Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi Tram
One of my favourite attractions in Istanbul was the chance to see Istanbul from high up the Galata Tower. It was natural after coming this far from Sultanahmet, across the Galata bridge to walk to Taksim square, the entertainment district of Istanbul. The route took me through Istiklal avenue and voila! there it was, the Istiklal Caddesi tram! Similar to Lisbon’s tram 28, it is just as iconic.
The tram, part of Istanbul’s heritage was first introduced in the 19th century, taken out of service in 1961 but then re-introduced in 1990. The walk on Istiklal avenue, from one end to the next, takes between 15-20 minutes. However, if you are anything like me and with boutiques, music stores, bookstores, art galleries, cinemas, theatres, libraries, cafés, pubs, night clubs with live music, historical patisseries, chocolateries and restaurants all dotted on the avenue, then distractions may account for an extra 15 minutes. That is where Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi Tram comes in! It is as much of an icon as it is a practical mode of transport for tired limbs. As many as 3 million people visit the Istiklal avenue a day, which makes it Turkey’s busiest street and it is amusing to see some, mostly kids, run after the tram, no doubt for a free ride.
The tram has seats only for a handful of passengers and given how many folks there are on Istiklal avenue on a given day, it could be a challenge to find space. The constant ring of the tram’s bell to warn pedestrians of its approach all adds to its special charm.