Attribution: Most of the facts in this monologue come from “Guide to Turkey for History Travellers”by Bob Fowke —the spelling of travelers giving away his nationality. It’s a small but charming book in a series published by the London Sunday Times. I was given a book in this series by a neighbor in London, “Everything Spain” and loved the dry humor (excuse me, “humour”) the authors exhibit. In any case, some observations are Bob’s and some are Bob’s.
So, I will attempt to shorten a short history of Turkey or —a history of a space on earth now occupied by Turkey. No culture can claim continuous ownership of the space because the Turks followed the Greeks, who followed the Phrygians, who following the Hittites, who followed —who knows? People have walked on this dirt I’m trying to get out of my apartment for over 6,000 years. Including (among many others to be noted later) Alexander, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, St. Paul (born here), and perhaps Achilles and Helen. I don’t consider myself the least of these, but I am one of the latest.
I know that you know (now you do) the main city, Istanbul, is in Europe, but most of the country, Anatolia, is in Asia. (Anatolia is from the Greek, anatole, which means sunrise (i.e. from the east). (Those of us who approach my age may remember that it was called Asia minor in our geography books. You don’t have to identify yourselves.)
The Asian part of the country is ringed by mountains on all sides, but the most interesting are the eastern peaks, the highest being Agri Dag – called Mount Ararat in the bible. I’ll look for Noah’s descendants later.
I’ll close with this meatiest of information: “Turkey is a country but it’s also the name of a bird. (Also some of the people I knew.) This is due to a misunderstanding. The ‘Turkey-cock’, as the species was once called, was a native of Mexico, but turkeys were first supplied to England via North Africa. This was because the first birds to be taken from Mexico were imported into North Africa by Spanish traders . And from North Africa, English merchants, known as ‘Turkey Merchants’ due to their trading links with the Muslim world, supplied the birds to England.”
Now, I don’t know for sure if these birds were once consumed at a banquet in the Massachusett swamps, but, if so, there’s a good chance they were brought to the table by the native residents. Who knows? In any case, one of the symbols of that penultimate American holiday was an illegal alien.
Ciao (which, if you think about it, is a pun)