Until a few years ago taking the 24-hour train ride for a 1,365 km (850 mile) trip – instead of a plane journey of little over an hour – would have been considered madness, despite the ridiculously cheap price of TL 45 ($11).
Things changed when a group of young Turkish tourists decided to do away with speed and booked sleeping car reservations on the train. Naturally, they shared the experience on social media.
From that point onwards, the train became a venue for fun, adventure, socializing and new experiences.
“Of course this trend has caught our attention on Instagram, some posts encouraged us to hit the road,” said Nurcan Güner, who has taken the train with a good friend, wearing matching pajamas and socks, picked specially for the train ride.
Nowadays tickets for the train run out a day after they go on sale, even though the number of cars has more than doubled from five to 11. What hasn’t changed is the leisurely pace of the train through Turkey’s remote eastern hinterland.
The Eastern Express sets off from the capital Ankara every day for Kars, near the Armenian border. It travels through Anatolian provinces such as Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum and reaches its destination some 24 hours and 30 minutes later.
On the way it passes through farmland, hills and woods, crossing rivers swollen by snow melting in the spring sunshine and passing through long dark tunnels carved through mountains.
In 2017 alone, some 300,000 people made the trip, a 40 percent increase from the previous year.
The Eastern Express features seated and sleeping coaches with toilets, a mini refrigerator and a table.
Apart from some locals attracted by the cheap fares, who take the train for a short distance between stations, most passengers now are people from far corners of Turkey making the full trip between Ankara and Kars.
Source: Daily Sabah