Our correspondents Jason Slattery & Zachary Gregus checked in with us from Istanbul with a fascinating report from one of the great cities of the world. It’s gayer than you think!
After having a full day to explore this fascinating city, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is truly a great place to visit. We started out our day by hiking up endless sets of stairs (including the famous “rainbow stairs”!) which eventually brought us to the well-known area of Taksim Square. Although this is the exact location of quite violent protests as recently as last year, there is none of that activity to be found now. We were quite surprised to find that this area of the city seems to be incredibly gay friendly.
After doing a bit of online research, we were presented with a number of places that cater to the LGBT scene. Taksim Square is teeming with hamburger stands and outdoor vendors, all adding to the rough charm of this Middle Eastern city. Just past the main square is an area that is lined with gorgeous hotels, including the Taksim Square Hotel and The Golden Park Hotel; this is where we found our lunch spot. We settled on a traditional Turkish restaurant called Kosebasi, which serves everything from Turkish pizza to a staple of Turkish cuisine, lamb kebobs. The food was delicious! The total price ended up being a bit high (about $!100 USD for 3 of us) but it was completely worth it for the experience.
With full stomachs, we decided to head back down to the port where our ship was docked and determine the best way to get across the water to visit 2 incredibly famous landmarks— the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. If you’re worried about getting around the city of Istanbul, don’t be! It turns out that there is an incredibly efficient and affordable above ground tram system that we used multiple times and found very easy to understand. Each single ride costs 4 Turkish Lira (approximately $2 USD) and the tokens needed for the tram system can be obtained from automatic kiosks at each station. Be aware that these kiosks only accept Turkish Lira in a 5, 10 or 20 denomination; but there are plenty of ATM’s available throughout the city to obtain cash. By the time we arrived at the Sultanahmet tram stop (one of the most popular areas of the city & a definite must-see!) the Blue Mosque was just closing for afternoon prayers, Turkey being a predominantly Islamic country. However, the Hagia Sophia was open and we decided to buy tickets and visit this historic church/mosque. Each ticket cost 30 TL (approximately $15 USD; major credit cards accepted) and the price was well worth it. The Byzantine mosaic work is absolutely stunning and the interior of the main nave is awe inspiring— we certainly checked off a bucket list item with this t!rip! !
Later on in the evening, we decided to check out one of the local gay clubs that we had read about online — the Tekyon Club (http://www.clubtekyon.com/en/)— located just outside Taksim Square. We had scoped out the area during daylight hours (recommended) just to make sure we knew where to head later in the evening. Jason and I went with 2 of our fellow cast mates, and we were all a bit hesitant at first to enter. We approached the security guard at the entrance to the building and he turned out to be an incredibly friendly guy! He asked us if we knew that this club was gay, which we all appreciated, and then told us to have a great time! And that’s exactly what we did. The club was truly a lot of fun— excellent Euro-dance tunes all night from the DJ that got the crowd onto the dance floor. We arrived around midnight; however, the bulk of the crowd didn’t arrive until well after 1am, so if you are planning on going out in Istanbul, it’s definitely an early morning party city. The only drawback to Tekyon (and most other clubs in the city, gay or not) are the drink prices. Local mixed drinks will set you back $15-$17 each, while imported, top-shelf liquors can easily run up to $25 a piece. But the atmosphere and experience is c!ertainly worth the money— just don’t go too crazy! !
Istanbul is one of the most interesting and diverse cities that we have visited during our travels, and a place that we highly recommend for anyone that enjoys exploring off the beaten path and immersing themselves in local culture. We are looking forward to getting back in a few weeks time to have a new set of adventures! Happy Travels!!