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Crossroads of Cultures: An Educational Journey through Greece and Albania

Through our Crossroads of Cultures program, travelers learn from expert lecturers while journeying through Albania’s most notable sites and towns along with Epirus, Greece’s northwest region.

Departure     October 4 – 15, 2019

Even though Albania, which borders northwest Greece, has been inhabited for at least ten millennia, today it’s one of Europe’s last “undiscovered’ countries. But Albania’s strategic position, only a short distance from Italy across the Adriatic Sea, and commanding the route from west to east, made it an important and flourishing possession of empires and other powers since antiquity. Greeks founded cities on its shore, beginning in the 7th century BC; the Romans made it a province, later becoming a Byzantine and Ottoman territory; and in the early 20th century, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and under the domination of Italy and Germany.

Why Travel with Thalassa Journeys

Thalassa Journeys was established by the principals and managers of Travel Dynamics, the company that 50 years ago pioneered the concept of educational travel for America’s educational and cultural institutions. The belief that travel is primarily a learning experience forms the core principle of Thalassa Journeys.

Each Thalassa Journey is constructed around a particular theme. Unlike most tours, each of our journeys are intimate, and led by lecturers who are truly subject-matter experts for each theme. Although many other companies claim to have expert lecturers, few truly have accomplished, renowned experts in their fields, like Thalassa.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Oct 4 - Depart the USA

Depart from the US for Tirana, Albania.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 2 : Oct 5 - Tour TIRANA, Albania

Arrive in Tirana and transfer to the Hotel Sheraton. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 3 : Oct 6 - Tour TIRANA, AlBANIA

Founded in the 17th century, when Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire, Tirana became the country’s capital in 1920. That was the time when Italy began to exert its influence and dominance, culminating in 1939, when Mussolini invaded and occupied Albania. In the morning, tour Tirana, whose central square and streets are lined with architecture dating from the Ottoman, Italian and Communist periods. Visit the National Historical Museum, the country’s premier museum, where exhibits chronicle Albania’s history. Spend the afternoon at leisure to explore Tirana on your own.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 4 : Oct 7 - Tour TIRANA/DURRES/APOLLONIA/BERAT

Leave Tirana in the Morning for Durres. Situated at the head of spacious natural harbor, Durres was founded by Greeks in the 7th century BC. During the Roman period, it flourished on account of its position as one of the starting points of the Via Egnatia, the great road that linked the Adriatic Sea with Byzantium. Explore the ancient remains, including the enormous amphitheater, built in the 2nd century AD, and visit the Archaeological Museum. Continue to Apollonia, the second major Greek settlement, founded by Corinthians around 600 BC. An extensive site, it is dominated by the remains of the Bouleuterion (city council). The Museum, located in an old monastery building, houses artifacts from the excavations of the site. Nearby is a 13-century church with beautiful Byzantine frescoes. After lunch, drive to Berat. Hotel Onufri

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 5 : Oct 8 - Tour BERAT

Inhabited since the Bronze Age, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Berat is one of the oldest and most attractive cities in Albania. It thrived in the Middle Ages, thanks to its strategic position on the crossroads of trade routes. Its attractive old white houses are built amphitheatrically around a hillside that is crowned by a Byzantine citadel. Within the citadel are eight medieval churches, one of which houses a superb collection of icons painted by Onufri, a master iconographer who lived in the 16th century. Explore Berat, including the citadel and the Onufri Museum in the Church of the Dormition, the Ethnographic Museum, the 15th-century King’s Mosque and the neighboring Halvati Teqe. Time will provided for independent activities so that you may explore Berat’s picturesque streets and alleyways on your own.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 6 : Oct 9 - Tour BERAT/BYLLIS/TEPELENA/GJIROKASTRA

Leaving Berat in the morning, we reach Byllis, an impressive archaeological site on a hilltop that overlooks a river. Within its 4th-century BC walls are the remains of private homes and buildings from the Roman period. Byllis became an important Christian center in the early Byzantine period, as attested by the churches that have survived from that period (AD 5th and 6th centuries), some of which contain magnificent mosaics. Continue to Tepelena for lunch. Tepelena was the home town of the notorious Ali Pasha, who in the late 18th century carved out from the Ottoman Empire an area for himself that extended from Albania to northern Greece, and made Ioannina, which we will visit later, his capital. Then on to beautiful Gjirokastra and the Hotel Argjiro, a late 19th-century building completely rebuilt recently as a hotel.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 7 : Oct 10 - Tour GJIROKASTRA

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gjirokastra is built below its castle that commands fine views of the Drinos Valley below. Old stone houses with slate roofs line the twisting cobbled streets and alleyways. Our morning exploration of the town includes the Old Bazaar district, the Skendulaj House and the Zakate House, fine examples of Gjirokastra’s characteristic architecture, and the labyrinthine Town Hall Air Shelter, built during the communist period. The afternoon is at leisure to explore this atmospheric place on your own.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 8 : Oct 11 - Tour GJIROKASTRA/BUTRINT/GJIROKASTRA

Take a full-day excursion to Butrint, one of Albania’s most important and evocative archaeological sites. Located across the narrow strait from Corfu, it was the inhabitants of that Greek island that founded Butrint in the 6th century BC. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Butrint was abandoned during the Middle Ages. Almost forgotten and overgrown, it was brought back to life by archaeologists who began to excavate and study the site, starting in the 1920s. Their work has revealed monuments from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods. After exploring the site, enjoy lunch nearby and return to the hotel in Gjirokastra in the afternoon.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 9 : Oct 12 - Tour GJIROKASTRA/VIKOS GORGE/IOANNINA, Greece

Leave Gjirokastra in the morning, and after crossing the Albanian-Greek border, stop at the fantastic Vikos Gorge, perhaps the most magnificent natural landscape in southern Europe. Featuring the steepest walls of any gorge in the world, Vikos compares to the Grand Canyon in scale and grandeur. As a 19th-century traveler observed, it’s a sight “beyond words.” Around the gorge are centuries-old villages with stone houses and small frescoed chapels. After lunch at this exceptional place, continue to the town of Ioannina and check-in at the Hotel Grand Ferai.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 10 : Oct 13 - Tour IOANNINA/DODONI/IOANNINA

Built in an idyllic setting, on a rocky promontory that projects into a lake, the university town of Ioannina first came into prominence in the 13th century. Since that time, it remains the commercial and learning center of northwest Greece. In the late 1700s, Ali Pasha made Ioannina the capital of his territory that included parts of Albania and Greece. Tour in the morning the interesting old section of the town, still enclosed within fortifications. In the afternoon, take an excursion to nearby Dodoni, an archaeological site of great beauty and importance. An early oracular site dedicated to Zeus, Dodoni’s dominant landmark is its superb 3rd-century BC theater.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 11 : Oct 14 - Tour IOANNINA/METEORA/METSOVO/IOANNINA

Leave Ioannina in the morning for extraordinary Meteora - “monasteries in mid-air.” Rising abruptly from the valley of central Greece are gigantic precipitous rocks on top of which are monasteries built by hermits some 600 years ago. Visit the Monastery of St. Varlaam, noted for its luminous mosaics that cover the monastery’s entire interior. The views from the monastery of this incredible place are simply stupendous. After lunch at a taverna in Meteora, return to Ioannina, stopping in Metsovo, a picturesque alpine village set on the side of a ravine. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at one of Ioannina’s fine restaurants.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 12 : Oct 15 - Transfer IOANNINA/USA

Morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Athens to connect with the flight home.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Tour Price

$4,480 per person, double occupancy

Single room supplement: $480

Journey Extension

Post Journey Extensions

We are pleased to offer a two-night post-trip extension to Athens, from September 15 to 17. In addition to the accommodations at the elegant Hotel Grande Bretagne, the extension includes a tour of the fabled Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, and airport/hotel transfers. Rate: $770 per person, double occupancy. Single room supplement: $380.

Inclusions

Expert Guest Lecturer

Eleftheria Manta

Eleftheria Manta

Eleftheria Manta was born in Thessaloniki, Greece.  She is Associate Professor of Modern Greek History at the School of History and Archaeology.  She studied History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki where she received her Master degree after conducting a 1-year research program in Rome with a scholarship of the Rotary Club of Thessaloniki.  She received her Ph.D. (2005) on Modern and Contemporary History while she was working as Research Associate of the Institute for Balkan Studies, in Thessaloniki.  In 2008, she was elected Director of that same Institute.  She joined the School of History and Archaeology of the Aristotle University in 2011, initially as Lecturer.  Her academic and research interests include Modern Greek history (from 17th c.), Albanian and Balkan history, Greek-Albanian relations etc. She speaks English, French, Italian, and Albanian.  Her main publications  are: Poverty and Charity in Thessaloniki (1930-1935), Thessaloniki 2016 (in cooperation with D. Kontogeorgis and Ch. Mandatzis); The Educational System for the Greek Minority in Albania during the Interwar Period, Thessaloniki 2010); Muslim Albanians in Greece. The Chams of Epirus (1923-2000), Thessaloniki 2000 (originally in Greek, translated in English, 2008, and in Albanian, 2015); Kosovo and the Albanian Populations in the Balkans, Thessaloniki 2000 (collective work); The Greek Minority in Albania. A Documentary Record (1921-1993), Thessaloniki 1994 (in cooperation with B. Kondis).

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Phone : +1 866.633.3611