Posts Tagged ‘Cruise’

Sailing into the History of Turkey’s Beautiful Coast

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Stephanie Larson is an associate professor of classics at Bucknell University who received her Ph.D. in classics from the University of Texas at Austin. She has great interest in the modern histories of both Greece and Turkey.

In April, Stephanie led a group of Smithsonian travelers on a voyage around Legendary Turkey and the Turquoise Coast

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As the Smithsonian Study Leader on the April 2012 Legendary Turkey program, I was thrilled to meet another fascinating group of Smithsonian travelers who had worked in such varied fields as nursing, education, medicine, law, geology, physics, neuropsychology, computer science and epidemiology. It is not every day that I have the opportunity to travel around the ancient Aegean and Mediterranean coasts with people who are so interesting in their own rights and also who are so interested in learning more about the history, archaeology and modern culture of the region. The variety in the Smithsonian travelers’ experience lent itself to stimulating questions and really deep and fascinating discussions, both on-site and during afternoons we spent relaxing on the gulets, beautiful Turkish wooden boats.

Turkey Coast

The western coast of Turkey. Photo courtesy of Flickr user audi_insperation

For example, as one travels down the western coast of Turkey and learns more about Greco-Roman antiquity, one cannot help but think of all the influential people that have come from this region who have influenced the later development of fields like philosophy, art, religion, history, and medicine. As a group, we talked and learned about Heracleitus, St. Paul, Galen and the Pergamene School of ancient sculpture. But as we considered all the great strands of these movements that either started or were influenced by ancient people from the west coast of the Aegean, we found ourselves concentrating on Herodotus, the so-called “Father of History,” who came from ancient Halicarnassos, now modern Bodrum, on the southwestern Turkish coast.  Having just visited the site of ancient Troy, our group was particularly fascinated by how Herodotus explains the origins of the Trojan War and why the Greeks sent a huge fleet against Troy in the second millennium BCE.

Ephesus

Ephesus, ancient ruins on the west coast of Turkey. Photo courtesy of Flickr user eleephotography

In the opening section of his History, Herodotus gives a different version of the war’s beginning than the usual story of the Judgment of Paris. For Herodotus, there are no goddesses involved; Aphrodite is not an anthropomorphized deity descending to earth from Olympus to make trouble with the humans. In Herodotus’ version, Paris, the prince of Troy, steals Helen from Sparta because other men had been stealing women throughout the Aegean and had not been punished for it. So, Paris figured that he too could get away with stealing himself a wife, and so he went to Sparta and carried Helen away. At least this is how Herodotus explains it. Our group talked about this story for quite some time, and we concluded that by taking the gods out of the narrative, Herodotus could indeed be rightly called the “Father of History,” as he attempted to reconcile a mythical story with a war that was thought to have happened seven-hundred years before his time. One of the best parts: We were having this discussion about Herodotus on the deck of a beautiful gulet, over a glass of wine and with the warm Aegean sun on our backs!

Gulet

The traditional Turkey gulet. Photo by Matanya, via Wikimedia Commons

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Read more about Smithsonian Journeys’ Legendary Turkey and the Turquoise Coast tour here

An Unforgettable Snapshot on the Euphrates River

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Jodi Magness holds a senior endowed chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her B.A. in archaeology and history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and her Ph.D. in Classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.

In May, Jodi lead a group of Smithsonian Journey travelers around the Ancient Worlds of Anatolia.

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The Euphrates River: The name evokes images of the earliest civilizations, mighty ancient powers such as Assyria and Babylonia, and modern Middle Eastern conflicts. And here we were, driving from the town of Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey to the Euphrates River for a boat ride! I had the good fortune of accompanying The Ancient World of Anatolia, a tour of southeastern and central Turkey. As we drove, I craned my head for my first glimpse of the fabled river. Finally, we reached the river, driving along its banks until stopping at a spot where we all boarded a boat. I chose to sit with about half of the group on the boat’s roof, for the best view of the river as we made our way upstream.

I thought about how this river provided not only vital drinking water in this arid region, but also served as a main transportation artery for all of the peoples along the hundreds of miles alongside its banks. And I thought about how millennia ago, humans began to utilize the river to irrigate agricultural fields. Thanks to irrigation, farmers were able to produce surplus crops, which led to the rise of specialized crafts and industries, as not everyone had to grow food just to survive. As a result, hierarchical or stratified societies developed—that is, centralized forms of government—and with them, the need for writing to keep official records. All of these thoughts swirled through my mind as we glided along the Euphrates River. Suddenly, I realized this was a “Kodak moment.” Everyone agreed, quickly assembling on the roof of the boat for a group photo.

Smithsonian group on Euphrates River

Smithsonian Journeys group exploring the Euphrates River. Photo by author

After about an hour, we returned to the dock and disembarked.  I stepped down to the river bank and dipped my hand in, so I could say that I have touched the waters of the Euphrates River. We drove back along the river bank the way we had come, stopping for a delicious Turkish lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. The meal began with bread served hot out of a traditional oven, followed by a delicious salad of fresh, locally grown vegetables. For the main course, I enjoyed fresh grilled trout; other members of the group chose lamb kebabs or Euphrates fish kebabs. This was one of the many highlights of our tour of southeastern and central Turkey.

Read more about Smithsonian Journeys’ Ancient Worlds of Anatolia tour here.

Video: Flamenco!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Native to the Anadalucia region of Spain, flamenco dancing has become synonymous with Spanish culture. There have been traces of Andalusian, Gypsy, Sephardic, Moorish and Byzantine influences in the dance, and while it is believed the dance originated in the 15th century, the term flamenco was not recorded until the 18th century. The mixture of Moorish guitar with Gypsy dancing resulted in a social dance that has now spread throughout the world, particularly in Central America.

The Golden Age of Flamenco is considered to be 1869-1910, when ticketed performances in public venues attracted a new audience. Dancers began to receive attention, while flamenco guitarists gained a positive reputation as well. However, this created a split in the flamenco community. For purists, the dance changed drastically with public attention. The flamenco fiestas involved a gathering of twenty or so dancers, and there was no certainty as to when (or if) people would show, or for how long.  But once ticketed performances started, there was a structure there did not exist previously. This commercialization of the dance left some feeling it was not authentic, while others saw it to be a new opportunity in creativity and performance.

Check out this scene from the 1995 film Flamenco by Carlos Saura, and then join a dance class in your community.  

Have you seen a flamenco performance in person? Tell us about it.

You can experience the beauty of the dance on Historic Cities of the Sea, where you’ll experience flamenco in lovely Seville.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About the Great Lakes

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
The American Falls of Niagara

The American Falls of Niagara

Those of us who grew up near the Great Lakes already know the basics.

They consist of Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan Ontario, and Superior. They provide 20% of the world’s fresh water, and are the largest grouping of freshwater lakes on the Earth’s surface. And, of course, the lake effect snow from these waterways create endless frustration every winter.

Then there are those of us who like to have a little more advanced knowledge…

  1. Lake Erie is the shallowest lake at 210 ft while Lake Superior is the deepest at 1,332 ft.
  2. Each lake has Native American roots to its name, except Lake Superior. While they are all either Ojibwe, Wyandot, or Iroquois names, Lake Superior is actually an English translation of French term “lac supérieur” (“upper lake”), referring to its position above Lake Huron. But the Ojibwe have their own name for it and call it “Gitchigumi.
  3. Travel through the Great Lakes began in 1844 and expanded in 1857, when palace steamers carried passengers and cargo around the Great Lakes. Tourism really picked up throughout the 20th century when large luxurious passenger steamers sailed from Chicago all the way to Detroit and Cleveland.
  4. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in Paradise, Michigan explores notable historic maritime sites ranging from the infamous SS Edmund Fitzgerald to recently discovered 1902 ship Cyprus – which sank on its second voyage carrying iron ore from Superior, Wisconsin to Buffalo, New York.
  5. The redheaded stepchild of the Great Lakes is Lake Champlain, which was briefly labeled as the sixth great lake by the Federal government on March 6, 1998. But after much media and public ridicule for being too small to be “Great,” the offer was rescinded on March 24, 1998.

Did you grow up near a Great Lake? What are your favorite memories? Share Below.

Join us on the luxorious Clelia II and explore the Great Lakes in all their splendor.

Save $700 per person off your cabin price for Categories E-AA. Also, save $2,000 per person off your cabin price on Categories VS and PHS.

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