Has been addressed by Carpetblog, in prose and photos, in years past. Like here.
Because if you ever find yourself at Miniaturk, the most ridiculous theme park ever, you might pay 10 YTL to enter, instead of BEŞ (5 YTL ) or ÜÇ (3 YTL, if you're a student) or IKI (2 YTL if you're on a school tour).
When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I would spend a cold, sunny Sunday afternoon next to the Halic, strolling among miniature replicas of Turkey's major tourist attractions. But that is how I roll.
Having seen this lifelike model of Nemrut Dağ, I don't feel like I need to travel to eastern Turkey to see it in person now. It's that good!
There were also replicas of things that are not, strictly speaking, "tourist" attractions such as a mall, an Opet gas station, Ataturk airport, the Olympic stadium nor things that are, strictly speaking, Turkish, (the al-Aksa mosque and the bridge at Mostar). Seriously, can you see too many Opet stations?
But I kid. Miniaturk would have been totally worth it, even at 10 YTL, if only for the replica of Ataturk airport.
As the news is consumed with Britney Spears and imminent collapse of the U.S. economy, I'd like to take a moment to point out that Afghanistan is on a predictable, completely avoidable, decline into chaos, as evidenced by the suicide attack at the Serena Hotel in downtown Kabul yesterday.
The attack was stunning in its audacity: suicide bombers in police uniforms stormed the lobby of the biggest, most prominent hotel in the city on a Monday evening when it was full of meetings (the Norwegian foreign minister) and foreigners working out in the hotel gym, and most likely, socializing in the restaurant. The Taleban took credit, suggesting that the illusion relative safety of the capital has been shattered for good. The new and improved Taleban are back and better than ever. Big shout out to Pakistan for its hard work in that regard!
Up to eight people were killed, including one American, Thor Hesla. That American happened to be a colleague from my political campaigning days who was working out in the gym, according to published reports. He was just living in the bubble of ex-pat Kabul, taking advantage of the Serena's gym after a day at work. Başınız sağolsun to his family and friends.
In places like Afghanistan, there's a complicated mental risk assessment that makes life bearable and normal. You tell yourself that it's all about being at the wrong place at the wrong time (playing the odds). You tell yourself that other people -- Diplomats, dignitaries, police, military or Afghans -- are the targets, not you and your brunch companions. When things like this finally happen to people you know, or people who are like you, your first reaction is "well, that would never happen to me because I would never do X, Y or Z."
Well, I would never work directly for the US Government.
Well, I would never travel around in those annoying convoys.
Well, I would never stay in a hotel that's such an obvious target.
Well, I would never go the gym after work.
The last one is so very, very true. I would have been in the bar.
Paul Goble is a fascinating analyst who runs a geek-tastic blog called Window On Eurasia. If you have been wondering, for example, what the 17,000 Muslims in Chelyabinsk have been up to, his blog is a MUST READ. Lately, his byline says he's writing from Baku -- sorry about that.
Normally, I'm not one to openly challenge experts, but his post the other day on a report (in Russian, alas) by Ismail Agakishiyev, a Moscow State University specialist who believes that the Azeri wine industry is well-positioned to burst on the international scene, provoked me.
Among other things, I consider myself an expert on Azeri wines. The very idea that a Russian analyst believes that Azerbaijan's wines will be drunk by people who have taste buds suggests that the analyst has never actually tried Azeri wine. Alternatively, the guy could be breaking the news gently to Russians that, due to geopolitical awkwardness, they will never get another bottle of Georgian Saparavi, ever. To me, the "delightfully upbeat" message to Russian wine drinkers in that report is "embrace the suck."
Sure the history of wine production in Azerbaijan is interesting and it's tragic that the Azerbaijanis ripped out all the vines in the 80's during Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign (boy, that worked out about as well as that whole "glasnost" thing, didn't it?), but it doesn't change the fact that Armenians still manage to make a decent cognac or two and Georgian wine is the best, uh, in the greater the Black Sea region.
The report also talks mentions that many farmers and peasants were left with no livelihood when the vineyards were destroyed and how efforts to replant may draw people back to to the land. If I was a urban emigre considering a return to to agriculture, I'm not sure I'd sell the Zhiguli to finance my dreams of starting up winery tourism in, say, Masalli.
Finally, this line really killed me.
"After a brief bout of problems with fraudulent production in the 1990s, Baku has reestablished effective quality control and its wines have won 27 prizes at international competitions since 1991."
The 27 prizes at international competitions? Was that at the Wine Special Olympics in Almaty in 1993? "After a brief bout of problems with fraudulent production?" Was better wine made and sold under the name Yeddi Gozelli (Seven Beauties) but someone concluded that might damage the brand and put a stop to it?
A word of advice, Paul, if you value your social standing in Baku: never, ever bring a bottle of Karavansary to a dinner party. Recent arrivals who don't know better probably never notice that their hostess smiles politely and puts it in the "it's 3am and the shops are closed" box. Anyone in Baku more than a few weeks who brings a bottle would be subject to merciless mockery and may, ultimately, notice a drop-off in invites. Skunk, garden party and all that.
Since I don't want to sound like I am discouraging Azerbaijan from diversifying its economy, I suggest winemakers take an incremental approach: strive to make better wine than the Turks. I'm sure the Turks have won at least 30 prizes at the Wine Special Olympics, but not as many as the Moldovans.
My friend, photographer Chris Herwig, is in town from Liberia to shoot for a coffee table book, so we've been playing around a lot. I took him on my best tour of the Grand Bazaar (also known as "the parts that don't suck").
Then I realized, I can do a coffee table book too! At first, it was just going to be limited to kokoreçi , artists whose media are stuffed lamb intestines, but then I decided that since I have so many photos of tripe, I shouldn't take such a narrow approach.
Here's a sampling. Don't steal this idea, k?
I am sure some İşkembe and Kelle Paça partisans out there will explain at length the pros and cons of each type of tripe. Be sure to read the comments for that discussion. You wouldn't want to miss it.
I know that I shouldn't be giving monkeys the attention they crave, but there have been two monkey-related stories in the last few days that I cannot let pass unremarked upon.
People have asked, "Carpetblogger, why all the hate on monkeys?
They are so cute. And clever, too!" No, they are not. They are humans without the impulse
control. Think about how most humans who DO have impulse control behave and you might begin to understand why I find monkeys so very, very troubling.
First, via Foreign Policy's Passport blog, comes news that the Himachal Pradesh government is hiring unemployed youth to sterilize rogue monkey populations with lasers. How many kinds of awesome is that idea? Though neither a youth nor unemployed (well...), this is the kind of do-gooder humanitarian scheme that I can really get behind. Looking for tickets to Dehli and lasers on E-bay TODAY!
But the best part of that post is this quote from some pinko, conservationist monkey-lover who takes issue with the whole idea:
Can you imagine what having badly sterilized monkeys running around will do to the levels of aggression?
No, actually, I cannot because I am too busy imaging my levels of aggression as I run around tasering monkeys in the balls!
The second post comes via Gadling and is a stunning collection of monkey attack video porn (OMG! Imagine the google hits I'll get with that phrase!). That blogger, who took a bunch of bananas to feed the scabby, red-assed rodents the Monkey Temple in Katmandu (exactly where my open hostility toward monkeys evolved into a genocidal rage), must have been absent on the day they taught "cause/effect" in logic class. Though if retards stopped feeding the little menaces, we would not be able to enjoy videos like this one: nor would the opportunity for ordinary citizens to sterilize monkeys for fun ever present itself.
So, folks, keep feeding those monkeys!
In the category of things you see but don't understand, a guy walking up the alley selling a few lemons from red net bags. In a snow storm.
As in Baku, the only thing that could possibly improve traffic on Istanbul's many hills is the addition of some slushy snow.
Seems like a good day to stay inside and lie on the couch. Should the snow stick around long enough and be attractive enough, look for some photos.