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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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: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/ancientgreece2009/.

If you are interested in learning more about this family voyage and others, email MaryBeth at mullenmb@si.edu.

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.

LINKS:

Visit Smithsonian Journeys Website

Visit Academic Travel Abroad’s Website

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