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Voyages to Antiquity is a specialist cruise company focusing on the history and culture of the Mediterranean.
Our beautiful ship, The Aegean Odyssey, takes just 350 guests to key heritage sites across the Aegean, Adriatic & Mediterranean.
This blog is written by the staff, passengers and expert lecturers who sail aboard the ship.
We hope you enjoy your journey with us.
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Category Archives: Passengers’ journals
David Cordingly is an English naval historian who held the position of Keeper of Pictures and Head of Exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for twelve years. He is considered to be one of the leading authorities on pirates, has written several books on the subject and was historical consultant for “Pirates of the Caribbean”! He has also appeared on camera in several television documentary programmes for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Enjoy below his short journal of his cruise with us.
“After the endlessly cold winter in England it was a pleasant surprise to receive an invitation from Ann Carr to join the Aegean Odyssey at Athens and to give some lectures on the cruise up the Adriatic to Venice. My wife and I joined the ship at Piraeus and were delighted by the summery weather and by the friendly welcome from the staff on board.
The next day we decided to give the Acropolis a miss and joined the excursion to the National Archaeological Museum (stunning bronzes, exquisite gold jewellery, mysterious Cycladic figures) and then the ancient Agora – one of the hidden treasures of Athens: an almost complete Greek temple and deserted and picturesque ruins amid shady trees.
First stop along the coast was harbour town of Nauplia, from where excursions headed inland to Mycenae and the magnificent Greek theatre at Epidaurus. We took time off to have coffee in our favourite square in Nauplia and to explore the local market which, in defiance of the image of Greece as being on its uppers, was crammed with local people cheerfully bargaining at stalls which were overflowing with fish, fruit and vegetables.
The next day I gave my first lecture (on the oared ships of Classical Greece and the sea battles fought in waters we passed through). Kate Garnon Williams, my fellow lecturer, then described the origins of the Olympic games which proved an excellent introduction to our tour of the beautiful site of Olympia the next day.
As we headed north up the Adriatic the weather continued fine and sunny with cool sea breezes. We visited Corfu with its impressive fortifications, its lovely old houses and Byzantine churches; and the vast and fascinating archaeological site at Butrint; and then everyone came on deck for the cruise into Kotor Bay – a magical experience as the ship sailed through a narrow fiord into a calm inland bay surrounded by towering mountains. That evening we anchored off the harbour of Dubrovnik.
One of the bonuses of cruising in a relatively small ship like the Aegean Odyssey is that our first view of many of the historic ports and harbours of the Mediterranean is the same view which would have been seen by travellers and seafarers in earlier times. As we approached each port we could see the forts built on headlands and islands to defend the inhabitants from pirates and hostile fleets.
In the case of Dubrovnik the entire town is surrounded by massive walls which looked even more impressive from the tenders of the Aegean Odyssey which took us ashore. We followed our guide through narrow medieval streets to the cathedral and the Dominican monastery with its cloisters surrounding a lovely garden with orange trees.
My second lecture was on the Barbary pirates who ravaged the Mediterranean for more than three centuries and sold thousands into slavery. Split was our next destination, the site of the emperor Diocletian’s palace; and then on to Trogir which has a cathedral famous for the astonishing medieval carvings around the great doorway.
After Zadar I gave a lecture on the rise of Venice as a great maritime power, and in the evening we were honoured to be invited to join one of our younger travellers, Nathan, at dinner to celebrate his birthday. Nathan had become so popular with passengers that two tables were filled by his invited guests. It was a lovely evening!
For us, and for many others, the highlight of the cruise was Venice and we were fortunate to arrive at sunrise. Everyone was on deck in the chilly morning air as the ship crept into the lagoon. Soon we were confronted by the view made famous by artists from Canaletto to Turner and Monet: the famous vista of the Doges Palace and St Marks Square. The ship moored alongside a quay from which we had a grandstand view of the constant activity on the Giudecca Canal. We avoided the massed crowds and headed for the peaceful haven of the Peggy Guggenheim museum (Magritte, Picasso, Salvado Dali.)
On the last day we joined a memorable excursion out to the islands of Murano (famous for glass-making), and Burano with its brightly coloured houses and leaning tower.
Altogether a most enjoyable trip: a well planned itinerary; first class local guides; enough free time to explore on our own; and excellent meals on board served by always cheerful and attentive staff.”
Joyce Salisbury has been travelling and lecturing with us for two years now. Here is her postcard message from Palma, one of the ports from our recent ‘The Shores of the Mediterranean” cruise to Italy and the Western Mediterranean.
“Palma – what an exquisite port! No wonder the rich and famous – including the Spanish king – vacation here.
Due to weather in Corsica, we spent two days in this port and it was a fortunate event. We saw the beautiful city, architecture, cathedral and other sights, but what made this port even more special were the opportunities to glimpse the talent of the people.
The ship arranged for a flamenco group to come on board the first night, so we enjoyed the guitar playing, drumming, and three dancers who showed the pride and elegance that marks this dance form. The complimentary sangria helped make it a lively evening!
The next day we took an excursion to Valldemossa in the surrounding hills where we saw magnificent vistas. We went to a monastery where Chopin lived with his lover the writer George Sand. Here we were treated to a piano concert of Chopin waltzes while we looked out at the hills that served as his inspiration.
The final aspiring talent we saw in Palma came in the bullring, where young men were practicing to become matadors. One young man stretched proudly with his bandilleras shouting “ho toro” as his friend wheeled a unicycle fitted with sharp bull horns at him.
The dreams of glory are alive in Palma.”
Joyce grew up in Brazil and Mexico, then moved to the States and obtained a PhD in Medieval History from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She was endlessly curious about what shapes people’s actions, and thus focused on the history of religion and aspects of social history, like the history of sexuality. Joyce was an award-winning teacher at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. When she retired, she could indulge her twin passions of writing books and giving lectures all over the world.
Joyce is an author of more than ten books, including a best-selling western civilization textbook, “The West in the World”, and other non-fiction books on history and religion, including “The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages”, “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence” and the award-winning “Perpetua’s Passion: Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman”. She is currently writing a biography of the Roman Empress Galla Placidia, weaving theology and daily life into the narrative.
Last week I received the following blog from one of ‘fans’ on Facebook, Janita Ochse. Janita lives in South Africa and has cruised with us before and will be back on Aegean Odyssey in May. If you are thinking about taking a cruise with us, then please read on – I think Janita will persuade you!
“Booking a holiday and then looking forward to it, is as much part of the fun as the holiday itself. A holiday is a holiday, but a cruise is a lifestyle! Stress levels, market vagaries and worldwide political turmoil indicated we needed that cruise. Voyages to Antiquity was the obvious choice as we have been on one of their cruises before.
The only hiccup for us was “which cruise”. The choice varies from excellent to “cannot possibly miss that one”. This is the result when the founder has the experience of a lifetime in the cruising industry. He has managed to spot a niche in a fast growing market. Mr Herrod, the founder of Voyages to Antiquity, teamed up with experts who have a vast knowledge of the Antiquities and the colourful history of the Mediterranean. The cruises and excursions on offer are refreshingly extraordinary and innovative.
No wonder that Voyages to Antiquity won the best Specialist Cruise Award for 2012!
All we needed to do was choose a cruise and let the team in Oxford deal with the details. This meant paying a once-off fare to secure our favorite cabin, flights to and from London, airport transfers, gratuities, excursions and a myriad other luxuries and considerations that are all taken care of.
Aimed at travellers who have a keen interest in history, no expense is spared to open doors for the guests on board the Aegean Odyssey. A private visit to the Basilica of St Marks in Venice was an experience never to be forgotten. Foremost academics and historians give enjoyable talks on all the sites to be visited. Local guides and crew members ensure that everybody is comfortable and gets safely back on board!
We have been on a few cruises over quite a few years and at last, Voyages to Antiquity comes along and caters for people who want to enjoy the cruise and not have to lug along piles of evening clothes. The cabin is roomy, comfortable and well appointed – like the rest of the ship.
The library is excellent, the crew and officers – efficient, and the food is well prepared, attractively presented and delicious. Thank goodness, no haute cuisine, where dinner is a morsel of something perched on a plate decoration!
All that remains now is to get on board the Aegean Odyssey to feel the excitement of the ship powering up and heading out.
Everything else is taken care of by Voyages to Antiquity!”
We hope to hear from Janita as she enjoys her cruise from Rome to Cannes in May!
Dr Sinharaja Tammita -Delgoda joined our Singapore and Burma, Land of Contrasts cruise at the end of 2012. Most of the other guest bloggers have focused on the awe-inspiring nature of Burma, but for this piece, the Doctor focused on the life around the Phi Phi Islands as well as the people he met on his cruise.
His blog below is one of the most charming we have received from our guest lecturers and more surprising, as he is specialist on warfare and international relations. This piece highlights some of the hidden gems that many people may not even notice.
“Limestone mountains climb out of the sea. Rearing up suddenly before us, great ridges slope down into the water. Their sides are crusted with clinging trees and bushes, their cliffs riddled with caves and gushing streams. Lying between the island of Phuket and the western coast of Thailand, these are the Phi Phi Islands.
Easing down, the speedboat glides round the rocky peaks. Skimming through openings we had not seen, it emerges into the sheltered bays and hidden coves of Koh Phi Phi Ley. There are many boats and many people, yet the sound of birds is in our ears. There is also another sound, the noise of rushing water. Pouring down the mountainside in streams of sparkling silver, it falls into the sea. In the distance we could see caverns opening, tunnels running into the mountainside. In one corner, a sliver of sand curves round the corner of the bay.
On the way out I had found myself near the prow. Finding an empty space I sat and mused, trying not to dream. Another passenger beamed at me. I felt self-conscious.
“Do you mind if I sit here and talk to myself,” I asked.
“Not at all,” she said, “I just hope you get good answers.”
Her name was Brenda Waterbury, a teacher from Canada. She and her friends would meet every evening, to watch sunset on the top most deck. Her friend Wendy was lugging a large mysterious bag, which she had brought on board. “What on earth is she carrying,” I wondered politely to myself, “ and why on earth is she carrying it here.” It turned out that she had the only flippers in the group and I watched in envy as she swam effortlessly across the bay, beneath the shadow of the looming rock.
In places the water is dark and blue, shaded by the towering cliffs. Elsewhere it is green with the shadow of the trees; clear and light in places where the sun shines through. There are no waves here, just a deep and languid swell. Beneath our feet were massive domes and moulds like brains, huge blooming flowers and spreading cabbage leaves. Darting between them were moving forms, bursts of colours, stripes and spots, Parrotfish, Angel Fish and Butterfly Fish, Wrasses and Groupers.
* * * * *
North of Phi Phi, is Koh Phai, Bamboo Island. Here there are no looming limestone crags, just white sand and a lapping turquoise calm. Nature here is less dramatic; softer and more gentle. The water here is not so clear, shallow and full of sand. It is also full of boats and people.
Swimming out, I was disappointed. All I could see was a murky haze. The floor was littered with coral pieces, some were broken, others were bleached and lifeless. Swimming out further I passed the throng. The water here was deeper. All of a sudden, there was a flurry of activity. Two large fish loomed out of the sandy blur, they were feeding or trying to feed. Snapping in gulping movements, they were pecking at another fish. Surrounding them were swarms of smaller fish. Nipping and tearing in furious rushes, they fought back in numbers, holding the larger fish at bay. It was the first fish fight I had ever seen. A glimpse of magic, a world of make believe. It seems only to exist in films and documentaries but there it was in front of us; we were there, we were a part of it and it was part of us.
Crowding back into the boat, we clustered near the bows. As the bow lifted out of the water, we thrilled to the glow of speed, the sheer romance of rushing towards the sunset. The speedboat was a torpedo, cutting through the water like a streak of light. When we looked to see, we saw that we were travelling along a carefully defined path, along a channel marked in the sea.
They were other boats too, all travelling home along different paths. Trundling fishing boats, wide, wallowing catamarans and long tailed boats with curving fan shape prows, which swayed from side to side. In the distance the islands glowed and smouldered, aflame with falling light.
Flying back through the setting sun, Brenda recalled the words of an American school teacher. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments which take your breath away.”
Historian by training, art historian by inclination and writer on occasion, SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda has had a varied and eclectic career. Educated at western universities and Buddhist monasteries he has travelled widely in South Asia. He has an MA in Medieval Studies (York) and a PhD in British Indian history (King’s College, London). However, his greatest ambition was to be a jockey and in 2001 he came last in the first ever beach race in Sri Lanka.
The author of several articles on the colonial period, his first book work was A Travellers History of India (1994), a sweeping survey of Indian culture and history. His great passion however, is the art and architecture of Buddhism. Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan, he taught the 1st ever course on the Evolution of Art and Architecture in Sri Lanka and in 2009 delivered a series of lectures as part of Asian Art Week in London. He is the author of three rather heavy works on the art and archaeology of Sri Lanka, The World of Stanley Kirinde (2005), Ridi Vihare. The Flowering of Kandyan Art (2007) Eloquence in Stone. The Lithic Saga of Sri Lanka (2008). He has also has spoken widely on warfare and international relations, while his articles have appeared in the international press and in military journals. Now specializing in the Indian Ocean and Sino-Indian relations, he currently lectures on South Asia at the Bandaranaike Centre of International Studies in Colombo.
Back in December we hosted a press trip for US and European journalists. The group travelled with us for two weeks to experience our new Far East programme. Over the next few months we hope to share the articles as they are published in various publications.
The link below will take you to an amazing piece which appeared in the Miami Herald last week and outlines the author, Anne Kalosh’s experience as she travelled from Singapore up to Burma. Her piece includes experiences of our guests, too, and is a fascinating insight into Anne’s journey.
We experienced a huge amount of interest in our three Burma cruises this season. With the last cruise of the winter due to sail in mid February, we still have some availability and thought you might like to see another perspective for this mysterious country. This time it comes from Martin Morland, one of our expert lecturers and a British Ambassador to Burma from 1986 to 1990 – an exciting time for the country during the national uprising of 1988.
“The audience for my three lectures on Burma were exceptionally lively and appreciative. Several of the guests had been to Burma already, either recently or way back in the 60s when I first spent time in Rangoon as a junior diplomat and language student.
The atmosphere on the ship was exceptionally friendly with the waiting staff always helpful and cheerful. The ship was compact enough to dock in the heart of Rangoon (now Yangon but the Y was originally an R) a couple of hundred yards from the legendary Strand Hotel and the British Embassy. I had not been back for over ten years as I had been on a blacklist for criticising the military dictatorship (now at last on its way out), and it was a thrill to see the familiar sights and smell the familiar exotic smells.
Trishaw drivers clustered round the gates to the dock, the handiest form of transport for anyone prepared to risk dodging in and out of the traffic. Not a lot of the basics had changed since I was last there, but the cars were less dilapidated, and the buses no longer leaned to the left as passengers who couldn’t get into the bus clung onto the side, weighing that side down.
If you got up early in the morning, processions of monks in their saffron robes still paraded to receive offerings from housewives who had cooked rice and curry to dish out into the monks bowls.. It’s wrong to call them begging bowls since it was the housewives who begged the monks to accept their offerings, thus allowing them to accrue merit.
Unlike other countries in South East Asia, men and women still wear traditional dress, a sarong that women have tightly bound round their waist but men in a loose knot that they have to keep untying and tying up again which looks untidy but has the advantage of getting the air circulating on a hot day.
In the colonial time the British made no attempt to get the Burmese into Western dress and when the dictator General Ne Win took over the country in the early 60s, noone was allowed to wear trousers except the armed service men and the villains in films; so you could always tell the bad guys from the good guys.
The Scott Market was as bustling and crowded as ever with hundreds, if not thousands, of stalls and eating-places, but we weren’t unduly hassled to buy things. All in all it was lovely to be back in a town where I spent altogether seven years of my life in the British Embassy.”
Martin is British career diplomat and was born in Tokyo, Japan. He had two spells of three and a half years in Burma, first as a language student and junior official before the military takeover of 1961, when he drove back on leave from Calcutta to London in 1958. Then he was Ambassador from 1986 to 1990. He made friends with Nobel Prize Laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her late husband Michael Aris during the national uprising of 1988, the most extraordinary experience of his life.
In the 25 years between these two periods in Burma, he spent 6 years in the Foreign Office and Brussels working on British Entry into the European Community, and in the 1975 referendum wrote a pamphlet explaining how and why we needed to join, which was delivered to twenty million households. Four years in Rome followed, then two and a half years in the Washington embassy, a year and a half under President Carter and a year under President Reagan, a ringside seat at the most exciting political circus in the world.
This was then followed by two and a half years on secondment in the City of London with a small general consultancy – activities ranged from trying to sell arms to China to financing a would-be Hollywood feature film about Brian Boru, the legendary King of Ireland (including 5 weeks in L.A. seeing how the other side lived.) He returned to the diplomatic world until 1993, with his last posting as head of the British Delegation to the UN organisations in Geneva. Martin has also been a chairman of two charities: one connected with Burma and the other – with the Catholic Church.
A few weeks ago we received a lovely letter from David Morton asking if we would like to see his blog and photos from his cruise from Istanbul to Venice in September 2012. We always study our passenger comment cards after each cruise and really welcome an extended diary like the one below from David. We do hope that you like his diary from the cruise and would welcome similar pieces from our guests.
“I was a cruise virgin, prior to embarkation in Istanbul, with no idea what to expect over the next twelve days.
What did happen was a blissful and relaxing break from the English climate, with good food and a comfortable cabin. To be able to unpack properly, and only once, proved an advantage over hotel-based holidays.
I found the cruising experience delightful. In particular, it was exciting to wake up just before sunrise, to see mysterious islands loom out of the morning mist, and all from the comfort of my own balcony. I would have liked to have known exactly where we were, to be able to put names to the places I saw. There was a navigation summary on the cabin TV but I longed for the greater detail some airlines provide on their ‘flight path’ screen.
At 68, I found myself just a year older than the passenger average. It was a shame that so many of us were much the same age, though a fair number of Australians and Americans did lend some variety to our group. I missed the presence of younger people on board, though.
I had come to ‘Voyages to Antiquity’ by chance. My interest in this sort of trip was aroused by an advert in The Times for a cruise to the Cape Verde Islands, and then the links led first to the MV Aegean Odyssey and eventually to this particular cruise, which was at a convenient time of year for me, if not in quite the same geographical region.
I cannot claim an abiding interest in the Byzantine period. As a mathematician of sorts – a former high-school teacher of the subject – I would have preferred Classical Greece, but the dates didn’t work out. Icons and mosaics belong, for me, in the category ‘seen one, seen them all’. However, the itinerary was well put together, and the shore excursions were outstanding, with expert local guides, and made even better by the ‘Quiet Vox’ system; I was sceptical about this, but it really works. In fact, everything was done to a high level of efficiency, on all our trips ashore.
I particularly enjoyed the architecture of the various destinations. The wonderful mosques of Istanbul; the spectacular monasteries at Meteora, and the coach-ride across the Plain of Thessaly to get there; the walled towns of Monemvasia and Dubrovnik….these would be the highlights of the cruise, along with a perfect swim from the beach at Skala on the lovely little island of Patmos.
Or these were the highlights until we arrived in Venice. Why hadn’t I taken the stop-over option? I shall return to this wonderful city.
Apart from the sun, and the relaxation, and the chance to visit places previously unknown to me, I was also able to indulge my hobby of photography. Working backwards from Venice, I have uploaded many photos to my online gallery on Flickr.
There is a ‘favourites’ set of just 27 images, covering the whole trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/forwarddefensive/sets/72157631917497357/.
Otherwise all my images, good and bad, can be seen, and are freely available for download, at www.flickr.com/photos/forwarddefensive/sets, where you will find them clearly labelled by port of call.
I lost some files by jumping into the ship’s saltwater pool with an SD card still in my pocket, but the photos that remain still form a reasonably complete personal account of my time on board the Aegean Odyssey. You may wonder if you were on the same trip!”
Dave Morton, Manchester, England.
If you would like to travel in the Mediterranean this year, take a look at some of the lovely offers we have in Spring »
“Professors, museums and ancient pots – smaller ships let history lovers and art devotees indulge in their obsessions even on the road” – the title of Barbara Orr’s article for Canada’s The Globe and Mail, published earlier this month gives a hint about what she thought of her two week cruise.
This informative and entertaining travel feature explains why Barbara is convinced that our type of voyages are an interesting developing niche for cruising, but also for any kind of travel. From her experience on a two week voyage, see why she believes that a Voyages to Antiquity cruise, in this case around Greece and Turkey, offers travellers an experience which will let them do more than look, an experience which will help them learn and grow.
We welcome input from all our guests and we like to receive comments about each blog post. Please feel free to send your photos and thoughts on a recent cruise to our team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to take a similar cruise to the one which Barbara took, please take a look at our Mediterranean Spring offers »
Robin Cormack is well known to our guests on Aegean Odyssey, as one of our most popular guest lecturers. He has travelled with us on several occasions lecturing on his specialist subject of Byzantine history. On this voyage, Robin was interested in a different era of ancient history and the way two famous ancient sites are accessible to guests – an interesting departure for this expert of Byzantium history!
“Aegean Odyssey left Istanbul on the evening of 27 August and thereafter life on this cruise became very busy.
Even the wind and swell which prevented the excursion to Lemnos on the next morning came with a fantastic dividend – the changed schedule gave the opportunity to see Mount Athos in the afternoon light. We also had enough time to get as far along the peninsula as the monastery of Simonopetra, the building on a rock so much loved by 19th century visitors (men of course), and illustrated in Robert Curzon’s famous book, Visits to Monasteries in the Levant (1849) – these photographs show the rock and the building in 1849 and as we saw it from the Aegean Odyssey.
We went on to Izmir (for Ephesus and Pergamon) and soon to some of the best “ruins” in Greece. It was all especially nostalgic for me, as my very first visit to Greece was on a student scholarship to look at Minoan and Mycenaean archaeology, but I perversely came away then with an ambition to find out more about the Byzantine monuments of Greece instead. So in the 1960s I first went to Athos and walked the overgrown paths to many monasteries – from Simonopetra to Vatopedi.
There may be no women allowed onto Athos, but I soon found out there were dozens of female cats and frogs living there. I have to admit that I got an ambition after staying on Athos to have a study in Cambridge that gave the same atmosphere of other-worldliness. The photograph here shows what we added to our house to fulfil the ambition – my Athonite study!
Then on to Santorini – a highlight of this cruise and we left the ship in local tenders.
My first visit to Santorini some years ago was actually to see the small 12th century Byzantine church at Episkopi, but today the excitement is all on the newly opened excavated city at Akrotiri, which was buried in the massive eruption of around 1600 BCE, and still being explored and conserved.
The site of Akrotiri is famous for the wallpaintings found in the houses, but these have all been moved to the Archaeological Museum in Athens, and this led me to compare the presentation of this site with our next visit, the Minoan (and earlier) Palace at Knossos.
Sir Arthur Evans was a pioneer in his excavation at Knossos in reconstructing some of the buildings of the Palace. He did this between 1905 and 1930, and is often criticised for being ‘too imaginative’ in his recreations of the wall paintings and rooms. But at least the visitor to Knossos can instantly visualise the ruins as a place once inhabited and enjoyed.
In comparison my reaction to the presentation of houses of Akrotiri felt too pre-Arthur Evans in conception (can one say ‘19th century’?).
There is no systematic attempt to help the visitor appreciate the wonderful paintings and where they were originally found there. I yearned for photographs, panels and captions around the buildings (photographs held up by the guides is not enough).
The final stop on the cruise was Nauplion, and a morning at Mycenae. The (relatively) new museum at Mycenae is a delight, and adds so much to a visit to the “tomb of Agamemnon” and the Lion Gate.
What is striking to me about the museum is the way its presentation so consciously spurns Homeric references and treats the archaeology as evidence of history and not of myth. After all, did Agamemnon ever exist as a historical person? I was particularly drawn to the cases which show the finds from the ‘House’ with the idols – male, female and snakes. They are major material for the study of early religion in Greece and beautifully displayed, and photography is allowed. I came away from the museum determined to find out more.
1. This was the first time I have travelled with a kindle, and now I am sold on it. After the visit to Mycenae, I wanted to re-read the great book on the site and how Mycenae has been re-interpreted through history – by Schliemann and by other visitors. Hey presto, my kindle instantly downloaded the book – Cathy Gere, The Tomb of Agamemnon: Mycenae and the Search for a Hero (Profile Books, 2006). This helped me answer many questions on the ship that day. It also told me something I never knew – that one bank in Nauplion copies the architecture of the tomb of Agamemnon.
2. Secondly one not so clever experience for me – a screw and lens dropped out of my glasses in the museum at Izmir and I spend the rest of the cruise wearing my prescription sunglasses. This gave me a new meaning on seeing the world through rosy-tinted glasses, and an unwanted image of me wearing dark shades at night! An image thrown away now I’m back in Cambridge. Moral – in future I will travel with a spare pair of spectacles!”
Prof ROBIN CORMACK, COURTAULD INSTITUTE OF ART, LONDON
Emeritus Professor Robin Cormack is the author of many publications on the art history and culture of the Mediterranean, particularly on the world of Byzantium. He teaches at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge. His current books in progress are on Classicism and on St Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai. His most recent book Icons was published by the British Museum, and focuses on how to study this art form from the collection in the museum.
Robin was also curator of the highly successful exhibition “Byzantine 330-1453″ at the Royal Academy, London in 2008/9. For him Sicily is the key to exploring the meeting of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Arabs and Western Europeans in an extraordinary mix of ideas.
Back in the summer, Dr Michael Higgins joined us on Aegean Odyssey. Those readers who view our blog regularly will know that we like to ask our guest lecturers to recount their journey and its highlights. For Michael, it was Mycenae, the archaeological site located 90km south west of Athens and whose name was given to the period of Greek history for 1600-1100BC.
“THE LIGHT OF GREECE” is really a classic Aegean cruise, visiting so many wonderful places in Greece and Turkey. What I like about cruising is waking up each morning in the same bed, but in a new place. The ship ran very smoothly, and I was very impressed how Alison and her team coped with unexpected changes of plans.
One of my favourite places in Greece is Mycenae. The wild setting and compact site makes it easier to imagine what it must have been like in antiquity. I also have fond memories of tortoises crawling amongst the ruins, but I had not been there for twenty years and was not sure if it had changed. I was so pleased when our bus pulled up and I realised that we were the first on the site.
The entrance to the site must be one of the best in Greece.
The walls beside the path to the gate were clearly designed to impress – the great blocks of decorative conglomerate are replaced by an unimpressive, but functional, grey limestone just around the corner. Then I went on through the wonderful Lion Gate, almost unchanged in over 3200 years, if you neglect the lions’ heads.
Inside, the first thing that you see is the mysterious grave-circle which yielded so much gold. And then up onto the top of the site with clear views of the whole valley. No tortoises this time on the site, but lots of flowers for early May.
I went to the other end to explore the cistern that goes down 50 feet under the walls – but I could not coax much light out of my camera and so had to remember it from my last visit.
I finished the tour at the Museum – what a gem, even if they do not have the best pieces. I had another reason to visit the museum – my father excavated here before I was born and I wanted to see if I could find him in any of the excavation photos on display. I had no luck – next time I must ask if I can see their archives.
About Michael Higgins
Michael’s interest in the Mediterranean started with a cruise at age 16 and continued as a geology student on many backpacking trips during his degree at Cambridge. In 1974 he set off from the UK to Canada for his PhD at McGill University and has worked there ever since, except for research sabbaticals overseas.
His co-authored book, A Geological Companion to Greece and the Aegean, explores the geology of archaeological sites, including aspects such as bedrock, building materials, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
His current book project is on geology and the ancient wonders of the world. He recently joined us on our Light of Greece cruise, where we visited the sites of two of the ancient wonders: The Colossus of Rhodes, and The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.