1 612SEA / 612SEA E P: 04/27/11 BL Rev: 10/18/11 GL/BL GREECE: CRETE & SANTORINI ABOARD THE 64-PASSENGER SEA CLOUD MAY 20 29, 2012 ATHENS PRE-TRIP MAY 16-21, Appearing as sun-drenched beacons under an azure sky, Greece s famed Aegean Islands are the defining features of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Here, where southeastern Europe reaches its limit at the edges of Asia and Africa are landscapes bathed in endless light, where serene bays, coastal villages, and a navy-blue sea forever stoke the irresistible allure of Greece. In May 2012, VENT is returning to Greece for a cruise to the islands of Crete and Santorini. On this journey we will delve into the country s remote past. We have chartered the peerless Sea Cloud, a four-masted barque widely regarded as the world s most beautiful sailing vessel, for a trip that combines the fascinating history and culture of ancient Greece, especially the Minoan civilization, with exploration of the region s natural history. Our cruise route begins in Athens and ends a week later in Kusadasi, Turkey. We will spend three days exploring the mountains and coastline of Crete, a day at famous Santorini, and two days cruising the southern Aegean Sea one of the world s most historic bodies of water. * Adding to the allure is the opportunity to travel aboard Sea Cloud. Ornate in her all-wood construction, resplendent under sail, and owner of a vivid history, this majestic ship sets a standard by which all other ships are measured. All cabins are immaculately appointed and contain private facilities. Public areas include a lounge, viewing deck, lido deck, and bar. High quality cuisine is served in an elegant dining room. We have planned this trip for the late spring when the mountains may still retain winter snow and the heat of summer has not fully arrived in the lowlands. On Crete we will visit the renowned ruins of Knossos and Mália, preeminent royal palaces in Minoan times; travel to the ruins of Lato, a Dorian city-state; and witness several sites built by the Venetians, who arrived in Crete much later. Santorini, known for its scenic and architectural beauty, is home to a breathtaking caldera; iconic white walled villages; and an outstanding archaeological site at Akrotiri. For added measure, the trip will begin with a visit to the highly regarded new Acropolis Museum in Athens. As Greece is a marvelous destination, we are confident that this program s multi-thematic approach makes an ideal choice both for travelers whose primary interest is the culture, philosophy, and history of Ancient Greece, and for birders and naturalists who possess an interest in the culture and history of that period. We want to emphasize that the natural history aspects of this trip (birds, * Register before January 15, 2012 and receive an Early Booking Discount of $1000 (excluding Categories A & B).
2 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 2 butterflies, and botany) are entirely optional. Typically only about half of our participants are birders and naturalists. For the naturalist-inclined among us, late May is a lovely time of year to travel in Greece, with spring flowers still in bloom, breeding birds back on territory, and the last of the season s migrants passing through. Among the range of possible birds are Eurasian Griffon, Eleonora s Falcon, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Alpine Swift, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Blackeared Wheatear, Blue Rock-Thrush, Woodchat Shrike, Rüppell s and Eastern Orphean warblers, and Cretzschmar s Bunting. While at sea, careful watching from the ship s viewing decks may present opportunities to see a variety of southeastern Europe s special birds, including Cory s and Levantine shearwaters; Eleonora s Falcon; and Yellow-legged and Audouin s gulls. Joining VENT leaders Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon for this special departure is Dr. Paul Woodruff, a professor of philosophy and classics at the University of Texas and an expert on ancient Greece. Paul s specialty is Plato, whose works he has translated, in addition to those by Sophocles and Euripides. He is well-versed in the history and culture of ancient Greece and will present several lectures that incorporate the dominant themes of ancient Greek civilization, namely history, philosophy, and theater. For those seeking a more complete Greece experience, our optional Athens area pre-trip provides a wonderful complement to the cruise. We ll combine visits to the Acropolis and the Agora, the two monumental sites that reached their zenith during the Classical era, with birding trips to nearby Mt. Immitos, Vravrona, and the coast near Marathon for a superb several days in the Greek capital. Participants considering this program will be interested to know that we will operate a Western Turkey Extension following the cruise. This short trip will be led by Victor Emanuel and Paul Woodruff and will visit the famed Greco-Roman site of Ephesus, home to the greatest collection of Greco-Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as Istanbul. Information about this trip will appear in a separate itinerary through our website or by contacting our office. May 20, Day 1: International flight to Athens, Greece. Flights from the United States bound for Athens depart on May 20 and arrive on the morning of May 21. NIGHT: Aboard aircraft in transit to Athens May 21, Day 2: Arrival in Athens; transfer to hotel. Participants traveling aboard international flights will arrive in Athens this morning. Upon arrival you will be met outside the baggage claim by a representative of our ground agent and transferred to the Divani Hotel where a room has been reserved in your name. After check-in you will have the remainder of the day to yourself, where options include relaxing in the privacy of your room or exploring some of the city s many historical and cultural attractions. Athens, Greece s capital contains a wealth of museums and other places of interest. Among the many ways to spend an afternoon we recommend a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, one of the great museums of the world. Located northwest of the Acropolis, the museum houses an extraordinary collection of art and artifacts from the ancient Greek world. Within the rooms, chambers, and halls are a profusion of exhibits containing ancient sculptures in marble and bronze from the Archaic ( B.C.), Classical ( B.C.), Hellinistic ( B.C.), and Roman periods (146 BC-330 A.D.), along with dazzling examples of pottery, figurines, weapons, and other artifacts dating from antiquity. Among the many treasures is the mask of Agamemnon, which was unearthed at Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy.
3 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 3 Another option is a visit to the Plaka, an area of shops and restaurants on the east side of the Acropolis. Wandering among the narrow streets and alleys, you may choose from a variety of restaurants and bars if you are hungry, or step in and out of myriad shops and stores with gifts, clothing, and a variety of other objects for sale. We will gather as a group in the hotel lobby at 6:00 p.m. for a brief trip introduction and welcome. This evening we will have dinner at an open-air restaurant that features unobstructed views of the Acropolis. NIGHT: Divani Hotel Acropolis, Athens May 22, Day 3: Morning at the Acropolis Museum; afternoon embarkation of Sea Cloud. After breakfast we will walk to the nearby New Acropolis Museum. This stunning museum, 30 years in the planning, opened in early It is located at the foot of the famed Acropolis and houses thousands of ancient works and artifacts recovered from the revered hilltop site. By the 1970s, the existing museum, situated just southeast of the Parthenon could no longer adequately accommodate the large numbers of visitors passing through its doors. The museum s comparatively small space caused problems associated with overcrowding, and reduced the dramatic effect of seeing the ancient masterpieces and artifacts. Further, the museum was unable to handle the sheer number of sculptures and other famous findings from the Acropolis. By necessity many of the pieces were not even on display. Interestingly, while plans for a new museum were first announced in the 1970s, the discovery of a large urban settlement (Makriyianni site) dating from Archaic to Early Christian Athens was discovered at the selected construction site and the entire project was put on hold. It was agreed that the discovery needed to be integrated into the new museum, whose design was subsequently awarded to American architect, Bernard Tschumi, working in collaboration with Greece s Michaelis Photiadis. Its construction cost approximately $400 million dollars. Since its opening, the building has been hailed as an outstanding contribution to the historical and cultural attributes of Athens. Because of its spaciousness and large glass windows, the exquisite sculptures and other carvings can be viewed in natural light without the claustrophobic atmosphere of its antiquated predecessor. As a significant side note, part of the appeal of a new museum stems from Greece s undeniable desire to recover the Elgin Marbles. From , Lord Elgin, with permission from the Ottoman rulers of Greece, removed intact architectural sculptures and inscriptions from the Parthenon and had them shipped to England. The marbles are currently on display in the British Museum. After a morning-long tour, we will transfer to the port town of Piraeus. We ll have lunch at an excellent seaside restaurant before boarding Sea Cloud in the mid-afternoon. Once aboard, we will spend time settling into our cabins, attend mandatory orientation and safety drills, and explore the ship. We will depart Piraeus around 5:00 p.m. and enter the protected waters of the Saronic Gulf. Of the many bays and arms of the sea that reach far into the Grecian landmass, the Saronic Gulf is among the most important and best known of them all. Large, nearly circular, and closed on three sides, the gulf is bordered by the Peloponnesian Peninsula to the west while southern Greece s most important cities fringe the north and east sides, including Athens/Piraeus, Elefsina, and Corinth. Consequently, these waters are home to several vital shipping routes for commercial and tourist vessels alike. Cruising under the towering masts and perfectly folded sails of Sea Cloud, we will proceed due south through the serene waters of the gulf toward the open Aegean Sea beyond. We ll expect a lovely evening on the water, with the deeply indented Greek coastline and several islands visible, including Aegina. Birders will want to be
4 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 4 out on deck as Yellow-legged and Black-headed gulls should be in evidence around the ship. We may also encounter our first Cory s Shearwaters. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, at sea May 23, Day 4: Cruising the Aegean Sea (Piraeus to Crete); late afternoon arrival at Souda Bay; walking tour of Haniá. The distance from Athens to Souda Bay, our first port-of-call in Crete, is about 150 nautical miles. Most of the day will be spent making this transit, which takes us across the southwestern edge of the Aegean Sea. We will be out of site of land most of the time, but toward the middle of the day we ll pass within view of the islets of Falkonera and Andimilos, while a short while later we may discern the edge of larger Milos, westernmost of the Cyclades and the site of the 1820 discovery of the famed marble statue Venus de Milo. Our time at sea offers a leisurely day in which we ll have a number of options for spending our time. Some may prefer to relax in the comfortable confines of their cabins or the passenger lounge while others may choose to relax on the spanker deck, enjoying the sun and water; or perhaps read a book and sip a cool drink in the shade of the lido deck. There will also be opportunities to attend presentations from Dr. Woodruff or other members of the VENT staff on various aspects of Greek history, geology, or birds to prepare us for the days ahead. Sea Cloud s expansive viewing decks afford superb views of the surrounding sea. With good visibility and room to maneuver, the birders will be well positioned to pick out anything that come our way. Overall, we anticipate a fairly light day of birding as we will be relatively far from land; nevertheless, we are within the ranges of Cory s Shearwater and Yellow-legged Gull, two species who forage in these waters away from their island nesting colonies. The other shearwater of the eastern Mediterranean, the Levantine Shearwater, also occurs here. This species is a smaller relative to the Cory s Shearwater. In addition to size differences, it is separated from the former species in sporting a more boldly colored black and white plumage and a faster flight style. They also breed on colonies around the Aegean and occasionally form large feeding flocks. Other birds to watch for are European Shag and Mediterranean Gulls. Common bottle-nosed dolphin and short-beaked common dolphin are sometimes sighted as well. An Overview of Crete Crete is Greece s largest island and the second largest in the eastern Mediterranean region. It sits halfway between the Greek mainland and the north shore of Africa and forms the southern boundary of the Aegean Sea. It is long and narrow, spanning 160 miles from east to west and only 7.5 to 37 miles wide. Crete is a rugged island whose long, mountainous backbone and complex terrain reflects its active geologic past. Three separate mountain ranges run almost contiguously across the island from east to west, but these are interspersed with a network of lush valleys, fertile plateaus, and gorges. The coastal regions are as varied as the interior. Sandy beaches, rocky shores, and a collection of satellite islands, islets, and offshore rocks add other dimensions to the Cretan landscape. Although Crete is perhaps best known for its beaches, mountains, and tourism, it happens to be the home of the Minoan civilization, the first great European civilization and the core of Cretan history. The Minoan ruins at sites such as Knossos and Mália are major attractions, but there are also a host of Greek, Roman, and Venetian remains, and a number of fine museums. Heraklion is the capital and holds nearly a third of the island s 630,000 residents. The principal drivers of Crete s economy are tourism, agriculture, and farming. Our aim is to provide exposure to three distinct parts of the island. We will begin in the west and end in the east, stopping at several of the oldest, largest, and most historic harbors on the island including Souda Bay/Haniá, Heraklion, and Agios Nikolaos. From each of these ports we will explore archaeological sites, historic towns and waterfronts, and several natural areas. Our first destination is Souda Bay and nearby Haniá on the northwestern coast.
5 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 5 Souda Bay is a 9-mile long natural harbor that cuts deeply into the base of the Akrotiri Peninsula. Offering close access to the port city of Haniá and the interior of western Crete, the bay, throughout history, has always been a place of considerable commercial and military importance, as evidenced by the roll call of civilizations that fought for its control including the Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans to name a few. Approaching from the east, we ll enjoy a dramatic entrance into a long and narrow harbor overlooked on three sides by undulating hills of limestone. We will arrive at the dock around 4:00 this afternoon. After being on the ship for the previous 24 hours, we will disembark Sea Cloud for our first excursion: a walking tour of the Old Town and waterfront of the nearby city of Haniá. Haniá (also written as Chania) was the capital of Crete until 1971, and today is the island s second largest city. It is an economically prosperous place whose success lies in its close proximity to a protected natural harbor and a fertile interior. Haniá is essentially divided into a New Town, where most of the commercial activity takes place, and an Old Town where the city s oldest, some would say most interesting, structures are found. Speaking to the city s ancient origins, the oldest area is known to have been continuously inhabited since Neolithic times, followed by succeeding Minoan, Dorian, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Venetian, and Ottoman conquerors laying claim to the city, sometimes for centuries at a time. The jewel among Haniá s attractions is the outer Venetian Harbor. This area includes the crumbling defense walls built by the Venetians 700 years ago as well as one of the best-preserved and largest of a score of remnant Venetian churches in Crete: the Church of the Franciscan Priory. Our tour may also include visits to the dry docks as well as the character-rich back streets and alleys with Venetian-Ottoman buildings. As in other parts of Greece, birds are often seen in towns on Crete, and we may note a number of species during our walking tour including Eurasian Kestrel, European Turtle-Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Barn and Red-rumped swallows, White Wagtail, Eurasian Blackbird, Blue Tit, Eurasian Magpie, Hooded Crow, Spanish Sparrow, and European Goldfinch. We ll return to the ship by 6:30 p.m. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, Souda Bay May 24, Day 5: Morning birding and sightseeing at Omalós Plateau, Samariá Gorge, and Agia Reservoir; afternoon visit to Aptera; cruising to Heraklion. Western Crete is a geographically diverse region stretching from sea level to towering mountain peaks. In between are broad coastal plains; rocky, tree-studded foothills; and higher elevation plateaus where the winters are cold and the summers warm. From our base at Souda Bay, we will have almost all of the day to explore this portion of the island. Our time will be divided between three widely spaced destinations, each of which offers distinctly different experiences. Our primary objective is a morning trip into the White Mountains to view a segment of the locally famous Samariá Gorge. Later, we will visit Agia Reservoir outside Haniá for waterbirds and marsh birds, while the afternoon will see us at Aptera, an archaeological complex featuring Greco-Roman and Venetian ruins. Specifically, however, participants may choose from a couple of outing options for both the morning and afternoon portions of the day: Morning outing options, returning to the ship by noon for lunch and a brief break: Morning Option #1: 7:00 a.m. departure for Samariá Gorge and Agia Reservoir. We will depart Sea Cloud this morning at approximately 7:00 a.m. for the drive to the Samariá Gorge. The trip will take about an hour, or a little longer if we stop for birds or picture-taking along the way. Our route will take us inland over a winding highway that leads into the rugged White Mountains. After about 45 minutes the highway tops out at 3,000 feet at the edge of an expansive upland plain. This is the Omalós Plateau, a lightly populated mountain-ringed flatland that serves as a scenic gateway to the Samariá Gorge beyond.
6 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 6 Cutting 11 miles through the mountains, the Samariá Gorge is the longest of its kind in Europe. At over 3,000 feet elevation, it is moderately high, but feels higher. Towering mountains of limestone project hundreds of feet over a remarkably narrow canyon while the lack of dense vegetation lends the area an alpine feel. The gorge is the obvious central feature of Samariá National Park, which was established in 1962 to protect the canyon and its wildlife. We will have an opportunity to view a segment of it from the end of the road while a couple of informal trails offer other perspectives from the hillside above. This area is productive for birding in the spring, and our morning arrival allows us to take advantage of the peak of activity. Massive Eurasian Griffons patrol the nearby plateau and are seen on a daily basis; Red-billed Choughs, specialists of steep precipices and ravines, are resident and often form large foraging flocks; and even the sought-after Lammergeir occurs here, albeit in critically low numbers. While our chances of seeing this magnificent vulture are slim, we may encounter a variety of other species on the surrounding hillsides and nearby Omalós Plateau, such as Eurasian Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, European Roller, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Blackeared Wheatear, Blue Rock-Thrush, Woodlark, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Common Raven, Cirl Bunting, and Common Chaffinch. By late morning we will leave the mountains and retrace our route to the lowlands. About five miles south of Haniá, we will detour to Agia Reservoir, a small wetland with areas of open water, large reedbeds, and exposed shoreline. Despite its modest size, this is one of the few natural wetlands in western Crete, and, consequently, attracts a remarkable number of migrating and nesting birds. Our birding success will depend in large part on the amount of water in the wetland. Low water levels are best as this means more mud is exposed that may attract any late moving wading birds or shorebirds. Among the possibilities are Squacco Heron, Little Egret, and Common Moorhen. Most shorebirds have already moved through by late May, but a variety of species can still be found including Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Snipe, and Ruff. The surrounding scrub and dense marsh vegetation, meanwhile, may produce landbirds such as Common Kingfisher, White and Western Yellow wagtails, Cetti s Warbler, Eurasian Reed-Warbler, and Eurasian Magpie. Morning Option #2: 9:00 a.m. departure for Samariá Gorge. Those without as strong an interest in natural history may find this option more appealing. A 9:00 a.m. departure from the ship guarantees a more relaxed morning while still providing exposure to the considerable scenic beauty of the Omalos Plateau and Samariá Gorge. Following our trip to the Gorge, participants will return directly to the ship and will skip the birding side trip to Agia Reservoir on the return. Afternoon Outing Options; participants may choose from one of three activities with Options 1 & 2 returning to re-board Sea Cloud by 4:00 p.m. at which time we will depart for Heraklion: Afternoon Option #1: 1:30 p.m. departure for Aptera. The feature afternoon activity is a trip to the ancient archaeological site of Aptera, situated about 15 minutes to the northwest. Set amid olive groves and stone fences, the ancient site of Aptera offers a tranquil and panoramic setting from which to peer far back into the annals of human history on Crete. A powerful city-state with strong regional influence, Aptera achieved its greatest prominence during the Greek Hellenic period, or 6 th -4 th centuries B.C., when it emerged as a commercial and military power. Although the ancient city was largely destroyed before and during the early Christian era, enough is known that its historical importance first to the Greeks and later the Romans can be confirmed. When considering the site s commanding hilltop location, it is easy to see why some of history s most powerful civilizations and empires Greeks, Romans, Venetians and Turks fought vigorously for its control. We will see as much of the site as time allows, with solid historical interpretation offered by our local guide. Of greatest interest are the remains of the city walls and Temple of Eileithnia. For added measure, a Turkish fort from the Ottoman period dominates the site s northern periphery.
7 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 7 Given the pastoral setting, a number of birds are possible in and around the archaeological site. Among these are both year-round and summer-only resident species including Eurasian Kestrel, Common and Pallid swifts, Crested Lark, Bank and Red-rumped swallows, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Eurasian Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, and Hooded Crow. Afternoon Option #2: 2:00 p.m. departure for Haniá. Those who would like to have more time in the old town of Haniá than we experienced on the previous afternoon may join a transfer to the city that departs from the ship at 2:00 p.m. Here you will have time on your own to shop and wander among the many stores in the old district or spend more time viewing the city s historic sites. Afternoon Option #3: Relax on board Sea Cloud. Those who simply wish for some privacy or maximize their time aboard the beautiful Sea Cloud may simply take the afternoon off and stay on board the ship. This evening and once everyone has re-boarded the Sea Cloud, we will depart from Souda Bay with an exit that is as dramatic as the entry. The remaining hours of daylight will be spent cruising east along the coast, with the sun sinking in the sky behind us. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, at sea; Heraklion May 25, Day 6: All day at Heraklion: Knossos, Archaeological Museum, Mt. Juktas or waterfront/city center tour; cruising to Agios Nikolaos. We will awake this morning at the port of Heraklion, situated on Crete s north-central coast. Nearby Heraklion is the island s largest city and the fifth largest metropolitan center in Greece. Forming the political and commercial heart of Crete, Heraklion also serves as the gateway to the island s luminous past. With a full day planned in and around the island capital, we will offer a slate of activities that encompasses visitation to some of Crete s finest archaeological, historical, and natural history sites. The primary activity is a morning tour of the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos, followed by a trip to the country s top archaeological museum, home to the finest existing examples of Minoan art, votive objects, linear script, and other artifacts. In the afternoon participants will have a choice of visiting Mount Juktas to view Eurasian Griffons and a suite of other birds or participate on a walking tour of the Venetian-era waterfront and Heraklion city center. While the monumental ruins at Delphi and the Acropolis of Athens are foremost in the minds of many, it is Crete where the earliest roots of Ancient Greece lie. From this rugged island arose Europe s first civilization, the Minoan, which developed advanced practices in agriculture, architecture, and ceramics-making along with sophisticated trade routes, the world s first written script, and the continent s first palaces. Characterizing the island are the names of the political, economic, and cultural centers which dominated the region in evolving phases between 4,600 and 3,500 years ago: Knossos, Mália, and Phaistos. Of these, Knossos is the preeminent site, displaying the civilization s greatest multi-storied palace and the restoration work of English archaeologist Arthur Evans. We will disembark the ship after breakfast and travel by bus to Knossos. We plan to arrive at the archaeological site by 8:00 a.m., when it opens to the public, so that we may beat the crowds as well as take advantage of the cooler morning hours. Although the existence of Knossos was known for at least 20 years prior to the start of the 20 th -century, it wasn t until Arthur Evans purchased the site in 1900 and performed extensive excavations that the reality of an ancient Minoan civilization was fully realized. Over the next 35 years, Evans s work removed much of the mystery surrounding the Minoan civilization and paved the way for the discoveries of Minoan sites on other parts of the island. The term Minoan was coined by Evans, who named the civilization for the mythological King Minos who ruled Crete and the Aegean Sea from his palace at Knossos. In reality, Knossos was the largest of Crete s
8 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 8 ancient administrative, economic, and spiritual centers, reaching its apex in the 18 th -16 th centuries B.C., well over a thousand years before the Classical period of ancient Athens! Working with our local guide, we will spend about two hours touring the archaeological site, paying special attention to the features that reveal the greatness of Knossos at the height of Minoan civilization: the multistoried construction, massive columns, restored frescoes, and Royal Road. By contrast, the palaces dating from the preceding era in Minoan history were single-story affairs scarcely more ornate than those of some of the powerful family clans and governors that ruled over outlying areas. It was early in the third millennium, however, when newer palaces replaced their simpler, older predecessors, probably as a direct result of a growing population and ever-stronger trade-based economy. These new palaces were more grandiose, reflecting greater wealth and ever greater architectural and artistic achievement. This was the case throughout Crete, but best embodied at Knossos, where excavation work has revealed broad staircases (interior and exterior), light wells, storage magazines, great courtyards, imposing entrances, paved pathways, halls for audiences, workshops for metal craft and stone cutting, and water supply and drainage systems. Decorating the interior walls of the palace complex, especially those areas dedicated to royalty, were vivid fresco paintings in an array of colors depicting scenes of spirituality, fertility, and nature. As part of his restoration vision for the palace, Arthur Evans made replicas of a number of the original frescoes and used concrete to reconstruct long-gone timber columns and support excavated sections of walls. Evans s work has received much criticism because it reflected mainly his interpretation of the original appearance and functionality of the palace. We should remember, however, that he worked in an era when standards were different, and that his fresco copies, now a century old, offer vivid insight into the vitality of the Minoan civilization. Knossos lies in a suburb of Heraklion within a short distance of lightly vegetated hills and agricultural areas. As such, a variety of birds are drawn to the mature trees that grow at the edges of the ruins complex including Common Buzzard, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Barn Swallow, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, and Hooded Crow. We will depart the archaeological site by 10:30 a.m. and head for the Heraklion city center for a visit to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This museum is considered among the best in Greece as it contains what is indisputably the finest collection of artifacts from the Minoan civilization. We will have about an hour-and-ahalf to tour the museum and view the many treasured finds from antiquity that are housed here. Among the treasures on display are examples of Kamares-ware pottery, the Phaistos Disc, bull s head rhytons, and snake goddess figurines, in addition to clay sculptures, ceramic art, bronze tools and weapons, gold jewelry, steatite vases, pottery and seal stones. While the Minoan exhibits are of greatest interest, the museum also displays objects from other aspects of Cretan history from the Neolithic era to the Roman period. We will return to Sea Cloud for lunch. Afterward, we will offer a variety of activity options for the afternoon: Option #1: Those interested in history and culture may prefer a visit to the Venetian waterfront and Heraklion town center. It is thought that the harbor of Heraklion was first developed by the Arabs during their occupation of Crete in the 9 th -century; however, it wasn t until the last 200 years of Venetian control (circa 1400smid1600s) when the harbor of Heraklion became the greatest export and commercial center in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the Venetians holding monopolies on the export of wine, olive oil, raisins, cheese, honey, beeswax, silk, cotton, and salt. The Venetians built the Koules Fortress as a serious demonstration of their desire to protect their prized possession. We will visit the fortress and nearby waterfront before heading to the city center, the commercial heart of Heraklion, where a dynamic mix of shops, cafés, open-air restaurants, and pedestrianized streets allow visitors to feel the city pulse around them. We will walk through the network of narrow stone streets and alleys with a local guide who will offer interpretation of the town s ancient history and recent history while pointing out sights of interest. We ll also have an opportunity to view a portion of the famed Venetian defense walls which were built in the event of invasion from abroad.
9 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 9 Option #2: For those interested in birding, we will offer a trip to Mt. Juktas where we ll have a superb opportunity to view Eurasian Griffon vultures and search for a variety of other species. Situated only a few kilometers from Knossos, Juktas is an isolated dome-shaped limestone mountain that offers commanding views of the Cretan lowlands. In ancient times, it served as an important hilltop sanctuary to both the Minoans and later the Mycenaeans. Today the mountain exists in a natural state with a mix of Mediterranean scrub plants and pine trees covering its slopes. Eurasian Griffons, now rare in most of mainland Europe, nest on the cliff faces of the mountain s sheer south face. They may be seen throughout the day soaring on updrafts over the mountain or wheeling against the cliff face at eye level. We ll then walk a long length of the paved road leading down from the summit, where we may encounter a variety of nesting birds. Among the possibilities are Common Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel, Woodlark, Blue Rock-Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Rüppell s Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, Blue Tit, Eurasian Golden Oriole, European Goldfinch, European Greenfinch, and Cretzschmar s Bunting. Option #3: Relax aboard Sea Cloud. Options #1 and #2 will be back to the ship by 5:00 p.m., at which time Sea Cloud will depart the harbor. We will spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening cruising eastward along the coast. This will be the optimum time to be on deck as we should enjoy fine views of the Cretan coast. We will arrive at our next port, Agios Nikolaos, by 11:00 p.m. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, Agios Nikolaos May 26, Day 7: Mália; Lato; Katharo Plateau or waterfront tour; cruising the Aegean Sea (Crete to Santorini). Positioned on Mirabello Bay on Crete s northeast coast, Agios Nikolaos translated as Saint Nicholas is a lively coastal city set amid scenic surroundings. A thriving waterfront community reflects the city s fairly busy port while broad white sand beaches to the east are obvious magnets for tourists. Offering close access to a collection of archaeological sites, beaches, and mountains, Agios Nicholaos has long served as a traditional hub for exploration of the island s eastern interior and coast. In similar fashion to the previous day, the activities for today include a morning visit to a major archaeological site, with a choice in the afternoon between a birding trip or time on the waterfront of Agios Nicholaos. We will disembark the ship after breakfast and travel by bus to the Minoan site of Mália, situated approximately 45 minutes west of Agios Nicholaos. We plan to arrive at the archaeological site by 8:00 a.m., when it opens to the public, so that we may beat the crowds as well as take advantage of the cooler morning hours. According to one myth, the palace at Mália was the home of King Sarpedon before he was banished from Crete by his brother Minos. While a compelling story, Mália, in fact, is the third largest palace of Minoan Crete after Knossos and Phaistos. It was first built around 1900 B.C., slightly before Knossos, at a time when Minoan civilization was on the ascent throughout Crete. It was destroyed around 1650 B.C. for reasons that are apparently still unclear, but a powerful earthquake or tsunami has been cited as possibilities. A new palace, even larger and more grandiose, was built on the same site. As at Knossos and other significant Minoan sites in Crete, the ruins we see today are the remains of the second generation palace. Malia and Knossos were contemporaries at the peak of Minoan civilization, when both sites were places of significant political and economic activity. Both were destroyed by fire around 1450 B.C. We ll join our guide for a tour of the site. Although Mália may seem spare compared to the partially restored ruins complex at Knossos, important facets of construction are visible that reveal the sophistication of the site at its peak. Among the more significant features we ll view are the large central court yard, storage rooms, a theater, and several crypts, and granaries. An onsite museum holds a variety of objects and artifacts unearthed here while a diagram map displays the site as it was thought to appear before it was destroyed.
10 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 10 Mália sits on a broad coastal plain amid olive groves and scrub. The expansive views available of the sea to the north and the mountains to the south must have been irresistible to the Minoans, as reflected in the decision to locate a major palace here. Birds also like it here and we may see such species as Common Buzzard, European Bee-eater, Sardinian Warbler, and Crested Lark. Retracing our steps, we ll stop at a roadside cliff where Eurasian Griffons nest. Back where we started by mid-morning, we ll head inland for a visit to Lato. Ancient Lato was a fortified Dorian city-state built on a saddle between two hills overlooking present-day Agios Nikolaos and Mirabello Bay. It is likely that Lato had been in existence for hundreds of years before reaching its peak in the 5 th -4 th centuries B.C. Its fortified position and control of the nearshore waters made Lato an influential and formidable presence in Crete during the Greek Hellenic era. Lato was named for the goddess Leto (of which Lato is a variation) mother of Apollo and Artemis, although it was Eleithyia, Cretan goddess of childbirth, who was actually worshipped here. Among the notable features of the ruins complex are the double fortification walls; an Agora, or open space containing a temple and a cistern; Prytaneion, a large open complex approximating an ancient theater or meeting hall; the ruins of a temple; and a small theatral area. Lato is a very beautiful site that offers sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Mountains tower up to the south while scenic Mirabello Bay stretches away to the north. The rocky, brush-covered hillsides at Lato can produce some interesting birds in the spring, with species such as Eurasian Griffon, Eurasian Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock-Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Orphean and Sardinian warblers, and Cretzschmar s and Black-headed buntings all possible. We will return to Sea Cloud for lunch. Afterward, we will offer a variety of activity options for the afternoon: Option #1: For those interested in birding or simply experiencing more of the Cretan countryside, we will offer a trip to the Katharo Plateau, a 3,500 foot upland plain lying on the flanks of the Lesithi Mountains. This is a highly scenic and sparsely populated mountain region where a variety of birds and spring wildflowers may be seen. Among the birds, a collection of raptors that have become rare in the rest of Crete may still be found here including Eurasian Griffon, Lammergeier, Golden and Bonelli s eagles, and Peregrine Falcon. The Lammergeier is of particular interest. Less than 40 birds remain in Crete, and most are found flying high over these upland plateaus. Other birds of interest include Woodchat Shrike and Black-headed and Cretzschmar s buntings. Option #2: Those who prefer not to partake in the birding field trip may choose to spend the afternoon walking the promenade of Agios Nikolaos where a collection of shops and cafés line the city s lovely waterfront. A walking tour with a local guide may be offered as well. Option #3: Relax aboard Sea Cloud. Options #1 and #2 will be back to the ship by 4:00 p.m., at which time Sea Cloud will depart the harbor. We will spend the remainder of the afternoon and night at sea cruising toward Santorini, which lies 90 nautical miles to the north. We will want to be on deck as we leave Agios Nikolaos behind as the waters of Mirabello Bay are sometimes good for seeing the localized Audouin s Gull, which nests in a breeding colony on the Dionisades Islands off Crete s northeast coast. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, at sea May 27, Day 8: All day at Santorini: Akrotiri; archaeological museum; beaches and more; cruising to Kusadasi, Turkey. After cruising through the night, Sea Cloud will arrive at Santorini between 7:00-8:00 a.m. this morning. We will have a full day to explore what many consider the Aegean s most beautiful island.
11 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 11 Situated in the southern Aegean Sea 90 nautical miles north of Crete, Santorini is a volcanic island known for magnificent beaches, a dry climate, and breathtaking clifftop villages. The island s central feature is an enormous flooded caldera, the result of ancient volcanic eruptions, over which tower 1,000 foot cliffs of solidified lava. The island s impressive natural scenery is amplified by iconic images of traditional white walled towns overlooking a shimmering sea. Tourists have come to Santorini for decades, for it, perhaps more than any other location in Greece, captures the ideal of Mediterranean paradise. Santorini is also known as Thera, or Thira, and its capital is Fira. In ancient times, the best known Minoan site outside of Crete was located on Santorini. Akrotiri, as it is called, was one of the largest and most important Bronze Age ports during the second millennium, until a massive volcanic explosion buried the settlement under meters of ash and debris. The event is considered one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, and while its effect on the island was certainly catastrophic, its theoretical role as a contributing factor in the overall decline of Minoan civilization is controversial. We will spend the entire day on Santorini visiting many of the island s top attractions including the premier archaeological site and museum, beaches, and picturesque villages. Disembarking Sea Cloud immediately after breakfast, our first activity will be a morning tour of Akrotiri. Situated on the island s southern peninsula, Akrortiri was the political and economic center of ancient Santorini. The site reached its peak between roughly 1900 and 1625 B.C., as part of the overall ascent of Minoan civilization, before being entombed during the epochal volcanic eruption that occurred in the last part of the 17 th -century B.C. Akrotiri was not a Cretan style palace per se, but more of a well developed community or town. Excavation work has revealed such a wealth of artifacts and building structures all beautifully preserved in ash that the site has been favorably compared to Pompeii. Though only a small portion of the ancient city has been exhumed, it is clear that Akrotiri was an advanced and wealthy urban society, as evidenced by discoveries of multi-level buildings, streets, squares with high walls, and a well-developed drainage system including pipes with running water; and houses containing fine wall paintings, stone staircases, and huge ceramic storage jars and other pottery. Next we will travel to the island capital of Fira, a clifftop community offering panoramic views over the submerged caldera. We will visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, an island treasure whose collection of ancient artifacts chronicles the history of civilization on Santorini from Neolothic times to the Minoan culture at Akrotiri when it reached its zenith in the late 17 th -century B.C. Among the fascinating items on display are plaster casts of furniture, bronze vessels, tools and weapons, seals, Linear A tablets, and an impressive collection of clay and stone vases. Of greatest interest to many are the magnificent wall painting ensembles that are also housed here. We will return to the ship for lunch. Afterward we will spend the afternoon sightseeing. Santorini is well known for its varied beaches and we may have opportunities to see examples of beaches composed of black, white, and red sand. In the afternoon we should have time to explore one of the iconic clifftop villages that appear so often on postcards and travel journals. Both Fira in the center of the island, and Oia (pronounced ee-ah), situated at the northwestern tip, offer traditional whitewashed communities, blue domed churches, narrow streets, cafés, and plentiful shops and boutiques that many people will want to explore. The birding on Santorini is fairly limited, but a suite of dry country birds and late season migrants may be found around the ruins complex and on scrub covered hillsides throughout, while a handful of waterbirds may be seen along the coast. Among the possibilities are Eruropean Shag, Eurasian Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Little Owl, Alpine Swift, Common Raven, Eurasian Crag-Martin, Crested Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, and Eurasian Linnet. Less common species such as Eleonora s Falcon, Eastern Orphean Warbler, and Cretzschmar s Bunting are also possible. Sea Cloud will depart Santorini around midnight tonight as we start for Kusadasi. NIGHT: Aboard Sea Cloud, at sea
12 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 12 May 28, Day 9: Crusing the Aegean Sea (Santorini to Kusadasi). We will emerge from our cabins this morning to find ourselves on a northeast course heading toward the Turkish coast. Although today will be our last together, we should have a lovely time at sea enjoying the scenery and watching for birds as we make our way by a number of other Aegean Islands. If wind conditions allow, there is a good chance the captain will unfurl some, or even all, of Sea Cloud s 32,000 square feet of sails. Should we be so fortunate, we may even have the opportunity to board a zodiac and photograph the majestic barque from a distance. Positioning ourselves on the viewing deck, we will stay vigilant for foraging shearwaters as well as any shags, gulls, or terns that might be around. Both Cory s and Levantine shearwaters can be seen anywhere along the way today, while the waters closest to the islands are better places to watch for European Shag and Audouin s and Yellow-legged gulls. There is also the possibility of encountering Mediterranean and Black-headed gulls, even at this late date in the season. Also found here is the Eleonora s Falcon, a somewhat enigmatic species that occurs at scattered colonies throughout the eastern Aegean region. By late May, most birds have returned from African wintering grounds to the various islands and offshore rocks the species calls home for the summer. Interestingly, this falcon nests near the sea and feeds on insects and small landbirds that fly over open water. We will stay watchful for any that may be flying between islands or favored hunting areas. You will also likely have the opportunity to attend one or two lectures on the history and culture of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean region today as well. NIGHT: Aboard the Sea Cloud May 29, Day 10: Arrival in Kusadasi; departure for home. This morning marks the conclusion of our birds and history cruise. Sea Cloud will arrive in port at Kusadasi at 8:00 a.m. followed immediately by passenger disembarkation. All cruise participants will be transferred to the Izmir airport (airport codes ADB) with time to check-in for departing flights. Please note that you may be required to change planes in Istanbul, Athens, or another airport to complete the international flight route to the United States. Participants continuing on with the Turkey Extension will be met at the dock by a representative of our local operator. ATHENS PRE-TRIP MAY 16-21, 2012 This optional pre-trip to Greece s capital city provides an excellent complement to our ship-based exploration of the islands of Crete and Santorini. While Athens today is clearly Greece s largest and most important city, it was also the wealthiest and most influential city-state in Classical times (5 th -4 th centuries B.C.). Our program combines visits to two of the country s most revered archaeological sites with several birding field trips to destinations north and east of the city. For first time visitors, a trip to Athens is highlighted by the pilgrimage to the Acropolis, the most instantly recognizable landmark in Greece. We will spend our first morning together at the ancient hilltop citadel meandering among the remains of the magnificent structures for which the site is so justly famous. A guided interpretive walk will focus on the timeless monuments constructed to honor the Olympian gods worshipped by the ancient Greeks. Our tour will also incorporate a visit to the Theater of Dionysus Eleutheris, which is considered the first theater in Greece. On another morning we ll make our way to the Agora, the primary site of public assembly in ancient Athens and the center of administrative, judicial, and social activity during the Classical era, including during the times of Socrates and Plato.
13 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 13 Complementing our focus on the remarkable historical sites, we ll visit a variety of habitats and ecosystems north and east of the city in pursuit of specialty nesting birds and late-season migrants. We ll travel to the low-lying coastal community of Marathon to search for waterbirds and dry-country landbirds. Little Egret, Ferruginous Duck, Short-toed Eagle, Gray Heron, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Cretzchmar s and Black-headed buntings are all prized species that occur in the region. An added bonus is a visit to the famous site where the Athenian army defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Visits to several coastal locations including Cape Sounio and the Vravrona Estuary will give us chances for Squacco Heron, Long-legged Buzzard, Bonelli s Eagle, European Turtle-Dove, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, Subalpine Warbler, and Rufous Bush-Robin. On our last full day of birding we will head to the slopes of Mt. Immitos, a 3,000 ft. mountain offering superb views of the Athens city center as well as habitat for nesting dry-country birds. Among the many possible species we ll encounter are a range of birds with limited ranges in far southeastern Europe including Chukar; Rueppell s, Sardinian, and Eastern Orphean warblers; Woodchat Shrike; Sombre Tit; and many others. May 16, Day 1: International flight to Athens, Greece. Flights from the United States bound for Athens depart on May 16 and arrive on the morning of May 17. NIGHT: Aboard aircraft in transit to Athens May 17, Day 2: Arrival in Athens; transfer to hotel. Participants traveling aboard international flights will arrive in Athens this morning. Upon arrival you will be met outside the baggage claim by a representative of our ground agent and transferred to the Divani Hotel where a room has been reserved in your name. After check-in you will have the remainder of the day to yourself, where options include relaxing in the privacy of your room or exploring some of the city s many historical and cultural attractions. Greece s capital contains a wealth of museums and other places of interest. Among the many ways to spend an afternoon, we recommend a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, one of the great museums of the world. Located northwest of the Acropolis, the museum houses an extraordinary collection of art and artifacts from the ancient Greek world. Within the rooms, chambers, and halls are a profusion of exhibits containing ancient sculptures in marble and bronze from the Archaic ( B.C.), Classical ( B.C.), Hellinistic ( B.C.), and Roman periods (146 BC-330 A.D.), along with dazzling examples of pottery, figurines, weapons, and other artifacts dating from antiquity. Among the many treasures is the mask of Agamemnon, which was unearthed at Mycenae by Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy. Another option is a visit to the Plaka, an area of shops and restaurants on the east side of the Acropolis. Wandering among the narrow streets and alleys, you may choose from a variety of restaurants and bars if you are hungry, or wander in and out of myriad shops and stores with gifts, clothing, and a variety of other objects for sale. We will gather as a group in the hotel lobby at 6:00 p.m. for a brief trip introduction and welcome. This evening we will have dinner at an open-air restaurant that features unobstructed views of the Acropolis. NIGHT: Divani Hotel Acropolis, Athens May 18, Day 3: Morning at Acropolis & Theater of Dionysus; afternoon birding at Vravrona (Brauron) archaeological site. We will spend the first half of the day at the famed Acropolis, the landmark that for many is the face of Greece. We will make the short ride to the entrance gate where our local guide, along with Dr. Woodruff, will lead an interpretive tour of Greece s most famous and beloved archaeological site.
14 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 14 Although the term Acropolis literally means fortified height, or fortified raised citadel of an ancient Greek city, the Acropolis of Athens is so monumental, and so well known the world over, that its name carries a singularity that generally requires no further explanation. Rising nearly 500 feet above sea level and flat topped, with commanding views in all directions, it is small wonder that the Greeks located their iconic monuments to the gods here. Archaeological evidence indicates that the site was inhabited remarkably early, by the 6 th millennium B.C., but it wasn t until Mycenaean times ( B.C.) that the first structures of considerable size were erected, though only scant evidence of the early buildings remains. Little is known of what the Acropolis looked like until the arrival of the Archaic period (7 th -6 th centuries B.C.). This was a time of unrest for the Athens city-state as political instability, marked by uprisings and coups, allowed for control of the region to change hands on a number of occasions. A series of temples was built at the site, one after another through the period, and it is likely that most of these temples were dismantled as newer, more grandiose designs took their place. The late 6 th -century marks the start of the Classical period, a time when the last Athenian tyrant was deposed and Greek culture began to flourish. Following the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C., the first Parthenon was partially constructed on the site before the Persians returned in 480 B.C., overran much of Greece, and sacked and burned the Acropolis. Under the leadership of Pericles during the Golden Age of Athens ( B.C.), the hilltop was cleared of debris, the temples rebuilt, and the Acropolis, as we know it today, took its final shape. Ictinus and Callicrates, two of the best known architects from the time, along with the great sculptor Phidias, designed and shaped the temples and their friezes using the beautiful Pentelic and Parian marbles that we identify so readily with the gleaming temples and statuary from the Classical period. While the main buildings are in various stages of decay and restoration, all are protected by law. We will hear of the history of the construction of the buildings as they relate to the history of the period and the Olympian gods to whom they were dedicated. Meandering among the columns and pediments that remain as vestiges from antiquity allows one to fully appreciate the creative power of the ancient Greeks. The four structures that comprised the bulk of the Acropolis were the Parthenon, Athena Nike, Propylae, and Erechtheum, constructed in that order. In their time, the collective sight of the buildings of the Acropolis must have been breathtaking, yet today, without question, it is the Parthenon, with its massive foundation and towering Doric columns that remains the enduring emblem of Athenian democracy. Remarkably, the Acropolis is a wonderful place to view Alpine and Common swifts in the morning before they disperse from night roosts within the ruins complex. Descending the south face, we will dedicate the final hour of the morning to visiting the ancient theater of Dionysus Eleutheris. Considered the oldest theater in Greece, it is believed constructed around 500 B.C. and dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine, festival, and fertility. The theater is known to have hosted dramas and tragedies from the leading Greek playwrights of 5 th -century Athens, including Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. After lunch in the Plaka, we will travel across Athens to the east coast of Attica on the Aegean Sea for an afternoon of birding and sightseeing around the archaeological site of Vravrona. Vravrona, perhaps better known as Brauron, is an ancient and sacred site constructed for honoring Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wilderness, childbirth, and virginity. Although the present day archaeological site was inhabited as early as Mycenean times, it wasn t until the 6 th and 5 th centuries B.C. that it reached its peak as a significant sanctuary for worship of fertility and childbearing. The original temple of Artemis was destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C., but a later, and likely inferior, temple was constructed in 420 B.C., the platform of which is still easily visible.
15 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 15 Centered on the Sanctuary of Artemis, this very attractive site is remarkable in at least one way in that it receives a fraction of the visitation of Greece s larger and historically more important places. Still, Brauron is known for several significant structures including the remains of the temple; the stoa, which still partly stands; a dining room; and an unusual stone bridge. The archaeological museum, located nearby, contains an extensive and important collection of votive offerings and dedication objects from the site throughout its period of use. Brauron sits amid open surroundings seemingly far from the large metropolis of Athens. An abundance of native vegetation supports a number of important breeding species. Among the birds we hope to see are Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, European Bee-eater, Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin (Bush Robin), Common Nightingale, Zitting Cisticola, Woodchat Shrike, and Black headed Bunting. In order to maximize our time in the field, we will not return to the hotel until about 7:00 p.m. NIGHT: Divani Hotel Acropolis, Athens May 19, Day 4: Schinias National Park and Marathon. This morning we will depart the hotel for Marathon, located approximately 26-miles to the northeast of Athens. Our destination is Schinias National Park, a large area of wetlands, canals, ditches, watery impoundments, and rocky hillsides where a superb variety of waterbirds and landbirds occur. The numbers of birds and diversity of species is always difficult to predict at this site as everything depends on the amount of water present. The centerpiece of the park is, believe it or not, the Olympic Rowing Club, situated on the coastal plain east of Marthon. Designed for the rowing activities during the 2004 Summer Olympics, the club provides an abundance of open water surrounded by lush grasses, and, farther out, dry scrubland and marsh. Improbable as it may seem, this area has become a premier birding site in the Athens area. We may find a variety of nesting waterbirds as well as some late migrants including Gray Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, and Common Sandpiper. Remarkably, this is also an excellent location to see Ferruginous Duck, a species that has declined precipitously across southeastern Europe. Lying nearby, an area of extensive reeds and other marsh plants may hold a variety of species more closely associated with water including Western Marsh-Harrier, Common Kingfisher, Penduline Tit, Eurasian and Great reed-warblers and Sedge Warbler. A check of the surrounding rocky hillsides may reveal Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel, Chukar, Woodchat Shrike, Blue Rock-Thrush, Rock Nuthatch, Penduline Tit, Crested Lark, Western Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail, Subalpine and Olivaceous warblers, and Cretzschmar s and Black-headed buntings. Either late in the morning or after lunch we will stop at the site of the great Battle of Marathon, where an army of 10,000 hoplite warriors, under the command of Miltiades, decisively defeated an army of 20,000 Persians under the rule of king Darius the Great. In the aftermath of victory was born the marathon. According to the often recited legend, the Athenian messenger, Pheiddipides, ran the entire 26 miles back to Athens without stopping to inform the assembly of the sensational victory, before promptly dropping dead. Though the legend is very much in doubt among historians, it is a great story that ultimately led to the marathon s inclusion as an event in the first modern Olympics in Depending on our remaining time this afternoon, we may venture to Mt. Pendeli or the North Spata area of Athens in our continuing quest to see the area specialty birds. NIGHT: Divani Hotel Acropolis, Athens May 20, Day 5: All day birding at Immitos Mountain. Despite the sprawl of the greater Athens metropolitan area, there are some excellent natural areas that offer high quality birding in remarkably close proximity to the city center. One of these is Immitos Mountain.
16 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 16 Covering 20,000 acres, Immitos is a long but narrow mountain that is a favored destination for a variety of recreationalists and outdoor enthusiasts. This is largely due to the fact that it lies within easy reach of the city center, but it is also the opportunity to experience a variety of terrain, abundance of scenic beauty, and fabulous panoramic views of the Greek capital that endear it to so many. With its summit reaching 3,200 feet, Immitos is the second highest mountain in the Athens area after Mt. Parnitha. Of interest to birders is the opportunity to experience an array of distinct habitat-types in such a relatively small area. A paved road runs the length of the mountain from the base to near the top while a system of foot and bike trails offers even greater access. We will depart the hotel this morning for what may be a full-day field trip to Immitos Mountain. This activity will give us superb chances for finding a suite of permanent and seasonal resident species and passage migrants. We ll start part way up the mountain in the Kesariani area where we ll walk and bird in a mosaic of pine and cypress forest, olive orchard, and Mediterranean shrub. Making our way towards the top of the mountain, the landscape becomes steep and rocky, and we ll experience a vegetation zone where a variety of aromatic plants such as thyme and oregano occur. The amount of time we actually spend here will depend on weather conditions and the quality of the birding, but an enticing collection of avian possibilities means that we may well be here all day. Among species that birders seek here are Chukar; Common and Long-legged buzzards; Red-rumped Swallow; Alpine, Pallid, and Common swifts; Short-toed Tree-Creeper; Firecrest; Rueppell s, Eastern Orphean, and Subalpine warblers; Greater and Lesser whitethroats; Sombre and Great tits; European Serin; and Cretzschmar s and Cirl buntings. Possible migrants include Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, and European Bee-eater. NIGHT: Divani Hotel, Acropolis, Athens May 21, Day 6: Morning at the Agora of Athens; afternoon free. This morning we will make the short trip to an area northwest of the Acropolis for a visit to the famed Agora of Athens. A central component to the Greek city-state, the agora, or public assembly place appeared possibly as early as 900 B.C. The agora was the place where people gathered to hear public announcements by a king or council, or for men to conduct military business. In Athens, the agora actually served as a marketplace and a place of residence before these practices were ended in the 6 th -century B.C. It was during the Golden Age, under Pericles, when the agora reached its zenith, reflecting the maturation of Athenian democracy and the cultural emphasis on government, politics, debate, current events, and philosophy. It was during this period when the site was beautified with trees, fountains, an advanced drainage system, and temples of Pentelic marble erected in honor of the Olympian gods. We will have the remainder of the afternoon to explore the grounds with our local guide, who will provide interpretation of the rich historical and cultural significance of the site. For many, the highlight is seeing the Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaestion). One of the largest and best preserved of ancient Greek temples, this structure was built to honor Hephaestus (god of metal working) and Athena Ergane (goddess of pottery and crafts). It was designed of Pentellic marble and supported by a network of 34 fluted colonnades in the conservative Doric style. This site is decorated with the ruins of other buildings, some remarkably intact, that were constructed for administrative or legal purposes or to honor other gods of the ancient Greek tradition. The trees and gardens adorning the property are the continuance of a tradition established more than 2,500 years ago. Here, in this lush sanctuary it is easy to imagine oneself walking in the footsteps of Socrates and Plato. It is also easy to see birds here and our tour of the archaeological site is paced slow enough to allow ourselves the distraction of birding the verdant grounds. As the city around us holds little sanctuary for migrating birds, the grounds of the agora are an oasis of sorts where almost anything is possible. A short list of species we might turn up includes House Martin, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Eurasian Jay, Spotted Flycatcher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, European Greenfinch,
17 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 17 and European Goldfinch. We will have lunch in the Plaka before returning to the hotel. Our arrival at the Divani marks the end of the pre-trip, at which time participants will have the afternoon at leisure. NIGHT: Divani Hotel, Acropolis, Athens TOUR SIZE: We have chartered the 64-passenger Sea Cloud exclusively for VENT travelers; the Crete & Santorini cruise is limited to 58 participants; the Athens Pre-trip is limited to 22. TOUR LEADERS: Victor Emanuel, Paul Woodruff, and Barry Lyon will lead both the cruise and the pre-trip. Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 63 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Arizona, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. He is the founder and compiler for 50 years of the record-breaking Freeport Christmas Bird Count, and served a term as president of the Texas Ornithological Society. Birds and natural history have been a major focus throughout his life. He derives great pleasure from seeing and hearing birds, and sharing with others these avian sights and sounds, both the common ones and the more unusual ones. He initiated the first birding camps for young people, and considers that one of his greatest achievements. Victor holds a B.A. in zoology and botany from the University of Texas and an M.A. in government from Harvard. In 1993, he was the recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Excellence in Birding Award, given by the Houston Audubon Society in recognition of a lifetime of dedication to careful observation, education, and addition to the body of avian knowledge. In 2004, he received the Roger Tory Peterson Award from the American Birding Association, and the Arthur A. Allen Award from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Victor is on the board of directors for the American Bird Conservancy. Paul Woodruff is an experienced guide to the intellectual landscape of ancient Greece. He has published translations of works by the philosopher Plato, the historian Thucydides, and the playwrights Sophocles and Euripides. He has written two books that present ancient Greek ideas for modern use Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (2001); and First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea (2005). He teaches philosophy and classics at the University of Texas at Austin. Barry Lyon s passion for the outdoors and birding has its roots in his childhood where he grew up in southern California. Through his early years his developing interest in the study and observation of nature was furthered by summertime camping trips to southern Arizona and road trips with his family throughout the American West. He attended several VENT/ABA youth birding camps while in high school, which would ultimately pave the way for his future involvement with VENT. While in college, Barry studied history and political science, with an emphasis on environment and development politics. He holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona at Tucson. In 1995 he joined the VENT team as a tour leader and embarked on a travel-based career that has taken him throughout the United States and Canada and to Central America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Antarctica, and the Galapagos Islands. He relocated to Austin in 2004 and joined our office staff as an assistant to company president Victor Emanuel. Although Barry s responsibilities have changed, he continues to lead a limited number of tours and still enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for nature with others. MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE REQUIREMENT: All participants are required to purchase a medical evacuation policy for this tour and will be asked to sign and return to the VENT office a waiver stating that this has been done. Such a policy should be available from any insurance company which provides trip cancellation coverage (see below). EXTRA ARRANGEMENTS: Should you wish to make arrangements to arrive early or extend your stay, please contact the VENT office at least two months prior to your departure date. We can very easily make hotel arrangements and often at our group rate, if we receive your request with enough advance time.
18 Greece: Crete & Santorini, Page 18 FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS: FOR THE CRUISE: Cabin prices quoted are per person based on double occupancy and include port taxes. Single occupancy is available in Category 4 at the price indicated. Single occupancy in all other Categories is at twice the quoted rate. Category A: (Owner s Suites) Cabins #1, #2 $11,500 Category B: (Deluxe Original Cabins) Cabins #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 $10,500 Category 1: Cabins #30, #31 $ 9,195 Category 2: Cabins #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37 $ 8,995 Category 3: Cabins #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25 $ 8,500 Category 4: (Singles) Cabins #15, #16, #17 $ 8,995 Captain s and Lido Deck Promenade Deck Main Deck Categories
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