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Sirkeci Train Station

The city walls of Istanbul led down to the seashore at the district now known as Sirkeci, which lay on a small bay. In Byzantine times the hillside between the sea and Topkapi was a forest of ancient cypress trees. When the Sultans left Topkapi for new palaces on the shores of the Bosphorous, Sirkeci began to change. The old mansions and pavilions ruined one by one or were destroyed by fire, their gardens turned into wilderness and the cypresses were cut down.

During the Crimean War between the Ottoman Empire and Russia in mid-19th century the allied Britain and France sent troops, artillery and rifles to Istanbul, and decided to construct a dockside on the edge of the bay at Sirkeci in order to land them. The lighthouse standing there today was built in place of the old Ahirkapi Lighthouse at the same time.

After the Crimean War, construction of railway is proposed due to the westernization of Istanbul and it was first suggested that the line should take a route through Beyazit and run underground down to the Golden Horn. But Sultan Abdülaziz gave permission for the railway to pass through the grounds of Topkapi Palace. Therefore, the beautiful woods and exquisite palace gardens along the shore here, together with part of the ancient walls, were destroyed to make way for the railway line.

The architect Jasmund's plans were selected and construction began. The station building called Musir Hamdi Pasa then, was opened in 1890. And its oriental motifs, exotic design, colored tiles and great clock towers were glittered like a jewel. It was illuminated at night by gas lighting and heated in winter by huge stoves imported from Austria. The ground descended in terraces to the sea. The oriental style created by Jasmund was greatly admired, and influenced the designs of other architects for railway stations throughout the Central Europe.

Sirkeci Station has been serving train passengers arriving and departing from Istanbul for over a century. While waiting for their trains to arrive they can indulge their nostalgia for the past in the restaurant here. The famous Orient Express, first arrived in 1895, which in its time carried kings, princes and statesmen to Istanbul, no longer exists. Sirkeci Station's age of splendor has long gone, but elderly people still remember how the earlier generation described it as a fairy tale.

Unfortunately the years have flown by, and planes and cars have pushed the train into the background. Today the station is filled with workers in caps and shop girls in miniskirts. The roar of the noisy city around makes it impossible to hear the whistles of trains that once evoked such a spirit of adventure and images of faraway places.

As the main station for Istanbul's western hinterland of suburbs, conveniently close to Beyoglu on the other side of the Golden Horn whose nightclubs, theatres and cinemas offered a night out on the town, and just a step away from the ferry boat terminals for those homes were on the opposite shore of the Bosphorous, Sirkeci was the perfect place for an early evening drink.

The Station Restaurant was one of Istanbul's foremost tippling stations at that time. The station restaurant was the meeting place for journalist, writers, translators, and all those other elite members of the media, in the 1950s and 1960s. The restaurant now called "Orient Express" is a very good choice dropping for a luncheon while wandering around.

Reservation: Tel: (212) 527 00 50-51 (only for international train) 07:00-24:00

Orient Express Restaurant
Sirkeci Train Station, Sirkeci
Tel: (212) 522 22 80

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