Gay, gay, gay, every day.

Mid of August, but summer hasn’t started yet. Foggy and grey Saturday morning in SF… Looking for some fun and bright colors, I headed to the most cheerful and colorful neighborhood of the city on a walking tour around Castro with San Francisco Walking Tours. Not only had I a good time walking around, but I picked up a couple of fun facts and learned something new 🙂

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Our guide Russell embodied the character of the neighborhood and entertained us with lots of interesting stories along the way. I am not going to go deep into the history, but it was cool to know that that over the past two centuries Castro changed from being Mexican-Scandinavian-working-class blue-color Irish quoter with dairy farms and dirt roads to being a vibrant and trendy gay village of SF.

Buildings from different times, various architectural styles, bright colors and hidden backyard patios make Castro a great place to walk around.

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Castro neighborhood (or gayborhood as Russell said) got its specific flair due to the activism in 1960-70s and one man in particular – Harvey Milk (if you, like me, haven’t heard of him before, check this out – Harvey Milk, a man with an amazing life story). Harvey Milk moved to SF from NY. He became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. He did a lot of things for the community and the the neighborhood, being a great visionary and a passionate gar rights activist. Sadly, he was assassinated by his political antagonist. Russell also recommended to check out the movie about Harvey Milk (2008).

The Flag. Milk was involved in creating the rainbow flag for the first 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Celebration. Turns out that rainbow flag wasn’t the first gay symbol used (the roots of the previous ones go back the sad times when pink triangles used during the WWII). The original flag designed in 1978 had far more colors but each of them had a specific meaning. Modern flag is a little simpler, but still bright and rainbow-like.

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The Hanky Code. Interesting story: during the Gold Rush times in SF (mid of XIX century) there were a lot of man in SF… and no so many women. After a couple of drinks in a local bar, hard-working gold diggers just wanted to relax and dance a bit. Square dances were in trend at that time, but you still needed somebody to lead and somebody to follow. The leader would identify himself with a blue bandana or a kerchief in his pocket. The follower would were a red bandana. Later on this evolved to become a hanky code which is used to identify one’s sexual preferences (an exciting article on Wikipedia about this Handkerchief code).

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The Castro Theater is absolutely beautiful. Built in 1922, it’s Baroque facade and even more beautiful interior will amaze you. Plan a visit during your time in SF for sure!

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The streets. Well, I guess you have to see it with your own eyes. Great restaurants, trendy shops with sexy underwear, cozy houses and unexpected things. TwinPeaksTavern, also called gateway to Castro, was the first open gay bar. Now there are a lot of them. I wonder why they don’t have a night tour around Castro. That would be fun!

Come over for colors and fun. Be open and let the neighborhood surprise you 😉

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