Friends In Istanbul

In Istanbul I met with many friends I had not seen for a long time. For my first few days here I stayed with Taner and Medine teyze in Uydukent (Pendik), near both Sabiha Gokcen Airport and Istanbul Park, the Grand Prix race track. Medine teyze and I have a special link as she was a wonderful neighbour for a couple of years and I donated blood for her when she required it to have an operation.

With Taner at a cafe in Moda, Asian Istanbul

After Uydukent I moved to the inspiring Fati and Matt’s place in Icerenkoy, not far from a massive Carrefour shopping centre and a large fruit and vegetable distribution centre (‘hal’ in Turkish). I first came into contact with Fati several years ago when she was working at the University of California Santa Barbara Extension. Coincidentally she is also an AIESEC alumnus.

One afternoon I met Bea for the first time. Bea is an American expat who fell in love with Turkey and many years ago and has been based in Istanbul for the past 8 years. She has a very interesting background reflected in her great writing. We chatted for 5 hours on just about every issue from Chinese food in New York to making a living via the internet. Check out her fascinating stories about Turkey on her blog as well as her Remarkable Solutions website.

In Istanbul I have also met old friends Chris, Tugba, Ebru and Kubilay, Kerem, Ela, Ajda and Mustafa again and look forward to meeting a few more before I leave. Besides the old friends I also met many, many new people at the AIESEC congress which I will blog about soon.

Icanadolu Mavi Train From Yenice To Istanbul

Continuing on with my journey from Mersin to Istanbul on the 17th and 18th of August.

From Yenice I caught the 14:35 “Icanadolu Mavi” (‘Central Anatolian Blue’) for the approximately 18 hour journey to Pendik, an outer suburb of Istanbul. This train starts from Adana and terminates at Haydarpasa, Asian Istanbul.

The intercity train was air conditioned and modern with 3 seats facing forward on every row–1 on the left hand side and 2 on the right. Thankfully smoking was not allowed in the carriages except for the dining car. From front to rear, the train consisted of the following: an engine car, several cars with pullman seats, a dining room and then a carriage with single and twin-bedded private rooms for passengers who paid extra for a decent night’s sleep.

The train interior

The passengers looked conservative and displayed an abundance of headscarves. I believe this is mainly due to the train’s route via the traditional towns and cities through the Taurus Mountains’ Cilician Gates and along the Central Anatolian Plateau. These towns included Karaisalibucagi, Pozanti, Ciftehan, Ulukisla, Eregli, Ayranci, Karaman, Cumra, Konya, Afyon, Kutahya, Eskisehir and Izmit.

Train is Turkey’s cheapest scheduled form of intercity travel, making it attractive to poorer people. Many families with young children also took advantage of the greater freedom of movement train travel offers when compared to bus travel.

Towering Taurus Mountain cliffs before Pozanti

I saw 2 or 3 of these thin, tall buildings along the journey. This one was at Ciftehan. It is probably a grain storage stack.

An old engine on display at the side of the track

A shepherd and his flock of sheep and goats walking across a barren field

The Central Anatolian Plateau was very dry, reflecting the drought-like conditions almost all of the country is experiencing.

The rush to meet the train at Karaman station

My chicken with rice and grilled tomatoes and capsicums

In the evening I ate dinner in the dining car. Despite what their menu stated, they only had two types of chicken meals available. Although the meal was reasonably cheap (6 YTL), it was nouveau cuisine-like in its size.

By 9 am (slightly later than scheduled) Saturday morning I had arrived to Pendik, Istanbul and my longest ever single train trip was over.


Yenice Train Station

The 12:45 PM, 17 August 2007, train east from Mersin to Yenice was the first leg of my journey to Istanbul. In between Tarsus and Adana, Yenice is less than an hour from Mersin. Although I had passed through the station in the vicinity of 100 times, I had never stopped there and admired its lovely Middle-Eastern architecture.

Yenice factoid: on 30 January 1943 Turkey’s then president Ismet Inonu and Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill met at Yenice train station to discuss Turkey’s possible participation in World War II. Yenice train station has a large photo commemorating the two leaders meeting on its wall. After taking photos of the this and of the beautiful station building a train station official came up to me and asked (in Turkish) if I had permission to take photos. To take photos of Yenice train station (and, I imagine, any Turkish train station) one requires official authorisation. Needless to say, I didn’t have permission and so my photography was stopped in my tracks.

It was a hot day and eventually the “Icanadolu Mavi” (‘Central Anatolian Blue’) train arrived from Adana.

UPDATE: I don’t know if the official’s sensitivity about taking photos was in anyway related to the following interesting titbit from January 2003:

In a surprise development, 20 members of the 150-strong U.S. inspection team did ‘field work’ at the strategically – positioned Yenice train station in Mersin’s Tarsus county. They obtained information and took pictures and films at the station and the container storage facilities.
The U.S. military experts’ visit comes at a time the USA is trying to persuade Turkey to take part in a potential Iraq war. U.S. experts examined the station with a view to using it for shipments from Mersin to Baghdad in the course of an operation against Iraq. The USA intends to make use of the Mersin seaport and the railway to meet the needs of the troops it will be sending to the region. If Turkey takes part in the operation the Yenice train station will see a lot of action.


AIESEC Alumni Congress, Istanbul. Yeah!

Subheading: On The Train Again

Later today I will endure the 20 hour train journey north through the Taurus Mountains and west over the Anatolian Plain to Istanbul. I’m heading to Istanbul primarily for the 2007 International AIESEC Alumni Congress but also to catch up with friends and enjoy Istanbul. My stay will last approximately 12 days–the longest I will have ever been there. Every previous visit was always rushed.

For years I have wanted to travel long distance by train in Turkey. Train travel contains a certain romance that one does not receive on the buses. In Turkey trains run slower and far less regularly than the inter-city buses and I never previously had the time to catch the train to Istanbul, Ankara or elsewhere. For example: from Mersin I have to take the 12:45 pm train to Yenice and then the 14:35 train to Istanbul. In total: approximately 20 hours. If I miss this journey my next opportunity to take the train is 24 hours later. In comparison, 6 bus companies (Ulusoy, Varan, Mersin VIF, Koksallar, Mersin Koc and Mersin Seyahat) each offer faster (about 13 hours in duration) multiple, daily Mersin-Istanbul services in modern luxury buses. At 36 YTL versus 45-65 YTL the train is cheaper though.

The 2003 South Australian Leadership Development Seminar was the last AIESEC congress I attended so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming congress. This is particularly true since it is focused on alumni and many inspiring people will attend. Partying and interacting with the 600 main congress attendants will also be huge.

I can’t wait to see Taner, Medine teyze & family, Fati and Matt, Kerem, Burcu, Ajda, Ozge, Emre, Chris, Ela, Bea, Tugba, Yogesh and other friends (apologies for omissions.

Bring it on Istanbul!
——————- – Review

A few months ago I received the following email:

hi joe

The our site is open about Mersin. Review this site then add us URL, please.

Thank you very much

Mersin360 Yönetim

I’ve finally got around to reviewing it. is a well-designed Turkish-language Mersin portal centred around local entertainment events. The website includes blogs, a forum and a photo gallery. It is very similar to and probably inspired by

The amount of up to date information about Mersin on the net has rapidly increased in the last year. Unfortunately, little of the information is in English.


The Super Sandwhich

tahini paste
a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
sliced ‘Bursa’ (Roma) tomato
fresh mint leaves
chilli flakes
fresh sliced onion
red capsicum
pepper paste
stoned black olives
crumbly tulum cheese

all in a freshly baked “tas ekmegi” (‘stone bread’)



Mersin, Turkey: 2013 Mediterranean Games Candidate City

Mersin is competing against Volos, Greece and Rijeka, Croatia to host the 2013 Mediterranean Games (‘Akdeniz Oynalari’). The Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly has a write-up of each city’s presentations.

The Mediterranean Games are a multi-sport event held every 4 years in the Olympic tradition. Unlike the Olympics (and as its name suggests), participation in the Mediterranean Games is restricted to countries in the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea. All countries bordering the Med take part except for Israel.

The final decision on who hosts the 2013 games will be made by the International Mediterranean Games Committee (CIJM) in November 2007. Turkey hosted the Mediterranean Games once previously: the 1971 games in Izmir.

The 2009 games will be held in Pescara, Italy.

Mersin has changed its candidature logo. The following fish logo is the original design. I took this photo at the 2006 Mersin Motor Show. I guess the bubbles coming out of its mouth are meant to represent the 3 CIJM rings.

Recently, a more conservative and informative logo has replace the fish: