For far too long, this has been a matter of speculation for us personally. But thankfully, the Wall Street Journal has done the legwork for us and determined that, at least for now, the Azeris have the biggest pole.
Last fall, the Azerbaijani government ordered a flagpole measuring 492 feet, enough to break the Aqaba record with plenty of pole to spare. But midway through construction, Mr. Chambers got a call from Baku.
He says he was told the country's president wanted to top North Korea's 525-foot-tall flagpole, near the border with South Korea. It sits atop a tower -- so it doesn't qualify for Guinness's "unsupported" category. But Azerbaijani officials wanted to beat it anyway. (The president's office said a spokesman wasn't available to comment, and officials didn't respond to emailed questions.)
Earlier this year, Turkmenistan cut a deal for its own tall pole. Mr. Chambers agreed to build one smaller than the Azerbaijani pole, which was already under construction. But he said he'd finish it quicker.
That way, Turkmenistan could hold the record for at least a few weeks. They got a discount because their record won't last, Mr. Chambers says. Turkmenian officials don't seem disappointed that it will be short-lived...
Mr. Romanos says his potential client is somewhere in the Middle East but doesn't want to be identified until construction starts. That's to keep neighbors from planning their own, taller poles.
"It's important that they keep the record as long as they can," Mr. Romanos says. "It's a pride thing."
Because if I was President of a country with pretty much unlimited resources, a medieval health care system, apocalyptic pollution and people still living in holes in the ground from a war I lost 15 years ago, the first thing I'd do to demonstrate my emergence on the world stage is erect the world's biggest flagpole.
It's little known fact but the Russians invaded Turkey long before they set their sights on Georgia. Antayla, which sits on the Mediterranean Coast and used to be not awful, receives planeloads of vomit-splattered yobs from Rostov every day. Any devushka worth her boob job knows that Antalya is waaaay better than Batumi, with the added benefit of plenty of oversexed Turkish men (hey girls! It's not whoring if you give it away!).
The Turks have been falling over themselves to serve this new demographic, which demands high prices and the same level of quality and service they've come to expect back home in Smolensk. They've even built a resort replica of the Kremlin and St. Basil's so Russians feel at home. I've heard that a Russian developer is building a seven star hotel which, to you and me, is a five star with an addition error. In fact, I've been thinking of a creating reality TV show, based in Antalya and starring Russians called "When White Trash Wins The Lottery."
The Turkish papers lately have been feeding the fires started by an article in the German daily Bild. Germans, who once were only challenged by the British for the gold medal in holiday obnoxiousness, are facing a full scale attack by the -- wait for it -- Beach Cossacks!
In fairness to the Russians, the paper tactfully neglected to mention lobster-red Ulrike's poorly supported genitalia and Toni's muffin top and fingers greasy from clawing into the schnitzel büfet.
It's sort of not even a fair fight. The Russians may have been excluded from the international holiday obnoxiousness competitions for a few decades, but they've really made up for lost time by mixing vodka, oil money, a bearish inferiority complex and a penchant for bad plastic surgery. I can't think of a stronger challenger on the scene!
Beach Cossacks may be the best descriptive term ever invented and I am going to use it forever. There's a long and treasured history in Turkey for polite nicknames like this one too. For many years, the Turks referred to Kurds, whom everyone knows don't exist, as "Mountain Turks." Unkind people who don't appreciate Azerbaijan have referred to Azeris as "Cracker Turks." Maybe the Turks and the Azeris can start referring to Armenians as "Mountain Azeris." We've renamed the Chiplomat's all girl rock band the "Mountain Yanbancis" (which is not to be confused with another local all-foreigner band called "Pis Yabanci," or "Dirty Foreigner")
There was much talk last night of packing up and heading over the land border with Turkey and Georgia, but the main difference between talking about heading to a war zone for fun and actually doing it is a couple bottles of wine.
(Here's a good article about Gori in today's Washington Post)
I hope this turns out better than all evidence suggests it will, but if you're curious what Tbilisi is like under Russian bombardment, Carpetblog friend Wu Wei is on the scene and contemplating the mechanics of evacuation.
I am having a really hard time imagining Tbilisi -- lazy, decrepit Tbilisi -- under attack by Russia. I took that photo of the old city, which always looks like a warzone even without the help of the Russians, in February. I have to say I am glad that Georgia has the pipeline, compelling people other than us to care.