A familiar scene from pre-1970 Turkish films: a young man carrying a wooden suitcase passes through a larged arched entrance and slowly begins to descend the steps. He slops for a moment, and the camera shows him from a distance this time with a huge building behind him. The man watches the hundreds of people rushing by him. He is face to face with the crowds, confusion and enchantment of Istanbul for the first time. The familiar and imposing building with the air of a mediaeval castle is Haydarpaşa Station. It is named after the meadows and orchards which were here before the railway was built and which according to the land registers originally belonged to Hadim Haydar Pasa. who became a vezir in 1533. The 17th century historian Aramya Çelebi records that in Byzantine times there was a patriarchal palace here.
The destiny of the district was altered for ever with the construction of the railway line from Istanbul to İzmit along the eastern Marmara Sea coast in 1873. At the sea's edge in Hay-darpasa a station was built for the railway, which crossed the meadows and headed east. Between 1899 and 1903 ware-houses and a wharf for incoming ferry boats were built here, and as the railway extended beyond İzmit to other Turkish cities pas-senger numbers increased rapid-ly. Soon the station building became inadequate. The Baghdad Railway was one of the major projects ofthe Ottoman state in the 19th century, and a fittingly imposing station to mark the beginning of this line across Anatolia
and south through the Middle East was needed. Hay-darpaşa
Station was financed jointly by the Germans, and designed by two German
archi-tects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Cuno. Construction commenced on 30 May 1906
and the main passenger halí was completed in
1908. Construction of the other wings took afurther twoyears. The
station building is built over the sea and
rests on 1100 timber píles. Its architecture is an eclectic mixture of central European baroque, German renaissance and neo-classical styles. The two arms oj the Uplan building are of different
lengths and face north-wards away from the sea. The main seaward façade is
flanked by towers at the corners and a broad
flight ofsteps leads up to the entrance.
The upper storeys of the five storey buildingcontain offices leading off corridors. Origi- nally these offices had stencilled ceilings. but today only one preserves its original decoration. The corner towers contain circular rooms of diminishing size.
The platforms are situated in the centre of the U shaped station with access via the large passenger halí which occupies the ground storey ofthe main wing. There are mod-illions beneath the cornices around the walls of the passenger hall baroque stucco decoration on the arch imposts. and stained glass. The platforms are covered by a steel structure, and the façade is revetted in yellowish grey stone front Bilecik.Haydarpaşa Station becomes vis-ible as soon as you enter the Bosphorus Strait from the Marmara Sea. Over the ninety years since it opened, the station has been silent witness to many important events, and countless passengers, both remembered and forgotten. The station was bacily damaged on 6 September 1917 during World War I, when ammunition stored here for transport to the front exploded, and in 1979 another explosion of a Romanian tanker off
the mouth of the Bosphorus shattered the original stained glass windows. As
well as intercity trains, regular local, trains serve the sub-urbs which
stretch down the Marmara coast on the Asian
side of Istanbul. The scene ofthe provincial man with his suitcase
arriving in Istanbul at Haydarpaşa Station is not
a mere figment of the cinematic imagination, but
a real part of the pattern ofurban migration which has seen millions of rural dwellers seek their fortune in Istanbul over recent decades. Haydarpaşa Station is also the starting point for those leaving home for distant provincial towns and cities; for soldiers doing military service, bureaucrats posted to the provincesand migrants going to visit loved ones back home. A/tĎougib cars and motorways have reduced the importance of rail travel, whether to the suburbs or on intercity routes. the station is still busy, and still an evocative landmark.