Monday, June 02, 2008

Istanbul by Ferry, Funicular and Antique Tram

Istanbul is a treat for the light rail enthusiast. As well as the modern metro and light rail transit system, there are two antique tourist trams and two funicular railways (cable drawn train up a steep hill). You can take the metro from the airport into the city and then change to the LRT to go over the Gatata Bridge to Kabatas. You then change to the funicular up to Taksim Square. One disappointment is that the funicular is entirely underground.

European Shore Funiculars

You then walk across the square to the antique tram stop for a ride part way down the hill to Tunel. In contrast to the very modern and spacious funicular, the tram is a little rattler, with the driver having to continuously ring the bell to get pedestrians, cars and scooters out of the way as it runs down the street.

At Tunel there is what looks like a bank with the glass missing from the windows, which is the entrance to the second funicular back down the hill to Karakoy. This also is underground and was recently refurbished. You can then get back on the LRT, or walk back across the Gatata Bridge, looking at the hundreds of keen anglers catching what look like sardines.

Asian Shore Tram

There is another antique tram of the Asian side of Istanbul. Take a ferry to Karakoy, then walk up the main street to the bus interchange in Karakoy Square. The tram does a loop up the hill to the trendy suburb of Moda and then back in a loop down and along the waterfront.

The metro, LRT, funiculaie,trams and ferries all use the same ticketing system, with tokens or the electronic Akbil. It is curious to get on an antique tram and press the smart chip Akbil device into the electronic reader, squeze past the driver on the tiny wooden platform and then see him turn a large worn brass handle to put the tram in motion.

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