You'll have noticed that I haven't been visible for a couple of days. This is not - no doubt to the chagrin of my detractors who feel I have no right to an opinion except theirs - because I have been Bundied, simply because I have been away, so I will now annoy the same people by telling you all about it. In any case, apart from assorted Tiny Elves whining that the truth about Mintoff has been outed, and that moderately peculiar woman being interviewed, there's not been much on the political front.
I'll catch up, never fear.
We had a great four days in Istanbul over Easter. This is one fantastic city, crowded to the point of bursting. Saturday afternoon in the Spice Bazar was past the point of bursting, in fact, and the stallholders had to assume the role of pedestrian traffic police to clear the crush. It was almost scary. Traffic is insane, taxi-drivers have larceny in their soul (apart from a disregard for the law, both of physics and of traffic, that is amazing) and wine, even the least impressive, costs the earth.
But the place is alive, exuberantly and wildly alive, and it's enormous, stretching miles in every direction, with the sea linking its two halves and carrying hordes from side to side.
There are must-dos in Istanbul, and we did most. The Topkapi, the Blue Mosque, its neighbour the Hagra Sophia, the Istanbul Modern (art), the trip to Princes' Islands (take the public ferries and hop, using the fast ferry back) kebabs, fish restaurants, the bus tour, Taksim Square, the Grand Bazar, the underground Basilica, they're all within reach of each other, and just getting there and back is part of the experience. Walk or taxi was our method, though if you take the trouble to figure out public transport, it's cheap, apparently. The ferries certainly are, and they're great fun.
Not everyone speaks English, and not everyone believes in the "have a nice day" school of tourism management, but you can get by with sign language and a knowledge of where the relevant landmarks are relative to each other. If your hotel is near Taksim Square, for instance, you need not really know the address, and the taxi-driver probably won't either, and the meter is sometimes only indicative of a vague generalisation, though you won't necessarily get rooked every time you take your life in your hands and grab a cab. They're pretty cheap, anyway, so dropping a few extra euro isn't going to ruin your holiday.
Signage isn't a strong point, so don't expect to know exactly where you're going, though the younger passers-by will generally point you in the right direction. Food is big-city meets traditional, and a bit of research will repay, though I found that TripAdvisor is bit whiny, if useful for a general idea of a place once you strip out a degree of American paranoia about being stiffed by the locals.
Istanbul rapidly shot to fourth or so amongst my favourite cities - New York, San Francisco and London being the others, since you ask - and if you want a good city break, head there, leaving your uptightness behind, because organised and precise it isn't. You can always carry on whining about Malta, which is Teutonic by comparison, when you get back.