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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Travel: Turkey - Features - Scotsman.com

Travel: Turkey
By Neil Geraghty
Published on Monday 26 December 2011 00:00

We’re thinking about the other Turkey this Christmas, and an epic train journey through incredible landscapes

The Istanbul to Kars Dogu Express was not exactly streaking across Anatolia. The train was already two hours late and for the umpteenth time had sputtered to a creaking halt, this time somewhere along the upper reaches of the Euphrates near Erzincan. I’d long since shaken off Istanbul’s frantic chaos and was sleepily sipping a tulip-shaped glass of tea in the restaurant car. For a maintenance check the engineer couldn’t have picked a more scenic spot. The splintered cliffs of the Euphrates Gorge were glowing pink in the autumn sunshine while in verdant meadows flanking the bubbling river, groves of poplars were swaying in the breeze. As the engineer ambled along the tracks checking the underside of the carriages, one of the waiters jumped out and disappeared into a hedgerow. He’d spotted a wild grape vine and a few minutes later returned with several bunches of glistening black grapes. After washing them, he brought a bunch to my table with a beaming smile. Bursting with bittersweet freshness they were the perfect afternoon snack. A few minutes later the train lurched into motion and I settled back to enjoy a lazy afternoon of magnificent landscapes and endearingly friendly service.

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