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The Brilliance of Byzantium: A Journey of Learning from Constantinople to Venice

Departure       October 11 – October 23, 2019

While Western Europe was in the Dark Ages (c. 5th – 10th centuries), in the Greek east flourished the brilliant civilization of Byzantium.  Based in storied Constantinople, now Istanbul, the Byzantines developed an empire that lasted for over 1,000 years (from 324 to 1453), and which at a time stret­ched from Asia to Spain.  Even though the Byzantine civilization may not be as widely known as some other European cultures, nonetheless its achie­ve­ments and brilliance cannot be overestimated.

On this journey of learning and discovery, we will explore four centers of Byzantine flowering and influence.

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 : Depart THE USA

Depart the United States for Istanbul, Turkey.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 2 : Tour ISTANBUL,Turkey

Arrive in Istanbul and transfer to the Hotel Pera Palace. Constantinople, the City of Constantine, now Istanbul, was founded by the Emperor Constantine in 324 AD. The city’s great strategic position on the Bosphorus, the narrow strait that separates Europe from Asia, was obvious to the emperor. Constantinople became the most resplendent city in Europe, and it remained the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over 1,000 years. In the evening enjoy a welcome dinner.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 3 : Tour ISTANBUL

In the morning, we will begin our exploration of Byzantine Istanbul by visiting the city’s fabled walls and the great palace of the Byzantine emperors; the Mosaic Museum; the Hippodrome, the center of Byzantine life; the church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, erected in the early 6th century, now a mosque; and the Fethiye Mosque, which was built in the 1100s as a church dedicated to the Mother of God. After lunch, visit Aghia Sofia, the incomparable Church of the Divine Wisdom built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century; and the Church of the Savior in Chora, now the Kariye Mosque, with its breathtaking mosaics and frescoes.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 4 : Tour ISTANBUL

In the morning, tour two of Ottoman Istanbul’s landmarks, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace. Built in the early 1600s on a site that was occupied by Byzantine palaces, the Blue Mosque is known for its harmonious and elegant proportions as well as for the luminous blue Iznik tiles that cover the interior walls. The Topkapi Palace was the residence of the sultans for three centuries. The afternoon is at leisure to explore on your own Istanbul’s renowned bazaars and other sites.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 5 : Tour ISTANBUL/THESSALONIKI, Greece

Fly in the morning from Istanbul to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. Founded in 316 BC at a head of a spacious bay and named after the half-sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki, the biblical Thessalonica, is renowned for its monuments dating from late antiquity and the Byzantine era. Thessaloniki was also for centuries home to a thriving Jewish community and an important center of learning and scholarship. St. Paul preached here in AD 49-50. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the splendid Museum of Byzantine Culture, whose exhibits showcase the city’s Byzantine legacy and the surrounding area. Hotel Makedonia Palace.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 6 : Tour THESSALONIKI

In the morning, tour the city’s important late antiquity and Byzantine monuments, including the remains of the Palace of Galerius, the Roman emperor who lived in the city; the Arch of Galerius; the Rotunda, probably built as the emperor’s mausoleum, now the church of Aghios Georgios; the church of Aghia Sofia, which is older than its namesake in Istanbul; the church of Holy Apostles, decorated with striking 14th Century mosaics, and the Cathedral of Aghios Dimitrios, a 5th-century basilica dedicated to the guardian of the city. The afternoon will be free for independent activities.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 7 : Tour THESSALONIKI/VERGINA/IOANNINA/ IGOUMENITSA/FERRY CROSSING

Leave Thessaloniki in the morning to drive to Vergina, the ancient Macedonian royal capital, where we will visit the incredibly sumptuous temple-like royal tombs, including that of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Vergina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch in nearby Veroia, the Berea of the New Testament, continue through the scenic countryside of Macedonia and Epirus to Ioannina. The main town in northwest Greece, Ioannina is built in an idyllic setting – on a rocky promontory that projects into a lake. Enjoy time at leisure in lively Ioannina and dinner, before driving to the port of Igoumenitsa, where we will board the ferry for the crossing to Italy’s port city of Ancona.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 8 : Tour ANCONA/RAVENNA, Italy

Relax aboard as the ship cruises in the Adriatic Sea. In the afternoon, dock in Ancona, and after disembarking, drive to Ravenna. Built on the delta of the Po River and developed into an important naval station by the Romans, Ravenna is characterized by its long history and its important art treasures. In 402 it became the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and in 540 it was taken over by the Byzantines, who held it until 752, establishing it as their main center of influence in Italy. Spend the next two nights at the Hotel Palazzo Bezzi, a former 18th-century palace, located in the historic center of the city.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 9 : Tour RAVENNA

Our exploration of Ravenna’s treasures begins at San Vitale, a splendid Romanesque Byzantine basilica built in 521 – 534, known for the originality of its design and beauty of its interior, especially its celebrated mosaics. Nearby is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which contains the earliest mosaics in Ravenna (first half of the 5th century), and Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, built in the early 6th century. Outside Ravenna’s center is the Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, also built in the 6th century, with mosaics that rank among the best in Ravenna. We will also visit the Tomb of Dante, who sought refuge in Ravenna when he was expelled from Florence in 1317, and wrote a great part of The Divine Comedy here.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 10 : Tour RAVENNA/VENICE

Leave Ravenna in the morning and drive to Venice. Undoubtedly one of the world’s most extraordinary and beautiful cities, Venice was founded in the 5th century when groups began to settle the islands and marshlands of the lagoon in order to avoid the invasions of the barbarians who swept into northern Italy. Forming a confederation, the communes were under the political control of Byzantium until the early 8th century when they formed their own government under the leadership of a doge. Close contact with Byzantium remained and Venice’s trade relationships with the lands under the Byzantine Empire brought to the city great wealth and power. In the afternoon, tour the Basilica of San Marco, Venice’s landmark church and one of Europe’s finest cathedrals, built clearly in a Byzantine form and housing precious artifacts taken from Constantinople. We will also visit the National Marciana Library, one of Italy’s greatest libraries, that began in the 15th century when Basilios Bessarion, a Greek Orthodox clergyman who later became a Roman Catholic Cardinal, donated his extensive collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts. Hotel Europa and Regina, located on the Grand Canal.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 11 : Tour VENICE

In the morning visit the Doges’ Palace, the home of Venice’s government and the supreme expression of the splendor, glory and might of the city, its interior richly decorated by Venetian masters, including Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese. Continue to San Giorgio dei Greci, the Greek Orthodox church of St. George, in the center of the quarter that once housed a sizeable Greek community, whose school houses the Museum of Sacred Byzantine Art. Nearby is the Scuola degli Schiavoni, whose main floor is one of the most beautiful rooms in Venice. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure to explore Venice on your own.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 12 : Tour VENICE/TORCELLO/VENICE

In the morning sail on a vaporetto to the island of Torcello. Settled as early as the 5th century, and with a population of about 20,000 by the 14th century, Torcello declined later when it was overshadowed by Venice. Venice’s first cathedral, Santa Maria dell’ Assunta, was built here in the 7th century, replaced by the current Byzantine-style church in the 9th century. Santa Maria is notable for its stunning mosaic of Madonna and Child set against a pure gold background. Return to Venice for a free afternoon of independent activities. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Day 13 : Transfer VENICE/USA

Transfer to the airport for the return flight home.

Accommodation

Meals Included

Tour Price

$6,990 per person, double occupancy

Single room supplement: $1,480

Inclusions

Expert Guest Lecturer

Helen C. Evans

Helen C. Evans

As the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dr. Helen C. Evans has spent extensive time in Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Ravenna - major cities of the Byzantine Empire at differing times over its long history. At The Met, she has curated the award winning exhibitions The Glory of Byzantium (843-1261)in 1997, Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) in 2004, Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition in 2012, and most recently Armenia! in 2018. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Apollo Magazine and others have praised the exhibitions as among the most important cultural events of their years. The catalogue of her exhibition Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) won the award for the best book on Byzantine art of its year. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition won the World Book Award for the best new book in Islamic Studies from The Ministry of Culture and Religious Guidance, Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran. Dr. Evans has taught courses on Byzantine and Armenian art at New York University and Columbia University and has lectured widely in Europe and America. She received her B.A. with Honors from Newcomb College of Tulane University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. She is president of The International Center for Medieval Art (ICMA) and immediate past-president of the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) and AAMC Foundation.

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Phone : +1 866.633.3611