underground train stations
There seems to be a depressing trend to replace classic train stations with a real station feel and a lot of history with ''modern'' underground train stations, although in many cases the actual tracks and platforms remain on the surface.
Last week, I was in Krakow, Poland and they were in the process of building an underground station, slightly farther from the historic district to replace the imposing 1840s station now in use. That seems quite senseless for a city with a huge tourism draw based on its wonderful historic district and castle. Fortunately Wroclaw (the former German city of Breslau pre-1945) is doing an extensive renovation of its 19th century train station instead of going the underground route.
I first ran into this concept some years ago in Monaco, where the railroad tunneled under the mountain for both its tracks and station to free up valuable Monaco real estate for other purposes. The station felt more like a subway station than a train station and lacked many of the things you expect in a train station. At least then it had a tunnel to the city that came out beside the old station where it was easy to walk to things. More recently and I was back and the way out now was an elevator that came out quite a way up on the mountain, where one just about had to take a taxi or bus to get anywhere. At the time I thought this was just a Monaco thing due to the shortage of land in the principality.
Then came Vienna's Sudbahnhof, not nearly as elegant and probably post WWII in origin, but still with the feel of a real train station and with all the services one expects in a European train station. That has been knocked down and replaced with the Vienna Meidling ''station'', underground and with the definite feel of a subway station instead of a train station. It is even quite short on seating for those waiting for trains.
Now both of Istanbul's elegant 19th century train stations are closed so that they can replace them with an underground station. The western station was the terminus of the original Orient Express, and the private lounge for its passengers in later years has been a restaurant (I have eaten at it). The trains coming from the west also followed just outside Istanbul's Byzantine Empire walls for the last stretch before the station, and I am sure that section of track will not be in the new plan.
Modern maybe, but also tacky, tacky, tacky. Give me historic character any day!