to pass. Yes, its a single-track line....

After this train passed by – the wagon looks very similar to the German colour-scheme – we started to go really fast. With 100 km/h we are getting to Plovdiv. And 100 km/h in this trains feels really, really fast….

9:37 o’clock

After about half an hour later we start to break very hard again. It feels familiar from the tram accident, but without hitting anything. After seconds half of the train is standing at the window – me included. The reason for this break: A red signal. The train was just to fast and passed by. But the way the Bulgarians dealt with this was really incredible: the conductor jumped off the train got to the last wagon (was not too far: only two wagons at all..) and the driver drove the train back behind the signal. Everyone who is a little bit familiar with rules in railways, would concern about this: in Germany for example it is absolutely forbidden to drive backward without special permission at all. But this is obviously a bit more pracmatic…

Also the station master came out of his building very quickly and started to talk to the driver…

Passed by a red signal. Now confusion...

By the way: you can see the „red“ signal if you zoom in the above image. But it is really difficult to see…

9:45 o’clock

We are still standing in Скутаре/Skutare.

Station: Скутаре/Skutare

Time to make some pictures.

Standing at the window - it might look faster than we are: speed: 0 km/h.

Meanwhile the driver had to go into the station building, the station master came a few times to the train and back and they signed some papers… I suppose the driver had to explain himself why he drove past the signal….

Waiting for the train driver to sign some stuff...

09:50 o’clock

We start over to pass the signal. This time it gleamed slightly green. It is again visible on the picture above, if you zoom enough…

Just to illustrate the cleanliness of the train: view trough the closed window...

10:14 o’clock

We leave Plovdiv. Scheduled departure was 8:16. Delay: approximate 2 hours…

10:46 o’clock

We are standing again. Somewhere in the middle of nothing. I have time to make some other special pictures:

Bulgarian track geometry...

…normally these swells are not that skewed.

But apart from this it is totally silent – except the birds singing.

Summer between rails

After only ten minutes it goes on. Just another train had to pass by coming from Sofia…

10:55 o’clock

Another typical Bulgarian view…

Gypsies with a carriage

12:17 o’clock

Once more we stop in a station where we are not supposed to stop…

Веринско гара / Verinsko station

12:32 o’clock

Just another interesting fact: since we are separated from the train to Bucharest via Ruse our train has the amazing number of four wagons:

View on the front part: two locomotives

View on the rear part of the Train: the sleeping wagon

Seems to be a nice-to-have luxury: one locomotive per wagon. I was sitting in the only seat wagon.

12:51 o’clock

I can see Sofia…

View on Sofia...well...the easter industrial part...

13:06 o’clock

Arrival in Sofia; scheduled: 10:35, delay: 2,5 hours.

Now only one more hour with Sofias public transport to my block. But very happy to be home again :-)


About 26 hours after I realized that my passport is away I reach my current home-town. It was a really amazing trip – having tea with Turkish policemen, a tramway accident, a special fare for the sleeping wagon and a few other Bulgarian adventures….

And – by the way: I found my passport. It was in my rucksack when I unpacked it in Studentski Grad.

Perhaps I should look more precisely next time – it’s all but certain that I will go to Istanbul once more. This time with the train and a sleeping place for the whole journey….

I hope you enjoyed this entry – I would be really happy about feedback… :-) (and: feel free to correct the horrible number errors or read over them…)

Further stuff:

Schedule of the night train Istanbul-Sofia

All pictures of the journey (up to now without description)

GPS-Track of the journey – starting in Dimitrovgrad. Careful: Will take long to load! Download it and open .html file with Firefox. I don’t recommend to use the file on the server, but that’s up to you…

Tags: Bulgarien · Eisenbahn · Reisen