The north peninsula of Istanbul is a hill. I didn’t realize this before we got there. Heading north over Galata bridge you have to go up (and pretty steep in places) to get to Istikal street or Taksim square. The journey is well worth it though. That area, despite being a shopping street, felt more lived in than down near the tourist sites. Thankfully there is a solution..
Putting the Fun in Funicular
The funicular subway at Tunel is the oldest in Istanbul. The signs on the train say 137 year, so late 1800s. The bottom of the Funicular is in a building simply labeled Tunel a few blocks from the end of Galata bridge.
The destination of the line is a single stop up the hill at the bottom end of Istikal street. The line runs in a tunnel under the buildings on the slope including Galata Tower.
The Tunel funicular does not take the normal tokens and requires a specific ticket. There seemed to be some sort of deal for buying multiple tickets, but the machine was busted and we didn’t feel the need to have an in depth discussion with the man in the window, so we bought singles each time.
Down seems to however be free as we saw neither turnstiles nor ticket machines. Maybe they figure the extra weight helps save energy on the way down.
The tiles that decorate the bottom station depict sites of the city.
The top stop of the Tunel funicular is the bottom of Istikal street. This shopping street leads up to end at Taksim. We stayed nearby so walked the street a few times while in town. It is an interesting mix of big name western stores, places I had never heard of and countless food outlets.
Food seems to feature predominantly in Turkish culture if the street is anything to go by. Places are both on the main street and down the countless side streets. Everything from Doner to sit down places seemed in evidence. We even found a burger joint around the corner from the Tunel.
If your end destination is Taksim, you can walk up Istikal street or wait and take the tram that runs its length. We didn’t use it, but I loved seeing it go back and forth along the crowded shopping street. It really did make me think of what Istanbul might have been like a hundred years ago.
I like trains and such things, so I was happy to snap pictures as the bright red car pushed its way slowly through the crowds. As the tram wet by, some kids off the back of the tram caught sight of me and my camera and started hamming it up. I usually don’t have many pictures of people, so this was pretty cool.
Souvenir and Memories
I don’t do souvenirs very often, but I wanted something tiny as a token of our time in Turkey. In the end I picked a magnet with the Istikal tram on it. Although no where near the highlight of the trip or even of Istanbul, it was a reminder of a good day walking the street.
I really like this area of Istanbul. Good food abounds and while still heavily touristed, not in the same way as the historic sites down south. We sat at the burger joint and watched people (including several group of zombie walkers) for a while. Just sitting, talking, enjoying the city and being travelers.
Check out the interview we did with Natalie of Turkish Travel Blog about our honeymoon in Turkey.