I've often held this feeling that cities are much like people— some you learn to know intimately, finding comfort in avenues like arms, and others you meet with incompatibility and irritation. You may appreciate a city's character and beauty, but you know deep inside that there's no way to grow together. Every so often, there are those rare cities that you fall deeply in love with— your heart quickens when you awake to its morning yawns, you admire the curves of its streets, the light it holds between its buildings.
I'm so happy that I've finally crossed the Acropolis off my list, enjoyed delicious gyros and sipped on a beer in a funky reggae bar in a hip corner of town, but to be perfectly honest, Athens and I did not click the way other cities I've met have. I felt on edge and at times, unwelcome. In general, there was a rudeness from the people I encountered, so much so that I remember the one sweet waitress at the café, the nice lady at the post office and the friendly taxi driver to the airport— who may have ripped me off. I'm thankful I had Nik, Rigas and his friends and family to show me a good time. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
When I stepped through the door of Olympic flight 315 onto the gangway of Atatürk International Airport and saw that "Welcome to Istanbul" sign, I felt a mixture of relief and joy. I felt the excitement of knowing that past the baggage claim sliding doors, a loved one was waiting to greet me with hopeful eyes and a wide smile. My city was outside, and I was bursting inside for that first glimpse of that familiar skyline. I was reeling from some rude and condescending treatment from a security officer in Athens, and a fight with two Greek women who bullied their way to the front of the passport control line in Istanbul, trying to push past me and a group of Pakistani men. I refused to let them pass us, and was subjected to hissing (actual hissing!) and flying hands— they did not get what they wanted. The knot in my chest is finally loosening.
While I was gone, Istanbul unfurled into spring— the hills are fifty shades of green, the Bosphorus a sparkling deep blue. I am home.