They are particularly cool when they are staffed by people who smile at you, when they offer you warm, fresh, sesame simits at 50 kurus each, when the trains themselves are clean and new and the price of a trip to Aydin is 7 lira return. Trains in Turkey, at least on our local main line, are brilliant.
Last Friday we caught the train to Aydin for a wander around, a little browse in the shops, some snooping around the back streets and a light (ha!) lunch. It was a lovely day out, hassle free, stress free, relaxing and full of those little discoveries that make you glad you bothered.
Our local station is Camlik, a tiny blip on the Izmir to Denizli mainline where you can wait for the train on rustic wooden benches under the pine trees. The staff open the ticket office ten minutes before the train arrives and even out here in the sticks past Selcuk they’re helpful and friendly.
The trains are really low cost, even better than the buses and they are cheap enough. A local taxi driver waiting on the platform gave us a detailed breakdown of the comparison costs between dolmus and train to his home in Nazilli, the train won by 13tl, a serious saving.
The morning train from Izmir to Aydin was relatively busy with business and government types moving between the two cities. Each seat has power for your laptop if you need it, an overhead monitor displayed a satellite image of the route and local points of interest and the carriage was full of the smell of fresh simits that a smiling young man sold on board.
As we whisked past olive groves and fig orchards shedding their yellow leaves and through the small towns scattered across the Menderes plain we were treated to those wonderful glimpses of hidden life that train travel gives you; a woman enthusiastically herding her cows along the side of the track, vineyards being pruned and pretty faced donkeys carrying teetering heaps of firewood to feed the sobas.
We passed through Ortaklar, Germencik, Incirlova and into Aydin, right into the heart of the city. The station is in the centre of Aydin, near the Bey Cami, in the shopping district. We wandered around the maze of shops here, taking in the spice shops, the salt shops (really, honestly, just salt, all different types), the shops that sell goat bells and the crazy brightness of the street that sells traditional wedding dresses before making our way towards Pinarbasi Park, pausing to examine some of the beautiful, crumbling old houses on our way.
At Pinarbasi Park we caught the cable car up to the higher part of the park which overlooks the whole of Aydin. This is a lovely space, all pine trees and cooling breezes, full of waterfalls to provide soothing splashy noises in the heat of summer and with picnic areas, exercise parks, restaurants and play areas to cater to the needs of the citizens. (I found a couple of old ladies in traditional dress having a race on one of the cross training machines the municipality provides, I would have photographed them but they and I were laughing too much!)
Lunch in Pinarbasi Park was wonderful, we ate icli kofte, sigara borek, tavuk sis, akdeniz salat and a couple of pide under the pine trees, overlooking the city. It was November, the temperature was an idyllic 25 degrees, a couple of podgy kittens played around our feet, the view was spectacular and the price including tea and lattes was 50tl for the whole spread – seven years here and I am still amazed at the quality of the food we get, the beauty of the views we find and the general low key happiness you can get from a simple day out like this.
When we had recovered from lunch we walked back down into the city, we could have caught the cable car back down but Nick remembered he was scared of heights, so we walked.
Back down in the city we wandered around the shops, picking up some art supplies from one shop and wonderful corn bread and walnut bread from another of the small shops that line Adnan Menderes Blvd.
Aydin is a pleasant city; it’s pleasantly small, pleasantly clean and pleasantly civilised with a friendly population that is modern and injected with the energy and enthusiasm that comes from being a university town.
I’ve always liked Aydin, I find it easier to cope with than Izmir which is truly massive and hard for this country girl to grasp, and I like its attitude and its friendliness, I like that it wants to engage with you but doesn’t want to sell you anything.
Back on the train the carriages were packed, country housewives with numerous bags returning from city shopping, families heading off on duty visits and students going home for the weekend. One young wife, unable to find a seat for her young child asked two business men to move, they did, and they didn’t even moan about it. And the simit seller was still smiling. Really, trains are cool, in Turkey!
A little update – One of my Facebook friends sent me a link to this really useful site after I wrote this articles. It shows all the main routes in Turkey and tells you how to book and has pictures of the carriages and advice for train travel – The Man in Seat 61 It recommends the sleeper train services across the country and judging by the happy and unruffled guest who arrived here the other day off the overnight sleeper from Ankara it is indeed a very civilised way to travel
This article was first published on the website of House Elements, a boutique rental business for sale in Aegean Turkey. To learn more about this sustainable, low impact project and the turnkey business it offers please click here:- House Elements