Istanbul’s the first stop off on this trip I’ve been to before. It’s a relief to arrive here, not just because it’s familiar but the journey through Romania and Bulgaria has been long.
I’m woken at four am by border guards. They slam open the door of every single compartment and shine torches around the carriage. Apparently there’s a strong history of smuggling on this route.
Just over an hour later we get off the train at Kapikule on the Turkish side to collect police stamps in our passports and some of us pay for an entry visa at a small glass kiosk on the concrete platform.
The girl in the American couple behind me tells the boy, ‘It didn’t cost two-hundred dollars to get in and at least we’re still alive.’ Her scant comfort makes me think of my friends at the Syrian Embassy and their high visa charge for those coming from the ‘rich’ USA.
The whole experience makes me feel more like a refugee than a tourist.