The people you meet here tend to treat you like a special celebrity guest. Especially in cities, the rush of daily life feels like Paris or New York. I remember rain turning the city's alleys into wild rivers.
Now the world can see that Ankara has been concealing large amounts of unrest and it is clear that Turkey was actually not a successful democracy model for Middle Eastern countries. Can Islam and democracy be practiced side by side?
The channels of political participation in Turkey has been radically altered. Individuals equipped only with a smartphone, loaded with Twitter and Facebook apps, seem to have neither the desire nor the patience for using conventional channels to petition their government.
Like New York's joyously crowded Grand Central and the Arab world's historic squares, Taksim is a public space that in the minds of nascent autocrats risks not merely to accommodate unrest but actually to kindle it.
The sharia has recently been adopted in Libya after the death of Gaddafi, and the Muslim Brotherhood have won in Egypt. What will be the fate of the Arab world if recent revolutions take the same path as Iran and Saudi Arabia?
In Turkey secularism means state control of Islam and the exclusion of Islam from the public sphere, an enforced privatization of religion. Ataturk's secular republic had shut down all independent mosques.
The notion that Erdogan and the AKP are pursuing a foreign policy based on an Islamist agenda reflects a common fallacy, that ideological principles are the main driving force behind the foreign policy of Turkey.
Prime Minister Erdogan is looking for -- and finding -- levers that can allow Turkey to build and wield the political and economic might commensurate to a strategically located country with a history of near-global hegemony.
The guest book here is heavy with potentates, prime ministers, and the likes of Garbo and Mata Hari, Hitchcock and Hemingway, and of course Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411 in the early '30's.