Train to Istanbul

Turkey: Train to Istanbul

Near the mountains of Bolu. Corn stalks have been cut and are drying in the field. Tomatoes, cabbage, sugar beets in the field. Fruit trees.

We cross a small river. Apple trees.

Peasants get on the train from a small village. They pay some money. The man is thin wearing a tacky gray suit. He has a brown wool taki or Moslem skull cap on his head. He wears glasses. They bring small packs of orange drinks and some snacks. He is with two women. One is young, but enormous girth, with a fat pudgy face wearing a brown Islamic type smock. She is ugly.

We pass another apple orchard near a rocky mountain. Rock peaks straight ahead. The train curves to skirt around it. Red and gray rock peaks.

I am reminded of the words of Marx about “the idiocy of rural life.”

The man looks underfed. The women overfed, on the same starchy diet.

We cross a big river that is quite full. Blue water. A flood plain with reeds and small trees. Village houses. The Sakarya River. Through a big valley with much fruit. Apples, pears, peaches, grapes, olives, vegetables, cabbage. Rich land fed by the river. A peasant with a donkey. Big fruit area.

Next to me, a Turkish student studies a textbook on law. More lawyers. What the country needs. A Turk Petrol station. Plastic green houses. Dust falls on one’s notebook. We pass a small village. Old village houses. Dusty tiled roofs. Leaves of the trees are dusty. A rusting factory.

A big sign for chicken, Sen Pilic. Fruit in the valleys. Small brushy trees on the hillsides. Mature women, fleshy, nice looking. More houses. Small patches of sunflowers and corn. In a big valley.

Young attractive women past university age. Small hazelnut trees. Cows among tall spindly trees. A horse. The whistle blows. Dogankoy, a village with rather poor houses. A school.    

We cross a river. Young peasant women and children on the roads. We cruise along the river, picking up speed. Now big fields of excellent corn. Fields of kavak trees planted for production. Away from the mountain, further into the valley.

Big kavak trees. Arifiye. The train stops. Peasants run out of the train. The station is run down. Teenage boys pretending to be tough. The train moves slowly past the “Gar Buffe.” Peasant women make gozleme. A dirty, dry place. Men and boys sit near the tracks.

We reach Sapanca Lake. Soon we will reach the outskirts of Istanbul. The factory area starts. We pass a landfill. Trash being dumped and covered.

We reach Izmit. An industrial area. Much factory pollution. Poor housing for workers. Tacky buildings. The peasants who live in the housing have made gardens on wasteland. In Izmit, the track goes directly through the town as if it was going down main street. Shops on both sides of the track. A ruined building. Dusty. A large mosque.

A Moslem family. The young kids look normal, but the teenage girl wears a tacky pale green Islamic robe. Her head is covered. She is not attractive. But the family is taking no chances.

The train racks on along the shore of the Marmara Sea. Many factories. Much pollution. A truck yard. A man from the last station sells helva in the train. We cruise on. It is better to travel than to arrive. One can see large housing areas on the opposite shore of the Marmara Sea.

Big factory smokestacks. Petrol storage tanks at a tank farm. Totalgaz. Cargo ships are anchored at sea. The sea is blue. There are green hills to the north.

We reach Hereke. A huge pile of scrap iron. Pig iron along the sea to be smelted. This is the effluvium, the feces of industrial capitalist society. It is dialectical. The worst comes together with the best.

A port area. Ships in port. A steel works. Loading new rolls of steel wire. Produced from peasant labor. Around the edge of the sea, through tunnels.

Wire netting strung on the rock hills to prevent falling rocks. Dust, rocks, long tunnels, bushy hills. Sun still high, but sinking. We look down on the ships on the sea. A nice ride. It beats the road, from my perspective.

The train drifts inland from the sea. Digging foundations for more new housing. We reach Gebze.

Now it is non-stop factories. New red and green truck chasis. Big signs with names of companies.

The Islamic family, socially conservative, are part of the new hybrid Istanbul breed of city peasants. Not exactly villagers. They are very socially conservative to be sure. But they have put both of their children in glasses. The kids are typical of lower middle class. Their clothes are tacky. The family has some money from a job in the city, but still have peasant values. A lack of education. The younger girl has put curls in her hair. Some evidence of upscaling due to the influence of the city. She will soon be covered.

We pass a massive pile of broken up bathroom fixtures.

Now coming into a housing area with a nice sea view. We stop at a small station. Two attractive young women get on, but hardly above peasant stock. Not university material. Another is covered, in Islamic dress and not attractive with a crooked smile.

Houses have gardens. Reminds me of coming into Los Angeles on Amtrak. This would be San Bernardino. Almost Pasadena. Now more new housing.

Sim Metal, Daeoo Motors, Osman Celik, Shell, Karalar, BP, Bim, Arcelik, Reebok. More factories. Army trucks on rail cars.       

We pass Cinar Bufe, Gunes, Show Restaurant. Erol Erkek Kuafor.

This is Suadiye. On to Goztepe. I realize that I like it. Like being in an urban area. Even like the big city atmosphere of Istanbul. I can put up with it for a period, and then flee. It quickly burns one out.

A huge bazaar along the tracks. Kiziltoprok. Red land. A Turk appears with an enormous moustache. Impressive.

We are here! Hyderpasa Station. At six in the evening.

I wander around the historical station. Restored, it is beautiful. The Turks want to preserve their heritage.

I leave the front of the station and get a token for the boat from the station to Karakoy. There are beautiful cool breezes. It is great. The scene is Wonderful.

On the ferry, a religious nut in white sits across from me. He sits like a zombie. As if he is in a state of meditation. He looks as if he has undergone a lobotomy. Perhaps he has. The shoes he is wearing are a sort of rubber sandal, but the color is tacky, a dull mud color, between gray and brown. He is wearing socks. He is clutching a box, something like a shoe box, with green and purple psychedelic designs. Is it a cake box? I cannot tell. Hyderpasa station is starboard side as the boat gets underway.

Underneath his white clothes, the religious nut is wearing a sort of brown shalwar with a vest made of the same material. He has a white taki or skull cap. His white coat reminds me of a laboratory coat. He has a full beard, but is not handsome. Cow-like eyes with a long face. It does not strike me as a look of intelligence. Perhaps an exceptional case of zombiefication.

When the boat docks, I go down the steps into an underground maze of shops and emerge at the bus stop. I catch the bus to Mecediyekoy. No seats left. I stand as the bus encounters a terrible bottleneck along the Bosphorus. Police attempt to direct traffic, but perhaps only slow it down. We head up the hill and reach Taksim. Eventually I get a seat.

Attractive young women enter the bus. Some are students. This city is clearly upscale from Ankara. Even so, it is a mega village full of peasants and everything else. The rich and super rich. New wealth and old wealth. Magandas and the cultured. Intellectuals and those who can barely read. It is a universe in itself. Turkish modernization and the creation of vast inequality in a big emerging market.

November 22, 2015