Tim buys a book. Tim accidentally summons a demon. Hilarity, carnage, ensue.
So yes, we were in Turkey1. We were also in Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Prague. Being as we all hail from the land of Purple Mountain Majesty and Valley of the High-Fructose Corn Syrup, it’s a good bet that no one here knows where any of those places are. And honestly, who would care? The up country is Canada and that other one, the sturdy leg to Florida's gimpy leg, that’s the land of Drug Murder. No more geography, yeah?
But! I just called you ignorant. Admit it, you are!2 Before your feelings get too badly bruised, let me tell you that before I had fifteen hours of airplane time to acquaint myself with the guidebook, I didn’t know where any of these places were either. Seriously. I had no idea. That’s how prepared I am when we launch into one of these glob-trotting episodes.
Since wandering blindly into foreign lands is what I do, and since you don't know a single goddamned thing about all of this, let's get educated together.
Big. Covers what remains of the Ottoman Empire, which in turn covered much of what remained of Rome, which was actually a goodly chunk of what remained of the Greek Empire. It’s a Muslim country now, but Istanbul was Eastern Orthodox Christian until the middle 1400s (just a few decades before Columbus, Ocean Blue, et al.) These days Turkey wants to be part of the European Union but France gets all sniffy about headscarves which would make for uncomfortable Christmases. So far Europe has sort of left Turkey's application in the drawer.
It’s shaped like a boot. Can’t miss it.
Old enough to remember the Yugo car? A real piece of shit. This is where it came from. Also site of that-war-during-the-Clinton-administration-no-one-understood-but-at-least-it-didn’t-turn-into-an-eternal-clusterfuck-like-Iraq. Yugoslavia no longer exists. Relevant only here because…
used to be part of the Yugoslavian union. Once famous as a tourist resort, Croatia decided to remake itself as a war-torn, shell-pocked no-man's land. American troops were deployed here in an effort to stop the fighting.
Previous to the war not one single American knew Croatia existed.
To locate Croatia on a map, find the heel of Italy’s boot and then cross that skinny bit of water. You’re there. Note how close it really is to the heart of Western "Old Europe." Now you understand why a little genocide here received so much attention (not to mention money and ordinance) while a similar genocide in far-off Africa is lucky if someone in the West bothers to not give a damn.
Was also once part of Yugoslavia. Various conquerors and empires have taken it over, but it was never one of those places the Habsburgs really bragged about. Ernest Hemmingway--Slovenia's most famous son--drove an ambulance there during World War I. In the Yugoslavian collapse, while everyone else (Croatia included) indulged in some ethnic cleansing, Slovenia blocked off the roads and took a nap. Famous for painted beehive panels, which are available at every tourist shop.
isn’t a country. It also isn’t part of Czechoslovakia, because Czechoslovakia pulled a Yugoslavia broke apart. The resulting splinter nations--The Czech Republic and, cunningly, Slovakia--never did get into much of a war, never hosted American troops and thus, according to the Bosnia-Croatia Rule of Foreign Relevancy (also known as the Vietnam Theory), Prague shouldn't exist, or, at the very least, it should be invisible to Americans. Except--and this is a big except--Prague has really, really cheap beer. American backpackers too cool for London and too cheap for Paris include it in their pilgrim’s path. British stag parties also descend here in perfidious, drunken hordes, proving (reassuringly, I think) that Americans are nowhere near the world’s most obnoxious tourists. Actually, that honor would have to go to certain Aussies. Those who are drunk by breakfast.
Relevant lessons building on this lecture.