TURKEY – Istanbul, Sirkeci train station // From Russia With Love (1963)
Right in the heart of the Istanbul melting pot is an oasis of silence: the Sirkeci terminus. Go there for some minutes of Bosphorus tranquility – and for a guaranteed time travel.
Why Bond was here
James Bond (Sean Connery) comes to Istanbul to meet with the young Soviet girl Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). She is about to sell out a Lektor decoding machine, because she is in love with Bond – she says. Actually she is tricked into the maneuver by sinister organization Spectre – they say. When the love gets real, Bond and Tatiana board the famous Orient Express at the Sirkeci train station to head for Venice, with Spectre still on board.
Sirkeci is the terminus of the famous luxury “Orient Express” operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) from 1883 on. Every train to arrive there circles Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul with the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia – and passes along the hilltop of the former sultans palace Topkapı Sarayı.
Vis-à-vis with the ferry docks of Eminönü, it can be easily reached with almost every ferry crossing the Bosphorus. From land, tram line T1 is running from the alive-and-kicking Beyoğlu towards the touristic Sultanahmet with a direct stop at “Sirkeci”, or with “Eminönü” and “Gülhane” nearby.
Good to know
Platform 1 inside the Sirkeci train station – where the Orient Express leaves in the movie – can be easily accessed without any ticket. Even the little café to the right, where the Soviet spies were looking at the leaving train with disbelief, is still on the same place. Overall, Sirkeci feels like time stood still in the 1970s, when the last real Orient Express trains embarked from here to Paris. Later on, no more direct connections linked the Orient with the Occident.
However, today private operator Belmond offers expensive tours in the original waggons from the 1920s company Simplon, that took the route after CIWL. One tour a year does the route Istanbul-Venice like in From Russia With Love, making stops in Bucharest and Budapest. The journey takes six days and costs around 5800 British Pound.
The on/off-atmosphere at the ferry docks as well as the bustling tourist spots around Hagia Sophia can be exhausting. Our tip for a little relaxation: Buy some oysters at the seaside – or some baklava for the sweet tooth in the Eminönü neighborhood. Then walk into the Sirkeci terminus, sit down … and enjoy your little break in a place out of time and tempo.