We're going to call this the non-food season of No Reservations. Sure Tony always winds up eating...something....but it looks like this year Anthony Bourdain is in it for the adrenaline rush (or its a ploy for an Emmy). This week proves our point.
Anthony Bourdain and his crew travel halfway across the world, through one of the most dangerous spots on the planet..to eat lamb, play on a ferris wheel and go to a wedding. I'm sure his producers told him an alternate spot might be Orlando for the wonders of fast food and amusement park rides, but our Mr. Bourdain is never happy unless said ferris wheel comes with either landmines or lethal doses of radiation.
Before the No Reservations crew can step foot on Iraqi soil, the have to head over to Virginiastan, close to the D.C. border, for a little hazardous environment training. This involves a lot of people screaming with fake torn off limbs (how do they pretend to only have one leg, anyway), fake land mines and a lot of simulated terrorist attacks. Tony learns that nothing stops an AK-47 bullet. Not helmets, not bullet-proof vests and not cinder blocks. Geez - the tTravel Channel lawyers must be really happy about this.
After training, comes Kurdistan. Nestled in the upper reaches of Iraq,
the crew arrives, accompanied by a staff of four security personnel.
Home to the Middle East's fourth largest group, the Kurds, Kurdistan is
the "safer" part of Iraq now. Saddam Hussein tried to wipe out all Kurds
when he was in power. After he was killed, the Kurds were granted
autonomy over this part of Iraq.
Tony visits an amusement park.
There are happy families enjoying a bobsled ride (with barbed wire), a
ferris wheel, and ice cream. Tony then has a nice family picnic in the
mountains. So far so good - no mine fields, no kidnapping threats. It's
all pretty nice. Tony chats up some of the people he's picnicing with
and they tell him that they are thankful to the people of the United
States and that they're "thirsty for democracy".
Tony notes that
many Kurdish women fought side by side with the men, while others cooked
the meals that fortified the guerillas that fought Hussein's army. To
be caught even cooking for the fighters meant prison...or worse. Tony
visits a mock wedding and it's interesting to note that no matter where
on earth you are, some things are the same...we all use plastic plates
It's off for a ride in an old Russian helicopter. Tony
enjoys himself sitting near the open hatch before landing in Erbil, the
largest city in Kurdistan. This city is one of the oldest in the world
and dates back to 6,000 B.C.
Tony heads off to the Bazaar and
notes helpfully, that if you're ever in a war zone, it's a great idea to
pop over to the local military surplus market. There, Tony picks up
some U.S. Army-issue desert boots. There are also guns, rifles,
night-vision goggles and, we assume, tanks and jets out back.
Erbil is a "dry city", Tony checks out the local tea house. When
there's no booze, no coffee and no women, we guess tea looks like a
mighty raucous time.
Tony then has some lunch with some U.S.
military personnel, who are loving this sweet gig after being in other
parts of Iraq. They don't have to wear their bullet-proof gear and can
enjoy a coke at the local food court. They suggest the "gut bomb", which
is a land mine-sized mound of chicken, rice and raisins baked into a
It's on to Turkey. The only problem is that to get
to Turkey, you have to drive through one of the most dangerous parts of
Iraq. On go the tevlar vests. The ride is uneventful, though the
security detail later fess up that the "piss break" was one of the most
dangerous things they ever did during their stay".
riddle - what does the Turkish/Iraqi border and the Tijuana,
Mexico/California, U.S. border have in common? Six hour waits! Since
their local drivers can't continue into Turkey, the crew switches to
Turkish taxi drivers, who immediately screw open the car door sides to
smuggle tobacco through the border. Tony says that he hopes its only
tobacco - he did, after all, see Midnight Express.
Turkey, Tony goes to a circumcision. If that's the best thing to do on a
Saturday afternoon, we're canceling our travel plans...right now! More
fun ensues as a sheep is slaughtered, then the parts are cooked for the
meal. Around the dinner table, a little small talk is passed along
with the lamb. Tony's asked "is Obama a Muslim" and "did the U.S. really
blow up their own twin towers". The answer to both questions is no, by the way.
the last evening's dinner, Tony hangs with his security detail who just
probably made a few thousand for doing nothing. They asked Tony, since
no incidents happened, if he thought they were worth it (probably
feeling a little guilty for taking Travel Channel's money)? Tony says
that while nothing happened, he got a "warm, cuddly feeling" knowing
they were there.
And besides, if Travel Channel can pay for Samantha Brown, they're used to throwing their money away!
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