If I had a life list, I think it would be of funiculars I have taken. A funicular is a cable car that goes up a mountain while it is counterbalanced by a descending car. Other words used to describe these are: inclines, tram, or cliff railways.
I was 18 when I encountered my first funicular. I had been traveling through Europe on trains and staying at youth hostels when I ended up in Bergen, Norway for almost a week. Bergen, situated on the western coast of Norway, is on a fjord that was carved out by glaciers, leaving a bowl shaped geologic formation with the downtown at the bottom of the bowl, and steep slopes behind. My youth hostel was at the top of the geologic bowl. It probably had the most beautiful view of any youth hostel in the world. I was student-poor and would walk down the steep path every morning, saving my money to pay for the funicular ride when I went back up. Somehow I doubt that the youth hostel, with its very cheap daily rate, is still there, but I hope so.
Another funicular, necessitated by different geologic forces, is in Wellington, NZ. Here, tectonic forces have created uplift, continuing to raise up a hillside next to the harbor.
Fault line creating the hillside
This funicular begins downtown Wellington, stops at the university on its way up, and ends at a botanic garden at the top. My favorite place for lunch was the restaurant at the top with the incredible view.
Then there is the tram in Hong Kong which goes from lower midlevels to The Peak. The temperature changes as you go upward, as does the culture and socio-economic level.
The challenge is to find a clear day when The Peak is not in the clouds or smog. And then there was the one night when I was on The Peak and it was totally clear…there is nothing in the world to compare.
My most recent funicular ride was in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t a glacial valley or fault line uplift that created the environment for the incline, but rather the valley formed by the meeting of three rivers. Pittsburgh actually has two inclines and I went up one, walked along the ridge, and then went down the second incline. What could be better than riding two different inclines in one day!
These inclines are a bit strange because they remain horizontal as they go up and down rather than have the seats horizontal, but the car at an angle like most of the others I have been on.
There is one other incline I have taken–the Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles. It is just plain pitiful. I don’t even count it.
But I hear that there is a city in Chile with more than a dozen inclines! I think I will brush up on my Spanish.