That I would ever come to love Harem bus station (the biggest bus station on the Anatolian side of İstanbul) is sort of a miracle. The first time I was there – on the way to cover this story – I was totally overwhelmed by the shouting of the guys trying to sell tickets, the people sitting with piles of luggage waiting for their bus to leave, the smell of exhaust fumes and cigarettes. And I was surprised that you could just leave your luggage at the office of the bus company where you bought your ticket, and a few hours later it would still be there – don’t try that in Amsterdam.
Now I live close to Harem bus station. When I go on a trip, I love to leave from there. I go a bit early, I leave my luggage at the bus company, buy a tea and sit for a while by the rocks overlooking the Bosporus. The view is stunning from the rocks right next to the bus station: to the right you see the big Bosporus Bridge and opposite Topkapi, Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Huge ships glide by, ferries come and go. It’s nice to say goodbye to Istanbul that way. And to come back to the city too – usually early in the morning, coming down to the shore and at once seeing Istanbul in its full glory. I recommend it to tourists too by the way, to get off at Harem bus station if you need to go to the European side, for example to the tourist spots like Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace: from Harem bus station you can get a boat to the European side, close to the tourist sites, and it’s a really beautiful way to get a first glimpse of Istanbul.
But I wonder how much longer Harem bus station will exist. Many bus companies still have an office there and buses leave for all corners of the country from Harem, but it’s getting less busy. The big bus companies have been building their own huge bus stations on the outskirts of the city. Their big buses leave from there, and they pick up people from all over the city in small feeder buses. It’s smart of course, because leaving from the heart of the Anatolian side in a huge bus is not very practical. But it is gradually reducing the importance of Harem. I predict in some time only the smaller local companies will have an office and leave from Harem. Fewer customers will come to the station, less tickets will be sold on the spot, and more and more companies will change their strategy. After which the municipality will no longer see any point in keeping Harem open.
It’s just a speculation, and I so much hope it will not happen. I hope for years to come to leave Istanbul from Harem. And come back to it.