After leaving Daughter at Franklin U in Lugano, Switzerland in August, we have journeyed down the Balkans. It was fulfilling on many levels as we discovered new freedoms, new cultures, new friends bordered by our daily life. On Saturday, December 13, Wife and I rendezvoused with Daughter at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. I am still so awed by all that came together. I count at least eight journeys by train, twelve by bus, and two planes taken by Daughter. Here we are eating a typical Turkish/Kurdish breakfast in the New Year.
The last leg of from Greece to Turkey was perhaps the most arduous. We spent a few days in Alexandroupolis, Greece rather than ride the bus all the way from Thessaloniki. Saturday, December 6, almost all shops in Alex_city were closed. I checked internet calendars and found no holidays. It dawned on us finally that it was St Nikolas Day. In years past we have stuffed little presents in each others shoes the night before.
Alexandroupolis was a typical fishing community with Saint Nikolas as their patron saint. The Orthodox St. Nikolas Cathedral organized a procession through the city to the port to bless the fisherman and their boats.
The next day we were waiting at the port for the bus to Istanbul. With the clouds building, we hoped the bus (originating in Athens) would arrive on time. Unfortunately, the bus arrived 40 minutes late while the downpour arrived 20 minutes late. There was no way to keep dry. We clamored aboard. The border crossing took nearly two hours, at least an hour standing around waiting in the wind and flurries.
This was our first overland travel at night so we saw very little of the Turkish countryside. Although we understood there were connections from the main bus depot, it was not clear how this was going to work out. Our spirits picked up as the bus conductor served snacks and hot drinks. On arriving in the main Otogar (from the French Auto Gare for bus station), we were directed to a shuttlebus for Taksim. Amazingly, after wandering all over the place, we stopped within what turned out to be a ten minute walk to our hotel. The staff settled us in and we had ourselves a nice hot tea.
Over the days, we have settled into our neighborhood. Although it is a rainy, cold season, we take advantage of the alternate days when the weather is clear to explore neighborhoods and architecture.