Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey
ALİBEYKÖY - A VISION OF HELL ON EARTHin bloggingaboutturkey
So you want to get from Cappadocia to İstanbul? The quickest and easiest way is to fly but of course that requires a bit of advance planning. What's more you might be unlucky and want to travel at a particularly popular time in which case the cheap tickets people always tell you about will be conspicuous by their absence.
What to do? What to do? Well, you could take the overnight bus, of course. Or you could attempt to circumnavigate the pain of spending twelve hours crushed into a sweaty hot vehicle beside a portly matron who occupies half of your seat as well as her own or who has brought with her several young children, none of whom has a ticket and all of whom will be invading your space while crying and coughing and generally creating mayhem, by taking a day bus to Ankara and swapping over at the huge ASTİ bus terminal to one of the super-frequent buses to İstanbul.
If you're travelling to İstanbul as a tourist chances are that you will be staying either in the Sultanahmet or the Taksim area which is where the dreaded Alibeyköy comes into the picture. Time was when the bus would pull up at Harem, the bus terminal for the Asian side of İstanbul, before heading onto Esenler and journey's end. At Harem you could hop out of the bus and hop onto the ferry to Sirkeci. This was a perfect way to arrive in the city. As the ferry glided across the Bosphorus you would be given a peerless introduction its glorious skyline, a rollercoaster line-up of domes and minarets, with the Topkapı Palace peeping out from the greenery of Sarayburnu (Seraglio Point). Then it was just one more quick transfer to the tramway and you would be there in Sultanahmet or nearly there in Taksim.
I suspect the night buses from Cappadocia do still come into Harem. Unfortunately most of the day buses from Ankara don't, depositing you instead at one of a collection of private mini-terminals scattered about town. Alibeyköy (Mr Ali's Village - doesn't it sound picturesque?) is the one you'll need for Sultanahmet or Takism, but before getting out there you should prepare yourself for a shock. Nothing could be less like arrival in Harem than this. Instead of the lovely open vista of the water and the historic skyline here you'll find yourself dumped in a vision from hell, a ghastly collection of ugly parking lots hemmed in by roads too narrow for the relentless traffic and overlooking only a string of faceless depots. There's not one thing of beauty here, not the slightest indication that you're arriving in one of the world'd greatest cities, let alone anything to make the heart sing. Decanted into this nightmare, you'll find yourself a prisoner of the bus company, unable to leave the terminal until a driver for their "servis" bus deigns to unlock his doors and drive you the rest of the way to your destination.
You could save yourself from the misery that is Alibeyköy by staying on the bus until Esenler although that will add at least an hour to your travelling time and involve some unnecessary backtracking. At least at Esenler you can hop on the Metro if the servis bus is slow in coming. There too you'll have a choice of places to sit down for a meal or to grab any last-minute shopping. Maybe when the delayed Marmaray project is finally completed there will be a new bus terminal at Harem, but the more time goes by the more I suspect that the bus companies will be happy with the new arrangements. Alibeyköy, I fear, could be here for the duration.