Thursday, June 19, 2008

Long Distance Turkish Bus

The International Istanbul Bus Station (Uluslararsi Istanbul Otogan) is a wonder of the modern world. This is a three story circular structure which can cater for thousands of passengers and hundreds of buses at once. The buses are serviced on the lower levels, with workshops and stores selling bus spare parts and accessories. The higher level has stores, barbers and cafes servicing the drivers and passengers. The top level has shops the bus company offices, waiting rooms and bays for buses.

I went looking for a cyber cafe while waiting for a bus and descended one level down, into something resembling a scene from the movie Blade Runner. The dimly lit concrete corridors had all sorts of shops, bus parts and people sitting around drinking and eating. There was the risk of turning a corner and being in the path of an oncoming bus, or tripping over a pile of spare parts in the dark.

The cybercafe turned out to be on the open top level, directly opposite where I started. For two Turkish lire, I was able to check my mail in comfort and quickly download a week's worth of MP3.

The Turkish long distance buses are large, comfortable and smoke free. As well as the driver, there is an attendant who checks tickets and serves free drinks and snacks. There was no toilet on the Metro bus I traveled on, but it stopped every few hours at a bus station, equipped with toilets and cafes. The first time the bus stopped I was worried that it would leave without me. But I worked out that at major stops the bus was washed, in a ritual similar to the washing of an elephant, and I had until this was finished.

One surprise was at some point in the night the bus stopped at the water's edge; a car ferry arrived and the bus was transported across a large body of water. I still have no idea of what or where this was.

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