Returning to grey rain clouds of Britain from the balmy warmth and gentle breezes on the Bosphorous yesterday brought me back to reality after a week experiencing the frenetic pace of Istanbul. No sun drenched beaches on this trip just endless passages of trams amid a cacaphony of horns pressed by irate drivers alongside coupled trains of double articulated cars usually crammed full.
Staying in the centre of Istanbul very close to the ferry terminal and streets full of shops, cafes and all manner heritage was a joyful experience. There is much to comment on. From a superb waterfront transport museum to purpose built heritage tram services aimed at both tourists and locals - plus modern tram services with gated off platforms requiring 'Oystercard' access only and marble lined metro stations.
The pace of life places Blackpool as an oasis of calm by comparison. Even with six days to experience the city - there is simply too much antiquity and classic architecture in a city straddling two continents and many cultures. Almost overwhelming. The need to prioritise was essential which meant the transport museum, the two heritage tram services (one on the Asian side and the other on European Istanbul, Bosphorous ferry ride, subway rides that included traversing under the Bosphorous in smart clean trains and the endless shops and markets seemingly immured to closing hours.
Given the age of the city and in particular its central districts, the movement of double length tram sets on busy streets was itself amazing. Gutter running movement of fast moving trams (in both directions) with pedestrians, motorbikes and countless stray dogs would become the nightmare for any European health and safety conformist. Standard gauge trams were kept apart from road traffic by simple wrought iron fencing protecting their right of way and segregating all other vehicles (and pedestrians). Some streets were however far too narrow for any such protective measures and trams rolled past at speed perilously close to shoppers on tight narrow pavements. Quite a sight.
Just a flavour of the dominance of Istanbul trams on the very busy T1 service which runs through or close to many principal heritage and tourism locations in the city centre. Almost always coupled articulated units usually full and half being given over to sponsor vinyls. (But not these two examples above).