The Hidden Story Within the Mediterranean Canvas

Remember when you first saw a famous work of art hanging graciously on the white-washed walls of an ill-remembered museum years ago and didn’t understand what all the hoopla was about?  Have you ever seen a piece in such a manner, then learned more about the artist, the painting itself, and maybe even the romantic story behind it?  If so, its truly amazing how a work of art can develop a whole new meaning once it’s story is told.  The scale of interest suddenly jumps when more is understood of it.

Well just tonight, Oliver Steeds, of Discovery Channel’s new show, “Solving History” demonstrated some of the story behind the amazing fabled islands of the Mediterranean. The premise of the show is all about his quest to piece geological and historical events of the past that tell a deeper, more meaningful story into the stories of cultural past civilizations, historical events and elusive legends.

In this episode, he took us on a whirl-wind tour through many of the islands of the Mediterranean in search of the truth behind the lost city of Atlantis.  Traveling from the steaming crest of Sicily’s Mt. Etna to the shores of Malta, Oliver spoke with geological experts and historians as to the validity of a city such as Atlantis.  The show came to a close with Oliver standing on the volcanic dome at the center of the caldera at Santorini in Greece. Historical and geological evidence had helped him build an entertaining hypothesis that this ancient volcano could have been the downfall of the great Minoan civilization and possibly ground zero for the destruction of Atlantis.

About 15 months ago, I had also been standing on the cliffs of Santorini staring off in sheer amazement of it’s utter beauty and scale.  I have yet to explore the other islands of Malta, Sicily, and Crete but hope to one day.  For now I will have to submerse myself in shows like this one to satisfy my appetite for discovering the hidden stories behind the likes of the “canvas” that is the amazing Mediterranean islands.

Should you feel the same desire to travel to the Mediterranean islands and discover their hidden past, AMNH Expeditions, the American Museum of Natural History’s travel division on New York is offering a special trip that just might satisfy such an appetite.  Learn more about this trip by clicking on the provided link (in red) below, then watch a short video of Oliver Steed’s new show, “Solving History” on the Discovery Channel.


Traveling and the unexpected…

thumbnailWe all count down the days until departing on an overseas trip to a new place we’ve never experienced before or even one which we dearly love.  The day arrives and the eager anticipation overwhelms us.  We meticulously plan out every day while we’re gone – right down to how many pairs of socks and what color tooth brush to bring.  Our bags are taken by the luggage clerk and we board the plane, now able to relax a little before all the excitement begins.  Everything’s accounted for, all is foreseen and planned to the “T.”  From this point, everything always go according to plan, right?

Well, not always.  Any number of minor inconveniences can throw a stick in our spokes such as a delayed flight or missed train.  Small headaches arise here and there, but we overcome. Now, consider something more severe.  Think of those who were traveling in China when the earthquake struck, or others who might have been caught exploring beautiful Tibet during the recent uprisings and riots, or even travelers falling ill mid-journey.

Academic Travel Abroad (ATA) is a well established tour operator which prides itself on its distinct ability to manage such situations while hosting travelers on their many worldwide tours.  ATA realizes that anything from delayed flights to mother nature to local political and social disturbances can occur at any time without warning and can immediately effect the tour itinerary or operation.  ATA staff are trained for these disturbances and quickly react in a way that can provide safety, comfort and a sense of normalcy regardless of the level of adjustments needed to the tour.  ATA has been in business for over fifty years and has encountered many such situations in the past and has refined their skills and abilities when addressing such issues while on tour.  The safety and satisfaction of our travelers is our primary concern at every step along each tour.

Although traveling on your own can render a sense of freedom while abroad, there are many reasons to consider traveling to new destination with a managed tour as they can provide resources and staff trained to handle everything from language barriers to medical needs and provide a real and tangible sense of security and enjoyment while abroad.

Safe travels!

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Academic Travel Abroad and The Wonders of Ancient Greece.

Kalimera!  (“good day” in Greek)

Our group and the Parthenon

I recently had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Athens and the Cycladic Islands as a representative for Academic Travel Abroad with travelers from the Association of Yale Alumni and Smithsonian Journeys.  If you’ve never been to Greece or the picturesque Cycladic Islands, this is the trip to take!  We were accompanied by Eleni Zachariou, our Greek historian and local expert who added real value and distinct character to all the sights by giving us the historical background at each location.

Our tour started in Athens, where we visited the sights of the acclaimed Acropolis with the majestic Parthenon and Erechtheum temples and enjoyed a lecture by Elani which told the story of this location’s turbulent history through Greek, Persian and Mycenaean influences.  We then proceeded to the famous Greek Agora site where we were introduced to the extravagant complex that was once a thriving Greek marketplace where trade, entertainment and politics were daily cultural activities.

Chapel on Santorini

A picturesque chapel on Santorini

We were also treated to some excellent traditionally local meals throughout the small back streets of Athens while enjoying some time to shop and see more elusive sites along the way.  This was a chance to feel the very tangible energy that Athens has.  It was amazing.

On the third day, we drove to the port of Piraeus where we boarded our ship, the S.V. Panorama and set sail for the much-anticipated Cycladic Islands. 

Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, was an amazing landscape of ruins from 2000 -1500 B.C.  Mykonos was an island of quaint villages and amazing vistas of the Aegean Sea with tiny streets filled with friendly locals and enticing shops.  Naxos, the largest of the Cylcades islands, was covered in breath-taking views of mountainous landscapes and we had a unique opportunity to visit one of Elani’s friends who has refurbished a beautiful historical home on the hillside looking down over the island’s harbor.  Santorini is simply amazing.  An ancient volcanic caldera forms a partial ring of islands on which three beautiful towns line the cliff-tops and offer a photographers dream for finding that dramatic shot.  We rode the mules up the caldera’s rim and enjoyed a day of sites and shopping while basking in the warm Greek sunlight.

Our ship - the S.V. Panorama

The glories of modern and ancient Greece were  truly magnificent.  Between our boat staff, Elani Zacharriou – our tour expert and Marty Gane – our tour manager, we were professionally immersed into a culture and civilization that astounded us all.  The memories, experiences and friendships we all came away with from this tour will be something we will keep with us for a lifetime.

To see my slideshow from this tour, CLICK HERE.

Steve Muth
Creative Manager
Academic Travel Abroad 

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Educational Travel Abroad Professionals Bring Unique Experiences.

At Academic Travel Abroad, the term “travel professionals” only skims the surface of the overseas experience of our staff. Overall, we’ve been fortunate enough to travel to over 99 different countries across the globe, spanning all seven continents. Our most-visited destination is France, with Italy running a close second. England, Germany, Greece and China are not far behind as some of the most frequented destinations. We’ve ventured to these far-away destinations for a multitude or reasons including business, studies, vacationing and places of periodic residence. The diverse travel experiences of our staff helps us ensure that the tours we offer are rewarding, culturally rich and travelers can have their questions answered by someone knowledgeable and experienced with respect to the destination.

Within the Travel Services Department, almost every member of our staff has studied abroad in a variety of countries including: England, Germany, Greece, India, Peru, and Spain. We also speak 3 languages: French, German and Spanish, which makes a walk through the office seem like a visit to the UN. This wealth of knowledge is put to good use as our department assists travelers in preparing for their chosen tours so that their experiences are that much more rewarding.

Hardly a day goes by without a staff member recounting a unique travel experience or having the opportunity to connect with a future traveler on the phone about a past or future adventure abroad. With so many of our staff having been to the countries that we travel to, there is almost always someone around to make a recommendation as to what to do, what to eat, and where to stay.

When these unique qualities and experience are matched with our valued partners like Smithsonian Journeys, National Geographic Expeditions, Yale Alumni Association, American Museum of Natural History, the International Monetary Fund, the Brookings Institute and so many more, the educational and cultural travel experiences we offer are unmatched.

To learn more about our staff and read their individual bios, click here.

Academic Travel Abroad

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It just doesn’t get any better than this.

MaryBeth Mullen, Deputy Director of Smithsonian Journeys, took her son Jack on the Smithsonian’s Family Odyssey Through Greece trip earlier this month. She shares her impressions and experiences. To read about future trips in Greece aboard the Pantheon, please see:

If you are interested in learning more about this family voyage and others, email MaryBeth at

I just returned from Smithsonian Journey’s Family Odyssey in Greece, our family cruise in the Greek Islands! Our group of 19 parents and children enjoyed calm seas and warm weather on this incredible learning vacation. We began in Athens, and then boarded the Pantheon, our private yacht, for seven days of sailing in the Aegean. Following are highlights of our journey.

Exceptional Educational Travel: Our study leader, Eleni Zachariou, was a master. She is so well versed in ancient history that the stories just flowed and we were enchanted. Our youth leader, Eleni Premeti, captured the children’s imagination immediately. She told them stories about the ancient Greeks on Delos, led them on a charge of the fortress at Mycenae, home to Agamemnon’s Palace, and engaged them in the ancient work of Aristophanes through a short reenactment of his play, The Birds.

The Ship and Crew of the Pantheon: The ship was fabulous! Sparkling, clean, and relaxed. The Captain was very eager to raise the sails and allow us to swim off the ship, which was enormously popular with the children (there were safety precautions in place with one crew member in the zodiac watching the kids, and two other crew member in the water with the kids). We used tenders at several ports, which worked well with this group. Our hotel manager also played photographer. He took photos of the kids swimming off the boat, and photos of our passengers enjoying the views. We all enjoyed our “down time” on board this comfortable ship. There was some star gazing at night and it was amazing; kids also got a tour of the ship from the captain, he taught them how to tie a true nautical knot.

Shore Excursions: Our island shore excursions were well paced and meticulously timed. The sequence of visits worked well. In Delos, Eleni presented a content rich history on ancient Greek history. Our Naxos day was truly rich with several private home visits. Mykonos and Santorini included cultural tours, complemented by beach and swim opportunities. Upon arrival to Milos, the captain found a private beach for us to tender to where we enjoyed a swim. At Nafplion, we toured some of the most dramatic sites, the ancient theater and temples, followed by the play, the Birds, starring the kids! We all sat down on the large stones that were in a circle, then watched the children come out slowly in their costumes of wings and beaks and headdresses. They all had a role, and they performed beautifully. The final island visit to Aegina included stops at several temples and a very personal and welcoming lunch at Eleni Z.’s home. We all enjoyed a wonderful lunch and sweeping views of the surrounding olive groves. Eleni P. staged a treasure hunt for the kids by providing key words and descriptions of things learned on the trip while they ran all over the house and property to find the treasures.


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