Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alachance/3231163757/in/set-72157612241800357/© 2008, Andy Lachance, all rights reserved

Infinite riches in a little room. Would you like to see more?

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© Andy Lachance, all rights reserved

If you think this is good, you should really see it in four dimensions.

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corinthian-iiCruisecritic.com has published a review of a recent Travel Dynamics International cruise taken by user pisque, who joined us for a journey from Rome to Istanbul aboard the Corinthian II.

Here are some excerpts:

Travel Dynamics International has it all together. This is small-ship cruising designed for a full intellectual barrage. No casino and night club fru-fru….just a great immersion into the world of ancient artifacts and thought.

We heard about this trip via an opera association. It had all the places we wanted to see, a full lecture format, and we wanted to try a smaller vessel….we were amply rewarded…

Fellow passengers were fascinating. Some were experts in Greco-Roman history, others ran the gamut from financial tycoons to physicists…

Local excursions were terrific, with local guides at each port, commodious buses, with two lunches at local places included, with one in Sicily being exceptional, and another in Santorini being adequate.

The staff put together a dinner by candlelight in Ephesus, with local cuisine equal to the ships great dinning room, together with a string ensemble providing music…This was a night to remember.

Disembarkation and transfers were handled with aplomb. We opted for a two night extension in Istanbul. The Hotel was luxurious, and again the tour buses and guide were outstanding.

I would not hesitate to book a cruise with this company in the future.

Read the full review here.

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The Byzantine Empire is so remote, so strange, and so sunk between the two falls – the fall of the Roman Empire and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 – that it’s really hazy in the memory. For Byzantium, these days, there’s little room in the braincase, excepting an adjective (“byzantine,” synonymous with “annoying archaic superfluous complexity”) a mosaic, and a Yeats poem or two. So any news about the Byzantines would be interesting and weird. But this strikes me as conspicuously weird and kind of jaw-dropping. The next time you want to astonish people at cocktail parties with obscure factoids, bring up this little titbit:

Constantinople was guarded by an elite mercenary squad of Russianized Vikings (who apparently were fond of the Mediterranean climate) named the Varangian Guard. According to a wonderful entry in this History of Warfare blog, (and we pick this story up in medias res)

In early 989 AD a Viking fleet arrived with the promised 6000 Norseman. A few weeks later they crossed the straits of the Golden Horn under the cover of darkness and took up positions a few hundred yards from the rebel camp. At first light they attacked, while a squadron of imperial flame-throwers sprayed the shore with Greek fire. Phocas’s men awoke to the terrifying sight of the Varangians swinging their swords and battleaxes. The result was a massacre. Basil with the aid of the Varangians soon crushed the rebellion entirely.

After the rebellion, the Varangians were immediately established as the emperor’s personal bodyguards. Anna Komnena writing in ‘the Alexiad’ claimed that the Guard were far more reliable and trustworthy as bodyguards than native Byzantine troops.

Read the whole story of the Varangians here. If you, like Yeats, would like to sail to Byzantium, you can do so here, on Rediscovering the Classical World: From Rome to Constantinople. And if you have an interest in the history of warfare, we strongly encourage you to consider joining us on Turning Points of History: Power and Conflict from Antiquity to World War II, from Athens to Rome in June 2009, with an itinerary that includes Marathon and Thermopylae.

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The Guardian’s travel section introduces us to Istanbul via the musings of Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk in his Istanbul: Memories and the City, a memoir of the ’50s and ’60s:

“To savour Istanbul’s back streets, to appreciate the vines and trees that endow its ruins with accidental grace, you must, first and foremost, be a stranger to them.”

The Guardian‘s writer, Ben Quinn, continues:

Like an eastern cousin to the old quarter of Lisbon, the winding, steep streets are too narrow for vehicles in many parts, while the only sound to accompany your footsteps during a stroll may be that of the call to prayer.

On a bright day, the sun’s rays bounce off sandstone-coloured walls and occasionally, you’ll pass by a decaying three-floored Ottoman-style home, its wood-planked walls looming precariously over the street, or the open shutters of a teahouse with a group of old men sipping cups of Cay inside.

He notes the Chora Church:

Built by Constantine the Great nearly 1,600 years ago, its ornate interior of Christian mosaics depicting the lives of Christ and Mary have largely stood the test of time. Inside, the temperature sharply falls and whispering visitors shuffle around its spartan floorspace, eyes drawn upwards towards 50 mosaic panels spread around arching ceilings. Highlights inside a small side church include a harrowing fresco of Christ attempting to pull Adam and Eve from their tombs after apparently forcing open the gates of hell with his feet.

Read more about Istanbul here, and experience for yourself the unique atmosphere of Istanbul on one of Travel Dynamics International’s voyages like this one.

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Ruth Hill, of Copley News Service, writes about her enrapturement with Heinrich Schliemann, Alexander the Great, St. Paul, and more while on a Travel Dynamics International cruise. If you’d like a sample of the lovely, fascinating cruises that Travel Dynamics International can provide, click here.

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