Posts Tagged ‘greece’

Book of the Week – The Great Sea

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Our book partner, Longitude books, is on the hunt for new books to inspire and inform your travels.

The Great Sea - cover imageThis week, plan a journey through Mediterranean history with The Great Sea by David Abulafia.

Coming in September, Abulafia uses zest, detail, and anecdote to examine the sweep of Mediterranean history from the time of Troy to the mid 19th century. He argues that the great port cities—Alexandria, Trieste and Salonika and many others—prospered in part because of their ability to allow many different peoples, religions and identities to co-exist within sometimes very confined spaces.

Abulafia brilliantly describes the lives of the individuals who’ve populated the region over the centuries, using the experiences of bankers and bakers, pirates and priests, as well as artists and armorers to make the region come alive for you.

If you’re ready to set sail, click to learn more about all of our journeys to the Mediterranean.

Here at Smithsonian Journeys, we can’t get on a plane without a good book or two.

What do you like to read when you travel?

Video: Optical Illusions at the Parthenon

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Who knew? Ancient Greek architects might have been on to something when they built the Parthenon with subtle curves and without right angles. Some scholars argue that these features were intended to counter the brain’s tendency to see optical illusions.

Turns out that the folks at NOVA have known about this for a while. Watch a bit of video below, courtesy of NOVA Online, to learn more.

What did you think of this video? Do you know of other architects using optical illusions? Share below.

Need to see it for yourself? Click for travel to Greece.

Travel Hit List: Greece

Friday, June 26th, 2009
The Parthenon of Athen's Acropolis. Photo: Flickr user roblisameehan.

The Parthenon of Athens' Acropolis. Photo: Flickr user roblisameehan.

We can’t wait to go back to Greece to sample the region’s famous ancient sites, tasty food, and lively music. We’re sure you’ll enjoy this incredible destination as much as we do! Scroll down to learn more.

Read: How archeologist-turned-forensic-architects have unlocked Greek construction techniques in their quest to restore the Parthenon.

Listen: Traditional Greek ballads, sung by Jimmy Lindaros.

Watch: What the oldest, best preserved Greek tomb paintings have to teach us about this ancient culture’s beliefs in terms of the afterlife.

Eat and Drink: Enjoy Smithsonian Journeys program manager Gloria Baxevanis’ account of a lovely meal in a small Greek café.

Check out: Coinage from Corinth, one of the largest cities in Ancient Greece, courtesy of the folks in the numismatics department at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Travel: Now is a great time to book a journey to Greece.

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Share your memories of past travel or future travel plans to Greece below.

Summer in Santorini

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
The Iconic blue-domed Church of Anastasis of Santorini. Photo: Patrick Wagner

The Iconic blue-domed Church of Anastasis of Santorini. Photo: Patrick Wagner

Santorini, southernmost of the Cyclades Islands, is the source of many of our sunny, white-washed dreams of Greece. Also the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history (about 3,600 years ago), Santorini now sits on the edge of a mostly-submerged caldera. Some believe that this eruption (called the Minoan eruption), sunk the mythical civilization of Atlantis.

The ancient site of Akrotiri includes streets, multi-story buildings, walled squares, and workshops. Pipes with running water found at Akrotiri are some of the oldest ever discovered. Discover them for yourself – join us in Greece for the sea, sun, and ancient sites.

Dining with the Gods

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Gloria Baxevanis is an International Programmer and Financial Assistant with Smithsonian Journeys and has been with the Institution since early 2005. A native of Romania, prior to joining the Smithsonian, Gloria was actively involved in the country’s environmental movement. Her career there took her to 16 European Countries. Here, she recounts a recent trip to Crete.

A back courtyard in Crete. Photo: Gloria Baxevanis

A back courtyard in Crete. Photo: Gloria Baxevanis

Wherever I traveled in Crete, I met people who treasured their culinary heritage. On this magical island, birthplace of Zeus himself, there are still people who take the time to make their own yogurt, cheese, wine, and olive oil. They tend to small orchards, vegetable gardens, and sheep just as their parents and grandparents used to. Hania, in northwestern Crete, is the island’s capital city and the place where tourists flock by the thousands each year. Peppered with small, family-run restaurants, Hania offers the very best of Greek and Cretan cuisine and the freshest ingredients.

A chilly March sun interjects its shy rays through the clouds like ancient Greek spears preparing for battle. Families stroll the promenade under the occasional salty sprinkle. Young boys fish at the pier, their laughter clouded by the sea’s hum. Old couples sit on benches, recalling the past. Sunday mid-day is leisure time for the Greeks, a time for good company, good conversation, and more importantly, good food.

This tiny restaurant had some wonderful mezethes. Photo: Gloria Baxevanis

This tiny restaurant had some wonderful mezethes. Photo: Gloria Baxevanis

As my husband and I come across a rather insignificant restaurant we are greeted with a friendly “kalimera” and offered to taste the owner’s raki. The fiery liquid is good and very strong. It burns our tongues and slips down our throats, bringing out our appetites. This is the way Greek restaurants lure customers—with a glass of strong raki. We are hungry now, and sit down carefully. These chairs do not inspire too much trust! One minute later Manos, the owner, brings out freshly baked bread and golden-greenish goodness – spiced olive oil. Quietly standing behind her father is Maria, Manos’ teen-aged daughter, who is eager to display her waitress talents and practice her English.

We put aside the menus and ask Manos for today’s specials, also asking him what ingredients he is using. He proudly tells us that his brother-in-law has a small vineyard just a short drive from here, on the slopes towards Iraklio, and that his white house wine is one of the best on the island. As for the vegetables in his salad, they all come from his garden: huge, ruby tomatoes of irregular shapes, bursting with flavor; long, crunchy green peppers; and dark green, juicy, sweet cucumbers. His wife, Maria, tends the garden, Manos said. She takes good care of it and knows exactly when to pick each vegetable so that it is just right. “Because you know,” he says, “she is the chef, and a very good one.”

We feast on roasted and marinated red peppers and a few servings of gavros (tiny marinated fish). A huge bowl of Greek salad reigns in the center of the table, its vivid greens and reds showing off the sweet goodness of fresh vegetables. Yellow-green olive oil drizzles were sparkling like rivers of gold. Manos and Maria the daughter keep bringing out countless mezethes tastefully arranged on small, simple plates: a few dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves) and keftedes (meatballs) are quickly followed by tender, young octopus prepared in red wine.