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Farewell Istanbul Express

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Jude Lister


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

For those of us who dreamt about Istanbul Express before it all started, envisioning striking landscapes, rich filmmaking sessions, train bonding and multilingual liaisons – the reality has approximated that, but in a more unorthodox way. I am not sure how to describe it.

How can one put in words four weeks of extreme city-hopping while making documentaries?

Speaking on my train’s behalf, the cities’ scars feel as potent as fresh paint. Close my eyes and the dazzling sun is on my back, shining over San Sebastian, as we cycle its streets and enjoy three-course dinners from a Javier Bardem doppelganger. Post train-strike Paris found us in a brothel/hotel with expired butter for breakfast and a seismic bullet hole crack on the front door (Award for Best Welcome Sign). Real joy and bonding stemmed from our Belgian warehouse playground, sharing our first home-cooked meal and private live jazz concert. On to Amsterdam’s state of the art Binger Film Lab, pancakes for supper and our second Red Light District hotel with ‘Rear Window’ views brought us even closer together. Further into the unknown, we reach haunting, magical Duisburg where an underground train transforms into an overground tram!. Party with local artists; doner overdose; collective diarrhoea. It was only until Essen-the-underdog that we experienced real gastronomic euphoria, and before we realised it we were in Vienna. Production meetings, long-awaited laundry, inimitable Fritz, strudel and Museum Square. Magic finally spread on the backdrop of Budapest’s rainy landscapes and worn out sepia textures. After dancing the night away, we ended up smelling broken flowers on our way to Sofia, when one of our girls - with our tutor’s support- had to quit the train due to ‘Visa problems’.

But reunion and happy days are back again. Istanbul is our final salvation! Thank you all my dear co-travellers. I will cherish the tracks, scents and improvised wine cups of the most astonishing time-machine voyage of all times. What day is it again?

by Eftihia Stefanidi

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