Istanbul’s sprawling cityscape was imposing, and true to my dad’s recollection, “there were more minarets than you’ll ever see.”
But, of course, that’s one of the reasons you go to Istanbul — to see the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque* and other remnants from the Ottoman Empire.
It’s funny though. As we entered Topkapi Palace, amongst swarms of sticky tourists beneath the summer heat, I remembered an inner truth I hadn’t had to face in some time: I don’t really like museums.
I used to be embarrassed by this, and my younger self would visit ruins and pretend to be awed, or stare at art and nod my head in approval. Like I “got it.” But I didn’t. I still don’t, most of the time. Nature’s more my thing.
But Dana likes museums and art and history, so I put on a good face and we joined the masses entering the palace. While we toured, I found ways to amuse myself beyond the architecture and grand chandeliers. Here are a few tactics I used. Feel free to borrow them for your next historical site.
The Mirror: When someone asks you to take their picture, flip their phone to selfie mode and snap a few cheesy photos while they get set up. Then take their pic.
The Photo Bomb: Self explanatory. (Bonus points the closer you get.)
The Magnet: Circus legend PT Barnum said, “nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.” He’s right. So, stare at something super obscure, like an archway that leads to a blank wall, or a window that looks into nothing, and wait for people to hurry over to see what they’re missing.
The Stupid American: While passing other tourists, turn to your partner and say, louder than you normally would, something ignorant, but almost believable. My go-to in Istanbul was, “So, this was all part of the Autobahn Empire, huh?”
I know this all sounds bratty, like I'm taking these travel experiences for granted. And maybe I am. But it doesn’t hurt anyone and it helped me enjoy our tour of Istanbul. I even saw some pretty nice tile work while I was goofing around.
*The Blue Mosque is currently being renovated. They don’t advertise this, so you walk in and crane your neck skyward, only to see a drab partition just 20 feet above you. The tourists still took pictures, though, and nodded their heads in approval.