Archive for February, 2008

An essay by Marina Warner, in the excellent British online magazine The Liberal, meditates on the meaning of myth:

WRITERS don’t make up myths; they take them over and recast them. Even Homer was telling stories that his audience already knew. If some individuals present weren’t acquainted with Odysseus’s wanderings or the Trojan War, and were listening in for the first time (as I was when a child, enthralled by the gods and goddesses in H.A. Guerber’s classic retelling), they were still aware that this was a common inheritance that belonged to everyone. Its single author – if Homer was one at all – acted as a conduit of collective knowledge, picking up the thread and telling it anew.

Read more from Marina Warner here. Travel Dynamics International would love to place you in the heart of mythical settings, and tease out the meanings of the ancient myths for  your life, in cruise programs such as Journey of Odysseus, Voyage to the Lands of GodsBill Moyers and Heroes, Journey of Aeneas, and a very special voyage called Landmark Ancient Sites of the Mediterranean, on which famed PBS broadcaster Bill Moyers will serve as guest lecturer. As many of you know, one of Mr. Moyers’ greatest works was a conversation series called “The Power of Myth” with the late Joseph Campbell.

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R.W. Apple, JrWe at Travel Dynamics International were very saddened to learn of the death of R.W. Apple, Jr. in 2006 — gourmand, politico, and one of the New York Times’ very best writers. In 2004, he traveled with us along the Dalmatian Coast, and was so inspired by the fantastically fresh seafood he encountered there, he immediately returned to Manhattan to write this tantalizing, delectable survey of Croatian coastal cuisine. He was particularly impressed with Proto, one of Dubrovnik’s finest restaurants, where we took our guests for lunch one afternoon:

But restaurants like Proto — a few steps off Dubrovnik’s pedestrian-only main drag, whose limestone paving blocks have been polished to a high gloss by hundreds of thousands of feet — buy the best and know just what to do with it. We were stunned by the sweet, magically tender shrimp, cooked on a wooden skewer, and the ruddy scampi, which were so plump they could almost have passed for baby lobsters.

They were rockets of flavor intensity that scored direct hits with us both. The young waiter told us why: “They were alive when they came in this morning, and they’re barely cooked — two or three minutes on the grill, depending on size.”

Our lunch at Proto was one of those meals where everything worked perfectly. Our table, covered with a sea-blue cloth, was shielded from the fierce midday sun by an awning and cooled by a fresh breeze. I am not much of a fish salad fan, but my starter was exemplary — a mixture of delicately flavored baby octopus, succulent little mussels, chopped red onion, ripe tomatoes, fleshy black olives and round, wonderfully juicy Mediterranean capers. Betsey’s shrimp came with a mound of saffron rice, every grain distinct and slightly crunchy, and a salad of tart rocket dressed with oil from Korcula.

The espresso, with a perfect head of crema, would have pleased Dr. Illy, and it went very nicely, I thought, with a slug of slivovitz, the local plum eau-de-vie. Well, not exactly local; I thought I detected a note of regret in the waiter’s voice as he took the order, and then I realized that slivovitz is Serbian, not Croatian. The last time I had been in these parts, the rival countries were both part of Yugoslavia.

Read more of his culinary adventures with Travel Dynamics International in the Adriatic here.

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The Library of EphesusNext time you go to Ephesus (unless you haven’t been there a first time, and shame on you for that) — you’ll be able to see something new.

What? See something new? In a city that was a ruin 1,300 years ago, and totally abandoned by the 16th century?

Well, that’s the fantastic thing about old places. They may be buried, but they’re not dead. They’re always being renewed by the archaeologists: every single day, a place we thought we knew all about is teaching us we know next to nothing.

The Turkish Daily News reports that in Ephesus (one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, where the World Wonder of the Temple of Artemis once stood) they’ve found the Governors’ Palace, along with evidence that the Emperor Hadrian was the first guest there.

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A reporter for The Washington Post has a very entertaining and informative article on the road to Timbuktu

Timbuktu seen by early explorers “Then, as the sun dipped below the horizon, the truck beached itself on a mound of hard sand between the tire tracks. We spun the wheels to no avail. We had no shovel and no batteries for the flashlight. As darkness fell, Frabah, looking quite fatigued and coughing miserably, worked to clear a path in front of the truck, using the tire iron for a tool. I wriggled underneath with the butter knife and dug at the sun-baked sand blocking the axles, chipping off chunks the size of grapefruits.”

Sounds taxing. Luckily there’s light at the end of this ordeal:

“I spent two days sifting through several troves of Arabic manuscripts dating back to the 12th century. Abdoul Kader Haidara, a local collector who inherited 3,000 texts from his parents, showed me illuminated copies of the Koran, poems written on camel skin and essays on law, medicine, astronomy and music — evidence of a vibrant cultural life in sub-Saharan Africa at a time when the streets of Europe were overrun with rats.”

Wouldn’t it be much better if you could reach this fabled city by chartered plane flight, after a relaxing cruise aboard an elegant yacht along the rivers of West Africa? We thought so. That’s why we designed our trip The Road to Timbuktu and the Rivers of West Africa — so you can have all of the pleasure, and none of this reporter’s pains.

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The Death of SocratesThe reviewer from The Chronicle of Higher Education ultimately gives a negative review of Luis E. Navia’s Socrates: A Life Examined, but the review itself provides an interesting history of the perception and reception of Socrates and his philosophy.

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“The shipwreck looks very promising about shedding light on the nautical and economic history of the period in the east Mediterranean,” Demesticha told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Learn more from MSNBC.

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Salvador da BahiaIN Portuguese, “amado” means “beloved,” and in more than a score of novels, the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado made clear his eternal passion for Salvador da Bahia, the city that took him in as a teenage boarding student and became his home. Salvador, in turn, loved him back, and even now, more than six years after his death, Amado’s exuberant spirit, aesthetic and characters seem to permeate the streets of the place he described both as “the most mysterious and beautiful of the world’s cities” and “the most languid of women.”

More from The New York Times.

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Parthenon westSometimes something is so iconic, so lodged in our collective memory, its image so reproduced time and time again, that it becomes washed out, and decayed of meaning. It happens with everything great and old; consider van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” or Michelangelo’s “David.” The same thing certainly has happened to the greatest, most perfect construction of the ancients, the Parthenon.

What’s really exciting, in our age of infinite reproduction, is that the new sciences are completely refashioning the way in which we look at old things — reminding us of the genius and impossible craftsmanship that was necessary to create things of such greatness.

Smithsonian Magazine has an amazing article on new insights into the way the ancients constructed the Parthenon.

“The ancients spent a lot of time on another finishing touch. After the Parthenon’s exposed marble surfaces had been smoothed and polished, they added a final, subtle texture—a stippling pattern—that Korres says dulled the shine on the marble and masked its flaws. With hundreds of thousands of chisel blows, they executed this pattern in precisely ordered rows covering the base, floors, columns and most other surfaces. “This was surely one of the most demanding tasks,” Korres says. “It may have taken as much as a quarter of the total construction time expended on the monument.”

With such fanatical attention to detail, how could the Parthenon’s architects have finished the job in a mere eight or nine years, ending somewhere between 438 and 437 b.c.? (The dates come from the inscribed financial accounts.) One key factor may have been naval technology. Since the Athenians were the greatest naval power in the Aegean, they likely had unrivaled mastery of ropes, pulleys and wooden cranes. Such equipment would have been essential for hauling and lifting marble blocks.

Another, counterintuitive possibility is that ancient hand tools were superior to their modern counterparts. After analyzing marks left on the marble surfaces, Korres is convinced that centuries of metallurgical experimentation enabled the ancient Athenians to create chisels and axes that were sharper and more durable than those available today.”

Even if you’ve seen the Parthenon before, it’s time to look at again, with new eyes.

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detail of the AlhambraNewsweek reports:

‘One new trend has been to combine a luxury cruise with a pilgrimage. In March, Travel Dynamics International hosted a 12-day cruise to Spain and Morocco, titled “Coexistence of Cultures and Faiths.” Passengers attended lectures on the interaction of the three monotheistic faiths, led by a rabbi, a minister and an imam. “People came with their own religious identities,” says Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the guest speakers. “But everyone was genuinely interested in how the relationship among faiths is a give-and-take.” They also explored Moroccan sites that revealed how the three religions collaborated to create a sophisticated 16th-century society. That’s the kind of pilgrimage the world could use more of these days.’

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…and Mary McDowell of CruiseMates.com delivers an enthusiastic report about this lovely ship.

” This is how it was told to me: For her 27th birthday, a Greek woman named Clelia received the mother of all presents from her wealthy father: a luxury yacht. The young woman named the yacht after herself, and uses the ship for entertaining her friends. But since even the wealthy can’t spend all their time partying, the yacht is often up for charter. And that is how mere mortals like me are able to book passage on her.

Originally built as a Renaissance ship, the Clelia II was re-configured and refurbished for its new owner, offering more and larger suites and fewer cabins. It’s a nifty, fun little ship, where life is casual and laid back. She is mostly chartered by upscale museums, universities and similar institutions, so her passengers tend to be well-traveled and well-read. They are also affluent individuals who have been-there, done-that types. Our particular trip was run by Travel Dynamics International of New York, which has been doing this sort of travel for a very long time, and does it extremely well.”

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