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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Turkey for Turkey Day

Every Thanksgiving, Doreen and I try to go on an exotic trip. Last year, we spent Thanksgiving at the Taj Mahal in India, and in previous years we’ve been to Montserrat, Fontainebleau, and Akron, Ohio, home of the World of Rubber. This year, we’re going to Turkey for Turkey Day, specifically Istanbul (not Constantinople).

We’re a little sad to be leaving Minnesota and missing the annual Thanksgiving soirée our neighbors have. They’ve already burned the trash in their backyard in a giant bonfire, and the Port-A-Potty has been delivered. We hear that last year, it was a 9-kegger, and the Port-A-Potty overflowed, sending a river of human excrement down the alley. Classy!

Fortunately, Turkey has culture as well. In ancient times, Istanbul was the Greek colony of Byzantium. In 330, Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor, moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium to be closer important trade routes. As you would expect from someone named Constantine the Great, he renamed the city after himself, and Byzantium became Constantinople.

While the eastern part of the Roman Empire was flourishing, the western part came under attack from Attila the Hun. My history gets a little foggy here – in my defense, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire spans six volumes – but basically, the western part of the Roman Empire began its sad decline into the Dark Ages, while the Eastern part, now called the Byzantine Empire, remained a wealthy center of trade.

In 1453, the Ottoman Turks invaded, and Constantinople became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted until 1923. Modern Turkey was founded in large part by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a gifted military leader who had defeated the French and English at the Battle of Gallipoli against long odds.

Atatürk seems to have been quite a progressive chap, who admired rationalist Enlightenment thought and supported secularism and women’s rights. He wanted to modernize Turkey, and he did so through a variety of laws, such as the Hat Law of 1925, which banned the wearing of the fez.

Atatürk has largely succeeded. Today, Turkey remains a majority (99%) Muslim country, but secular and democratic. It has been a member of NATO since 1952, a founding member of the OECD, and is now a candidate for full membership in the EU. There are reportedly more billionaires in Istanbul than in Tokyo.

Istanbul seems to be a fascinating cross between east and west, and it will be interesting to see how they reconcile Islamic traditions with Western government and economics. If demographic trends continue, Istanbul today may look like the Paris of tomorrow. I think it’ll be a great case study in multiculturalism, assimilation, and development.

All this highfalutin talk aside, we’re going there to have fun! Maybe go on a cruise of the Bosphorus, drink some raki, and try the national sport, grease wrestling.

Or maybe not. I found a Dutch video of Turkish grease wrestling, and it looks like, um, the trailer for “Steam: The Turkish Bath.”

It looks like an interesting land!