On Track

A seven hour train journey across the Cilician plain and through the snow capped Taurus mountains brings me to Adana in Southern Turkey.
I’m partly following the route of an English travel writer who came this way in 1935 as Kamel Attaturks attempts to drag his country westwards were at their height.
Things have gone full circle since then – the state tolerance of Islam for one.
But something that ain’t changed in more than 80 years is the local railway.
I’m not talking about the modern high speed variety.
I’m taking about the one I took where the train is outpaced by articulated lorries on the adjacent highway. Where it stops at every little station in poverty-stricken villages with houses made partly of mud.
Where groups of locals jump down on to the tracks and clamber aboard carrying goods bought in nearby towns
And men selling sweets and Semit (round strips of bread covered with sesame seeds) parade up and down the aisles.
All this happened 80 years ago and it has hardly changed. Locals lean across the seats to offer apples, bits of cheese and – in a nod to the 21st century – cups of Coca Cola.
And the landscape is the same
Leaving Konya behind the well-watered fields give way to the dusty green brown vastness of the plain where the train scares an occasional flock of sheep guarded by dogs that seem even bigger than the ones I saw in the trail.
Huge channels and tunnels cut into the rock as we climbed into the mountains.
Sadly we had so many delays that it was pitch dark at the height of the crossing.
I never knew if we passed through the Cilician Gates a narrow mountain pass which for millennia have enthralled and intimidated invading armies.
The Romans called it the Judas gates.
Alexander the Great himself was worried about the possibility of ambush and “sent his Thracians” ahead to scout it out.

“All the way up there? On our own Boss?”

“Yeah just go and see if there are like, enemies there…”

“It’s a bit, well, narrow boss…good place for a massacre…”

“Yes,yes I Know. Well good luck ….”

I had managed to sneak a can of Efes lager onto the train and because most of my fellow travellers were Muslims I tried to drink it secretly…opening the tab under my table

A tactic which rather backfired when the can virtually exploded and sprayed beer everywhere, including across the legs of a lady wearing traditional clothes sitting across the aisle.
I was so ashamed I had to move seats
We pulled into Adana just before 10 pm. Ignoring the taxi driver offering a 25 lira journey into town and an 80 lira hotel, I spent 2 lira (72p) on a bus trip and 50 lira (£18) on a hotel.

It is a bit crap though …



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