Istanbul: Turkish Tea & Tear Gas
Istanbul formerly known as Constantinople, When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Ataturk moved the capital to the city of Ankara. Istanbul today is a major city that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosporus Strait via the Galata and Ataturk bridges as well as straddling Christianity and Muslim faiths, living in harmony.
- The Bosporus is the channel connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean by way of the Sea of Marmara and the straits of the Dardanelles.
- The largest legacy from the vanished Byzantine empire is 25 churches. Many of these are still in use—as mosques.
- The largest of the churches is considered one of the great buildings of the world, Hagia Sophia, whose name means “Divine Wisdom.” Its neighbor, St. Irene, was dedicated to “Divine Peace.”
- Probably the most popularly known of all the mosques in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque, the mosque of Ahmed I (Ottoman sultan from 1603 to 1617), which has 6 minarets instead of the normal 4.
- To the north of Hagia Sophia, is the sultan’s Seraglio (Topkapı Palace), enclosed in a fortified wall.
- The Grand Bazaar has 4,000 shops around two central buildings, and nearby, one of the enormous open-water cisterns of the Byzantine era, the Basilica Cistern, has 336 columns rising from the still, black waters to a vaulted roof.
During my time as Senior Vice President & Executive Producer for Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, I undertook many trips to and from Istanbul, several years prior to opening, in prepping the Zorlu Performing Arts Centre (Zorlu Center PSM) in Besiktas, Istanbul, which opened on October 10, 2013.
I usually stayed at the chic boutique Marmara Sisli hotel, which was also uber gay-friendly. When Russia turned super anti-gay during my stay, the hotel bar put up a sign boycotting all Russian vodka. Completely unknown by the hotel, secretly, part of reason for my stay at the hotel was to assess potential suitability for our casts and crew of international touring musical shows (~60 English speaking eclectic artists on extended stay, 4-5 times a year) to stay in future.
Always an adventure
In 2013, Lee joined me in Istanbul on one of my trips, since our dates aligned when he had been booked to DJ mix at the famous Mendy’s in Istanbul in July.
At this time, it was also the height of the rioting in Istanbul, largely located in the central square of Taksim, where tear gas was being used to quell rioters. During this trip, we were caught during dinner in the Taksim area as protest riots quelled with tear gas, trying to run away, I was too slow, and we ended huddled in a neighboring restaurant kitchen with wet towels over our head for a few hours.