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Sirkeci Railway Station

Sirkeci, Eminönü, Istanbul

After the Crimean War, the Ottomans decided that a railway line to connect with Europe was necessary and so one was completed in 1872. A temporary terminus building was erected in 1873. The maiden voyage of the Orient Express left Paris on October 4, 1883 and arrived at Sirkeci 80 hours later.

But a proper terminal building was needed and so the architect August Jachmund, a Prussian who was sent to Istanbul by the Germans to study Ottoman architecture, was commissioned. The building was completed in 1889. Today, the current station is preserved in its original state, but some of the areas around it have been heavily restored. The terminal building is one of the most famous examples of European Orientalism and has influenced the designs of other architects. The Orient Express restaurant, which is still operational, was very popular with journalists and writers in the 1950s and 1960s. Inside the station, there is the Istanbul Railway Museum, which opened in 2005 and displays 300 odd historical items including furniture from the trains, silver cutlery used in the dining cars, station office equipment, warning plates and the station’s clock and bell. The museum is opened Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm.

Suburban trains operate from the station but from May 2013, there have been no international trains running due to construction works on the line. These are set to be complete in 2016. In late 2013, there were rumours circulating that the station will be sold off and then either demolished or completely renovated. This has not happened yet but who know what the future holds?

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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