Artful Traveler: Black Sea Sailing
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
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.