Books and trains share journey in Istanbul's Haydarpaşa station

Books and trains share journey in Istanbul's Haydarpaşa station

ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
Books and trains share journey in Istanbuls Haydarpaşa station

DHA photo

Both books and trains represent acts of traveling from a departure point to a destination, says a poet attending Istanbul's book fair held for the first time at the city's historic Haydarpaşa Railway Station.
"Right over there is the history itself: Haydarpaşa train station - the place that has been the topic of literature and art many times," says Sezai Sarıoğlu, an author and poet.

Sitting in front of a carriage of an old train, Sarıoğlu says the railway station is "now an authentic place where history comes together with the contemporary."
He is one of over 500 authors and poets at the fair organized by the municipality of Kadıköy, a district on Istanbul's Asian side.    
The five-day fair, which started on June 1, will host nearly 100 publishing houses on the railway platforms.        
The event is expected to bring together thousands of book lovers with their favorite authors.      
"This meeting is so meaningful," says Aleksis Kambures, 33, from Greece. "Because, trains are means of transportation that take people away to different places, just like books, which also take people to distant lands."        

Kambures has been living in Istanbul for six years and working as a volunteer at a publishing house.        
"It is rare to see a book fair held in such a historic place," he says.        

Inside a passenger car are seven-year-old students from a primary school, each, in a seat, reading a book.        
"I love reading, and I love trains," says Zeynep Özturk, adding she has traveled by train many times before, or was it with the subway..?        

"I wish the idea had been thought of much earlier," sighs Ufuk Kaan Altın, author and one of the founders of Mylos - a boutique publishing house in Istanbul.      
"Journey is one of the main themes in literature; both physical and inner. We can see the two here," he says.        

Complaining that most of the other book fairs have practically become strictly commercial venues, the author hopes that the event at Haydarpaşa will become tradition.    
Sarıoğlu agrees, saying book fairs organized in large culture centers are "modern and industrial" and not warm enough in terms of atmosphere, thus limiting interactions with the readers.        

"There should be a poetical side to the venue. We can see it here at Haydarpaşa."        

A middle aged housewife, Ayla Güçlü, points out that the fair being at the railway station is good "also because it is located in the center” of the city.        

"Haydarpaşa can be protected with cultural events like this," she says opposing any possible plans of turning the historic place into a hotel or other.        

Haydarpaşa was built 106 years ago during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. It has long stood as the symbolic gateway to the city on the Asian side near the Bosphorus.        

In 2010, a fire severely damaged the central and northern parts of the station's roof. Restoration of the building immediately followed.        

The station, operated by the General Directorate of Turkish State Railways, was then closed in January 2012 to allow for the construction of a high-speed line between Istanbul and Ankara.        

Since then, there have been claims that the historic building -- in an area of around 92,000 square meters -- will be turned into a luxury hotel, or a shopping mall.        

Locals have repeatedly reiterated that any restoration project that includes additional construction to the historical building would be denied.        

They do not want the new projects to harm the historic nature of the building.        

"Now, the abandoned station is home to one of the best activities in the city," says university student Nazlı Badak, 23.        

"You feel completely free here with the trains and books in the open air - unlike the boring nature of indoor activities."        

The book fair will be open until June 5 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

There is no entrance fee.