Çerkezköy is a town in Eastern Thrace, the European part of Turkey - or rather, it's the nucleus of a sprawling conurbation, with a population of 174,529 in 2019. It's modern, industrial and devoid of tourist sights, but it does have accommodation and other amenities. You would only come here for business or a family funeral.
Çerkezköy is the place where in 1929 the Orient Express really did get stuck in the snow for five days. Anyone who lures a partner here on pretext of re-creating the ambiance of that incident will deserve a fate worse than any devised by Agatha Christie for her fictionalised version.
By 1400 Timur (who passed into legend as Tamberlane) controlled a huge swathe of Asia. At Ankara he crushed the Ottomans and captured their sultan Bayezid, who died in captivity. Faced with this threat, Bayezid's sons thought it a smart idea to fight each other for the succession. One of them was Süleyman Çelebi, who'd escaped from the defeat at Ankara, and for a while he ruled a shaky principality around Edirne. By 1411 his nearest and dearest caught up with him, he tried to flee to Byzantium, but was murdered here. The settlement became known as Türbedere, "tomb-stream".
Eventually it was the Ottomans not the Timurids or Byzantines who got to rule this area for 500 years, but Thrace was threatened or invaded several times as their empire crumbled. In the 18th and 19th centuries Russia expanded and won several wars against the Ottomans, and their hand fell even more heavily north of the Black Sea, in the region then called Circassia and now called Abkhazia. Its resistance to Russia was ended in 1864 by genocide and a scorched-earth policy; refugees found shelter elsewhere in Turkey, and many were settled here. Türbedere therefore became the "Circassian village", Çerkez köy.
The conflicts within Thrace were with Greece and Bulgaria. Many refugees from Bulgaria settled here in the late 19th / early 20th century, and in 1912 / 13 Bulgaria occupied the town for nine months and utterly destroyed it, including Süleyman's tomb. Greece then occupied it from 1920 to 1922. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne drew the present borders of Turkey, and Çerkezköy was left to prosper as a market town along the main road and railway between Istanbul, Edirne and the west. It stands in the well-watered fertile Thracian plain, and understandably it has a large army base.
In 1971 the town was chosen as an industrial base, and traditional trades based on agriculture and textiles were supplanted by manufacture of plastic and rubber goods, paints, chemicals, white goods and automobile parts. The place sucked in labour and population from Anatolia, and grew into a sprawling conurbation of several townships. It's still growing, an unlovely landscape of apartment blocks and industrial units, from which every antiquity has been obliterated. Meanwhile Istanbul also burgeoned - since 2005 its metropolitan boundary is just 10 km down the road from Çerkezköy.
Çerkezköy is on the main line from Europe to Edirne and Istanbul, so the nightly Bosphorus Express from Sofia and Bucharest arrives in the early hours of the morning, reaching Istanbul for 05:30. The westbound Express picks up around 23:00 - make sure you're in the right section, as the train divides at the border.
There are regional trains daily from Istanbul Halkali at around 08:30 and 18:00, taking 90 min. From Çerkezköy they continue west to Çorlu and Lüleburgaz, whence the morning train runs to Edirne and Kapıkule on the border with Bulgaria, while the evening train runs to Uzunköprü (near the Greek border, but with no crossing point). The eastbound trains leave for Istanbul around 10:00 and 18:00; in 2022 a single fare is 19 TL. Halkali is 15 km west of Istanbul city centre but linked by the frequent Marmaray suburban train.
There is also a motorail terminal here, and Optima Express formerly had a weekly service from Austria, avoiding a tiring drive across the Balkans.
The 1 railway station is 2 km east of town centre.
The 2 bus station is south edge of town centre.
The town is 110 km east of Istanbul: follow O-3 / E80 toll highway then branch onto D567. From IST airport follow O-7 to join O-3.
The core of town is the 2 km strip along Atatürk Cd, called Gazi Osman Paşa - this part is walkable and has most visitor amenities. Dolmuşes run to the main burbs but you'll need a car or taxi to get around the conurbation.
- 1 Osmanlı Mosque is the town's oldest, with an attractive interior.
- The clocktower is in front of the mosque.
- Keep fit: there's a dozen gyms and fitness centres along the main street. You can probably negotiate pay-as-you-go.
- Don't commit murder on the Orient Express. In Feb 1929 the Simplon Orient Express was nearing the end of its journey from Paris to Istanbul, when it became stuck in a snowdrift for five days near Çerkezköy. The novelist Agatha Christie was not aboard that day, but she often travelled that route and around the Middle East, and she wove together this incident and the Lindbergh kidnapping case to create Murder on the Orient Express. For the sake of a pacy plot, she needed the murder to be on the first night, in an exotic remote location, so she made it a westbound train getting stuck somewhere in Yugoslavia.
- Migros, Demir and Onur are supermarkets near town centre, all open daily 08:00-22:00.
There's a line of eating places along the main street Atatürk Cd, and one block east at the foot of Öztrak Cd.
Several along main street, with another cluster north near the hospital. They weren't open in 2021.
- 1 Çerkezköy Tunali Butik Hotel, Gazi Osman Paşa, Atatürk Cd, ☏ . Very central, but tiny basic rooms and cleaning erratic.
- 2 Güneşler Otel, Gazi Osman Paşa, Topculer Sk 3, ☏ . Mid-range place, gets very mixed reviews.
- 3 Golden Palas Hotel, Gazi Osman Paşa, Atatürk Cd 121, ☏ . Modern hotel at the intersection north edge of downtown. Large rooms, not well maintained. B&B double 450 TL.
- City Hotel, Gazi Osman Paşa, Atatürk Cd 97 (200 m south of Golden Palas), ☏ . Simple basic hotel, fair value for what you're paying. B&B double 400 TL.
- 4 Pasha Hotel, Güveniş Cd 80, ☏ . Business hotel with rooftop pool. B&B double 400 TL.
Çerkezköy and its approach highways have 4G from all Turkish carriers. As of Dec 2021, 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.
- Saray is modern but has an old mosque. Come this way for the forests of the Istranca Mountains, and Black Sea resorts such as Kıyıköy.
- You can enjoy the Marmara coast anywhere along the strip from Silivri to Marmara Ereğlisi.
|Routes through Çerkezköy|
|Ends at ← Saray ←||N S||→ Junction (W / E) → Marmara Ereğlisi|