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Artful Traveler: Black Sea Sailing

Church in Kutasi, Georgia
Church in Kutasi, Georgia

By Bobbie Leigh

At the recent New York Times travel show, a visitor queried cruise and tour companies searching for a Black Sea cruise.  She found a few but none as compelling  and complete as the joint Yale and Metropolitan  Museum of Art’s circumnavigation of the Black Sea, September 24- October 7, on the intimate  36-cabin Variety Voyager. 

Artful Traveler doesn’t usually comment on trips before  they take place but a circumnavigation of the Black Sea  is a rarity, especially one that  stops in Batumi, Georgia,  a seaside resort, with tree-lined streets and balmy weather. Travelers will also have the chance to  visit Sochi, where Russian snow-birds still have impressive villas.  (Stalin’s is painted green for camouflage.)  Other highlights are a chance to see 16th  century painted churches in Romania  and an amazingly well preserved medieval Round Church in Bulgaria.

What distinguishes this cruise from so many others is that while at sea,  two immensely distinguished  lecturers will provide history and context for  what was once called the “Hospitable Sea”  during the Graeco-Roman era. Yale Professor  of   History  Paul Kennedy  says  he plans to give folks the sense of the “many, many civilizations and histories that occurred in this region,” adding that the Black  Sea is a crossroad, not just a waterway.  He also plans to introduce participants  to some of

Painted church in Romania
Painted church in Romania

the  “political and strategic history of the arena, the Russo-Turkish struggles, the Venetian empire, perhaps the German thrust.”     What Dr. Kennedy says he is trying to convey is that this is  not your standard  cruise with ports and museums to visit. Instead, it has a strong historical theme, especially the struggle  between two great traditional eastern empires—Imperial Russian and Ottoman Turkey.  You can also count on Dr. Kennedy to talk about global trends, not necessarily linked to the locale.

The other lecturer  is Dr. Elizabeth S. Milleker, former curator in the Department of Greek and Roman Art  at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dr. Milleker  headed the team of curators at the Met who organized “Year One, Art of the Classical World.”    It was one of the most beautiful and fascinating  exhibitions the Met has ever presented. Art critic Hilton Kramer called it  “an uncommonly elegant and intelligent  exhibition …that offers a broad sampling of what can be said to  constitute  the principle artistic currents of that distant era from a worldwide perspective.”

Cruise details at  www.metmuseum.org/travel: 212-514-8921.

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.
Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.
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