Tokapi bus station

Topkapi bus station in the 1980s.Anyone who’s spent any time in Turkey is likely to have caught a long distance bus. And if you’ve only ever had to use the Esenler bus station in Istanbul you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s chaotic. Compared to what came before, it’s a oasis of calm. Here’s what I experienced the first time I arrived at the old Topkapı bus station on the outskirts of the city.

“Fourteen hours later, after stopping every two hours so that passengers could visit the bathroom and have a cigarette, even though they all smoked furiously on the bus anyway, we reached Istanbul. In the dim early morning light I could just make out huge thick ancient stone fortifications I later learnt were part of the original wall surrounding the city. To my weary eyes they were mere crumbling ruins that only added to the disorder surrounding us. The Topkapı bus station was overrun by chaos and pandemonium. Little yellow buses packed to the gunnels with people and parcels whizzed past, the drivers frantically honking their horns to make everyone jump out of the way. Large red and blue local buses with rusty sides and bits hanging off the bumper bars belched smoke from their exhaust pipes and turned impossibly large circles, cutting through the crowds of passengers, relatives, touts, food vendors, porters and an assortment of men who appeared to be at the bus station simply for something to do.

We were all milling around to the accompaniment of what seemed like a million voices screaming in my ear at once. “Ankara!”, “Eskişehir!”, “Van!”, “Kayseri!” . . . The words rolled on and over me until I suddenly realised they were the names of towns and the men shouting them worked for the various bus companies going to those places. At regular intervals someone clutching a suitcase or an assortment of sacks and cardboard boxes would peel off from the crowd and be claimed by a bus company tout. The tout would grab their luggage and lead them away at lightening speed through the throngs of people straight to the appropriate bus. It was crazy.”

If you want to know what happened next, you can find out in my book “Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul”.

About Goreme1990

I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in a leafy middle class North Shore suburb. After school I worked in various jobs, including as a public servant, sales assistant, bar maid and car counter, before going overseas. Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three months stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. I spent the following years moving between Australia and Turkey and eventually relocated to Göztepe on the Asian side of the city in 2010 with my husband. Since then I have spent my time writing short stories, blogging and doing radio programs. Check out the interview section of my blog for more information and to hear me talk about my life in Turkey. I have released a collection of essays called "Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries" and a travel novel titled "Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul". Both are available in paperback and ebook forms through Amazon and other book retailers. In addition to this regular blog I write articles for various international and local media and present a monthly radio segment on Istanbul.
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