Appointment in Istanbul

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.

Turkish/Kurdish breakfast
Turkish/Kurdish breakfast

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.

St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis
St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis

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.

International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.

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.

Our little street connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Our little street at the top connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Looking across the Golden Horn
Looking across the Golden Horn
SultanAhmet
The incredible domes of Sultan Ahmet
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.

Grey daze / Greek days

Over the last ten days, we have been finding all the nooks and crannies of Thessaloniki Greece, mostly under grey clouds and misty cliffs.  The city markets are interesting.  It is the first time in the Balkans that I hear vendors shouting out their products.  Thessaloniki is a vocal city, friends shout across the street, drivers encourage each other in their own special ways, and there is almost a choral symphony reverberating in the markets.  Lunch at a restaurant hidden at the side of the market featured fresh fish and live music.

White Tower toward port
From atop the White Tower looking down the waterfront toward the port.
Port toward White Tower
From the port back toward the White Tower
Overlooking Bay
At the fortress walls overlooking the bay
Fortress / Prison Museum
Greeted by a cat at the Fortress/Prison Museum

Alexandropoulis on our last stop before Turkey continued the same weather. Still, the temperature reaches 14-15 deg C (57-59 deg F), not bad for December 5.  It becomes a time of reflection.  I realized today that we will celebrate St. Nicholas day here in Alex-city, the first time without Megan.  We have bought our bus tickets and completed hotel reservations for arrival in Istanbul, where we begin the next episode.

Fishing Port
Small fishing port
Port cat
One of many cats living well on food left by residents and fisherman.