26 September, 2018       LISBON - MAX. Times of clouds and sun; very warmº, MIN. 04º

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Folders  |  The 28: The most popular tram in Lisbon
The 28: The most popular tram in Lisbon
Hirondina Cavaco
The 28: The most popular tram in Lisbon
I saw it for the first time in a school textbook when aged about 13, in a text called ‘A pisadela’ (which means to have one’s toes stepped upon), which led to the shortest and most questionable oral exam I ever had. At that age, having spent my first 13 years in Paris, little did I know that this old faithful yet eternal amarelo (meaning ‘yellow’: an affectionate nickname in reference to its colour) 28 tram — the most famous in Lisbon — would one day be part of my everyday life.

The route we now know as ‘the 28’ was inaugurated in 1914, and was originally used to take travellers from the Praça de Camões to Estrela. Following its first extension in 1928, it went down as far as the Baixa neighbourhood, and was then given the number is still carries today: ‘carreira 28 Rossio–Estrela’. For several decades, the trams went up and down, started, stopped and shook along the streets of Lisbon, and the route underwent several changes and extensions until it reached its current form in 1984.

The typical bi-directional ‘mark 700’ carriages, made by Leito Maley & Taunton, with a power of 50 Kw, and with manual, compressed air, electromagnetic and electro-pneumatic brakes and a  distinctive yellow colour (often covered by adverts today) have become one of Lisbon’s trademarks. They tirelessly transport wide-eyed tourists from Prazeres to Graça (and as far as Martim Moniz on the longer route), through a journey made up of 40 stops, often with children hanging off the back, as well as noisy Lisbon residents (called alfacinhas) and pickpockets on the lookout for easy prey.

A means of transport, entertainment or an icon, the 28 goes from hill to hill, introducing those who take a seat on board to alleys, steep streets and tight bends — where the operators proudly show their manoeuvring technique — a complex, long, narrow route, that runs from the most popular to upmarket neighbourhoods via a wealth of churches, convents, palaces, parks, theatres, museums,  dead-ends, taught streets, coats of arms, statues, azulejos, viewpoints, colours, flowers and smells that all go to make up the treasures of historical Lisbon, with its human, historical, picturesque and multi-faceted details.

I have adopted Lisbon in my heart, and every day I catch this tram in Rua da Conceição. Invariably, some of the tourists tempting the experience come and ask how to get to the castle or the Chiado. Of course, the constant clicking of the bell interrupts my days at work and the experience of having one’s feet squashed (either personally or seeing it happen to another traveller) is not pleasant either. This unpleasant experience was mentioned in the text of the Portuguese exam I referred to earlier, but I must admit that my days — and those of many others —would not be the same without this machine, now transformed into a trundling, unusual and amusing national monument, and a quintessential part of Lisbon’s urban and human landscape.

» Practical information

Frequency: The 28 tram runs from Campo de Ourique/Prazeres to Martim Moniz (only between Graça and Prazeres at some times of the day) about every 15 minutes.

Tickets: A normal ticket for a Carris journey (on Lisbon buses, trams and lifts) costs € 1.40. This can be purchased on board. If you want to hop and off the tram, it’s bets to buy a day ticket for  € 3.70.

To visit, some of Lisbon’s symbolic points of interest along the 28 route are: the Graça Mirador, the National Pantheon (Panteão Nacional), the church and monastery of St. Vincent (Igreja e Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora), the flea market, (Feira da Ladra, which literally means ‘female thief’s fair’, held every Tuesday and Saturday on Campo das Cebolas), the Ricardo Espírito Santo Foundation, St George’s castle (Castelo São Jorge) the mirador at Santa Luzia, the cathedral (Sé Catedral de Lisboa), the Comércio Square (Praça do Comércio), the ‘A Brasileira’ cafe, the Chiado museum, the Santa Catarina Mirador and the park and basilica at Estrela… to name but a few.

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