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Archive for March, 2008

They went to Delphi, the Earth’s center, to visit Phoebus’ Oracle, and prayed to him to grant them his aid in their misery, to give them some oracle that would restore their health and put an end to the evils of their great city. The ground, the laurel tree and the quivers which the god himself carries, all trembled together and, from the depths of the shrine, the sacred tripod uttered words, making the listeners’ hearts quake with fear… (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book XV)

Up on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in the time before Time, the young god Apollo slew the monster Python and founded a shrine commemorating the event. It was the omphalos, the navel or center of the world, and Pegasus swooped in and stamped his hoof and cracked the ground from which came forth the Castalian Spring, pluming underground waters bearing a sweet perfume. (Of the last, so said Plutarch.) Down in an enclosed subterranean chamber, the Pythian Sibyl sat on a three-legged stool, breathed in the vapors surrounding her, swooned into a trance, and uttered delirious visions that would be translated, by the Pythian Priestesses, into prophesies that would command the fortunes of the kings of the world.

The Sibyl was a huffer.

In 2001, geologists discovered that two geologic faults intersected directly beneath the ruins of the Delphic Shrine. About every hundred years, earthquakes rattle the faults, heating the adjacent rocks and vaporizing the hydrocarbon deposits stored in them. The result: ethylene vapors, which, inhaled in concentration, produce a sense of disembodied euphoria. It is no longer a myth or a tall tale: that’s how the Pythian Sibyl received her visions from Apollo. Read more about the Delphic Oracle’s drug use here and here.

See Delphi and get a whiff of myth on Travel Dynamics International’s Landmark Sites of the Mediterranean: Greece, Sicily, North Africa, and Spain from November 9-28, 2008.

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If you are lucky, as you’re sailing with us aboard the Corinthian II in Antarctica, you might catch a glimpse of these absurdly beautiful banded icebergs. Formed by the pressurized compression of ice, plus rapid melting and re-freezing, they are truly stunning to encounter. Click here for some astonishing images.

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A major article in the Boston Globe reports,

By many standards, Africa is doing better than it has in decades. The number of democratically elected governments has risen sharply in the past decade, and the number of violent conflicts has dropped. African economies, and African businesses, are starting to show impressive results, and not just by the diminished standards the rest of the world reserves for its poorest continent. The runaway inflation that crippled African economies for decades is on the ebb, and foreign investment is rising. Last month, the World Bank reported that average GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 5.4 percent over the last decade, better than the United States, with some countries poised for dramatic expansion.

“For the first time in a long time, you have the potential that a handful of countries could break from the pack and become leopards, cheetahs, or whatever the African equivalent of an Asian Tiger would be,” says John Page, the World Bank’s chief Africa economist, referring to the nickname given East Asian nations like Taiwan and South Korea because of their double-digit growth in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.”

Meanwhile, over in Mali, the Bamako beat is taking the world by storm. Travel Dynamics International is very excited to show you Africa — the real Africa, changing and growing — during our extraordinary cruises to this fantastically varied continent.

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Argentinian critic and translator Alberto Manguel has done something quite unique, and necessary for our time. He realized that writing a biography of Homer is impossible. Yet he understood that The Iliad and The Odyssey are, in fact, the foundations of Western civilization. But unlike most of us, who just accept that phrase — “the foundations of Western civilization” — he interrogated it, and traced the ways in which Homer’s narratives have been used, re-used, appropriated, and re-forged over these last 2,500 years. He’s written a biography of Homer’s works. A history of the poems. Read the review in The Washington Post. And then take Odysseus’s journey yourself — in a great deal more comfort and luxury.

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Last summer, The New York Times‘ travel section published a lovely piece by Jennifer Conlin on her “Zeus Trip”: a summer vacation in Greece specifically planned to teach her kids about ancient history and mythology. It’s written with deft tongue-in-cheek, as she learns, by trial and error, how to keep her kids interested and learning, rather than bored and flippant.

She needn’t have worried, she needn’t have stressed, if she’d left the planning to us at Travel Dynamics International. Our family learning adventure, “Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes,” is the model for ancient mythology-themed trips for kids. We design two separate sets of excursions: one for adults, and one for children, led by professional youth counselors who bring the legends of Theseus, Hercules, and Odysseus to life. Meaning you can have your cake and eat it too — you get to have your own elegant cruise in the Mediterranean, and give your kids or grandchildren a summer enrichment experience they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives. It’s a formula that’s a proven success: this trip has sold out for the past five years in a row.  

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