We have arrived in Turkiye!  A thrill!  The airport is clean, nice, busy, but efficient.  After a winding, packed, yet quick line through customs and record-short wait for our luggage we move outside to get on the bus.

One step out of the sliding glass doors and I think, we could be anywhere.  The cement awning and wide cement columns largely resemble LAX, but cleaner, a third fewer cars and 10 times the cigarette smoke.

My mind is swarming with thoughts.  When I quiet the cluttering, demanding voices I am left with only thanks–a mind and heart swollen with thanks.

Julide is our guide, a fresh-faced, blonde, cordial Turkish woman who lives, like many, on the Asian side of the bicontinental city; most of the business is done on the European side.  As we begin our drive the sun streams across the western sky through my window, warming my right cheek.  International flags wave by the dozens over our steady-cruising bus as we make our way along Kennedy Street.  Yes, named after our president.

We bend, circling a round-about and to my left a gigantic, elegant fountain appears, shooting and splashing powerfully and happily in the golden evening light.  The Bosphorus, the natural connector between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea is on our right. Our hotel is on the north end of the Bay of Golden Horn, Julide goes on to say.

I zone out for a bit and find my eyes drawn to a large grey and and black bird on the sidewalk outside taking an end of the day bath.  He dips his head in the pool of excess sprinkler water and flaps his wings in it flinging droplets off as he pulls them out.  The cycle repeats.  He seems satisfactorily clean, or, at least refreshed.

I am delighted by the number of small parks I see scattered along our drive.  They’re littered with people.  My heart is particularly warmed by a set of older couples picnicing.  It’s a sweet scene.  Julide tells us, “[We] love our parks.” She, with thousands of others, protested in Taksim Square against the demolishing of one of their beloved parks for the building of yet another shopping mall.  ‘The shopping malls can be built elsewhere, on the outskirts of the city,’ she asserts.

Suddenly on my left emerge the ancient walls which once guarded Istanbul, then known as Constantinople.  They soar perhaps 20 feet or more in height, made of grey rock with Georgia clay colored red brick stipes running decoratively through.  Turrets with crenellated parapets split the wall into sections and offer an additional decorative touch as their militaristic function is long over.

The sun is now set, the gold, pink, and grey are faded into the sea and we have arrived at Larespark.  A hearty meal, new friends, a quick peek around Taksim Square and a comfy bed await me. I don’t know what, but can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!  What I do know is, I like it here.