Our flight path to Africa stopped in Turkey, so we stopped, too.

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.