Donna and I were fortunate to go on a Black Sea cruise in 2006 while I was working at Oceania Cruises. And now I’m getting to relive the experience because I’m building the pages for the ports we visited on that cruise…reviewing all the pictures and researching the places we did not have a chance to see.
What a joy that cruise was! Along with the cuisine and service on Oceania’s new (at the time) Nautica, we got to see magnificent Greek and Roman ruins, tragic battlefields from World Wars and epic sieges, 19th century spas, splendorous palaces, beaches filled with happy Russians and other Europeans, ornate Byzantine churches – tiny and huge, golden religious icons, mystical sites, military statues, Soviet sculptures and memorials, Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and sailors, Slavic dancers, Lenin statues, Stalin dachas, an historic Opera House, sunken ships, Pushkin memorabilia and finally Istanbul’s stunning amalgam of Turkish and Greek architecture.
Afterwards the cruise inspired me to explore both Russian, Greek and Turkish culture. I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a few books (and one movie) that help you get ready to take this journey:
- Gogol’s Ukrainian Tales (be sure to get the new Pevear and Volokhonsky translation) – the stories relate to the mystical culture of the region
- More than few Chekhov stories set in the region (again read the P&V translation)
- Birds without Wings by Louis De Bernieres – a wonderful love stories that shows the tragedies of World War I and the rise of Ataturk
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – The first portion of the book deals with the Greeks who lived in Western Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century
- Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal – Recommended by a Turkish tourism official this modern classic is a Robin Hood story set in the hills of southern Anatolia
Snow by Orhan Pamuk – Set in the distant northeast of Turkey, it is a story of the stuggle between the secular and religious segments of Turkish society
- The Jannisary Tree by Jason Goodwin – a mystery set during the decline of the Sultanate’s power and featuring a eunuch detective
- The Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin – a mystery set during the late 19th century Russo-Turkish war
- Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill – an examination of the impact of Greek thinkers
- The Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein – this classic silent movie portrays the 1905 mutiny on a battleship and the subsequent massacre by the Czarist military of the people of Odessa on the famous steps
I realize in looking at this list that I need more about Russian and Ukrainian culture…oh, well…more reading for another day.
See more pictures at our Flickr Photostream: www.flickr.com/photos/72746900@N08/sets/72157628541196321/
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