The legendary Black Sea lies between Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. In this strategic position, it has been an intersection of influences from East and West throughout history. According to legend, Jason and the Argonauts crisscrossed this sea in search of the Golden Fleece, and the fortunes of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires waxed and waned in the regions bordering the Black Sea. The sea also witnessed important conflicts during the 20th century's two World Wars.
This rich tapestry of myth and history provides a backdrop to the intriguing current politics of the region. From the break-up of the former Soviet Union to the dynamism of emerging Turkish leadership and diplomacy, this part of the world is definitely on the move. We invite you to explore this culturally and politically vibrant region aboard the deluxe 114-passenger, all-suite Island Sky. Refurbished in 2010, the former Renaissance ship is well known for high-quality service, cuisine, and accommodations.
Our tour begins in the Bosphorus with Istanbul, the legendary city that straddles both Europe and Asia. After a night and a day in the city, we'll board the Island Sky for a 10-night circumnavigation of the Black Sea accompanied by W&L's Kenan professor of history emeritus Lamar J.R. Cecil, specialist in European and Russian history.
Among the highlights of our itinerary are the golden mosaics of Istanbul's Church of Divine Wisdom, the Byzantine paintings of Hagia Sophia, and the myriad temptations of the Grand Bazaar. We'll see the 15th-century frescoes of Trabzon's Sumela Monastery and later visit Stalin's dacha in Sochi, Russia. We'll tour the Livadia and Alupka Palaces in Yalta, Ukraine, the mournful Balaclava battlefield made famous by Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade," and climb the iconic Potemkin Steps in Odessa. Finally, before returning to Istanbul, we'll marvel at the exquisite cache of Thracian gold in Varna.
Lamar J. R. Cecil is the former William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of History at Washington and Lee University, specializing in European history. He has led a great many W&L Traveller programs to European and Mediterranean destinations. Lamar is a veteran teacher of W&L's Alumni Colleges, lecturing on a variety of topics from 19th-century Europe and Russia to the Venetian Empire, the Italian Renaissance, and the ancient world.