Turkey and Death: What’s so Funny?

Five Catholic priests shot or stabbed in the last four years. A Kurdish-Turkish singer shot in the head just today. Such violence has created a serious threat to Turkey as her secular government fends off the encroachment of hard-line Islamic fundamentalists and political extremists.

But not all threats to life are viewed the same in Turkey. Apparently, Turkey gets quite the rise out of an old-fashioned, accidental electric shock. During my recent travels in Turkey, I learned of such a macabre indulgence from the country’s variety of warning signs posted near high voltage boxes.

Let’s face it: without all those frown-ready muscles wrapping around it, the contours of the human skull do tend to form a permanent smile – life’s last laugh, one that seems to erase all previous misery. Turkey’s warning sign artists have taken such a philosophy of death and created a ghoulishly thrilling venue, injecting a festive dose of artistic liberty into their duties. Here are some of my favorites.

ÖLÜM TEHLIKESI roughly translates to “risk of death.” But this cheerful character would seem to be more likely to yell “Hey, watch this!”


Even skulls can look a little ill-humored when they develop deep laugh lines, not to mention an unsightly split on the forehead – yet this one’s smug quarter smirk still retains, as Oscar Wilde would say, a touch of cruelty in the mouth.


This handsome fellow sure doesn’t let a few scrapes on his cheeks get in the way of a smile of pride, as if to say “Become a man: touch that live wire. Embrace the pain.”


Danger. Transformer gate. Entry Prohibited. Ha! That’s a knee-slapper. Have you got any more?


These two fry guys are the life of the party, especially the last one with the wrap-around sunglasses. Just think that many Turks get their kicks from playing backgammon or smoking a nargile, yet it appears that they could be having much more fun using the mains as jump rope. If only the extremists would partake…


About OmnivorousTraveler

Darrin DuFord is a travel writer, mapgazer, and jungle rodent connoisseur. His writing has won numerous awards and has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, BBC Travel, Gastronomica, Roads & Kingdoms, Narratively, and Perceptive Travel, among other publications. He is the author of Breakfast for Alligators: Quests, Showdowns and Revelations in the Americas (released in July 2016) and Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car, silver medalist in the 2007 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards.
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