On Location: Circumnavigating the Black Sea

October 10, 2011 | Tags: Black Sea

Our trip began in Istanbul with the Dolmabahce Palace, the Spice Bazaar, and the beautiful tiles of the Rustem Pasha Mosque, built by the vizier of the great sultan, Sulieman the Magnificent. Leaving Istanbul, the setting sun illuminated the minarets of both the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia.

Our first full day touring took us to the fishing village of Amasra, giving us a taste of how people lived along the Turkish Black Sea coast for centuries. A bus ride into the interior of Turkey took us to Amasya, a very ancient city with rock-cut tombs of Pontic kings in the side of the enormous rocky mountain that dominates the city. The Green River flows in elegant curves through Amasya and traditional konak houses are clustered along the riverside. Lunch was at a restaurant so high up it looked like one was flying in a plane over the city, giving an aerial view of the many monuments, which include a mosque by the greatest Ottoman architect, Sinan.

Trabzon was also marvelous; the sensational Sumela Monastery left everyone speechless. Few sites in the world are so impressive, with the remote Monastery seeming to defy gravity hanging on the precipitous cliffs of a mountain!

The Gelati Monastery in Georgia was also lovely, though the real highlight of the country was the young folk musicians and dancers, whose traditional dances are among the most vibrant in the world.

We visited the Livadia Palace in Yalta, where Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill signed treaties at the end of the war, before steaming from Sevastopol to Odessa to exlpore the Crimean peninsula.

Next, we climb the Odessa steps made famous in Sergei Eisenstein’s famous film of 1925, The Battleship Potemkin, before finishing up along the Danube River Delta.

 

Have you ever circumnavigated the Black Sea? What were your favorite places? Let us know, below!

On Location: The Black Sea

October 7, 2011

A palette of white darkening to slate-grey painted the storm clouds around the ship as we steamed in the direction of Yalta, Ukraine.  As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones caught out in the driving rain and wind on this particular day in the Black Sea.  Some migrant land birds, on their way to wintering grounds far to the south, had found themselves in a bit of a predicament. 

It wasn’t clear if they had made a decision to risk a flight directly across the Black Sea on their way south, or if they had rather overshot land on their travels the previous night.  But either way, the Clipper Odyssey, a ship of steel that would normally be completely uninteresting to any bird, had overnight become an emergency landing-pad oasis surrounded by hundreds of square miles of an otherwise hostile environment. 

The fallout began with a lone pipit perched on a wire near the ship’s stern during breakfast.  But within a few hours, roving bands of chiffchaffs and wagtails flitted around the outer decks, taking shelter in any nooks and crannies they could find, only sallying out to attempt to snatch hawk moths, which were quite abundant in number themselves.

Robins, blackcaps, and even a nightjar rounded out the menagerie of 30+ birds, which was beginning to feel a bit like something out of Noah’s Ark.  By tomorrow, the ship will pull into Yalta, and the birds will no doubt make a B-line for the green forested hillsides for a real meal.  Once their energy is restored, they’ll have to come up with a new and better plan for how to safely get past the Black Sea on their journey south.

On Location: The Black Sea

October 7, 2011 | Tags: Black Sea

A palette of white darkening to slate-grey painted the storm clouds around the ship as we steamed in the direction of Yalta, Ukraine.  As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones caught out in the driving rain and wind on this particular day in the Black Sea.  Some migrant land birds, on their way to wintering grounds far to the south, had found themselves in a bit of a predicament. 

It wasn’t clear if they had made a decision to risk a flight directly across the Black Sea on their way south, or if they had rather overshot land on their travels the previous night.  But either way, the Clipper Odyssey, a ship of steel that would normally be completely uninteresting to any bird, had overnight become an emergency landing-pad oasis surrounded by hundreds of square miles of an otherwise hostile environment. 

The fallout began with a lone pipit perched on a wire near the ship’s stern during breakfast.  But within a few hours, roving bands of chiffchaffs and wagtails flitted around the outer decks, taking shelter in any nooks and crannies they could find, only sallying out to attempt to snatch hawk moths, which were quite abundant in number themselves.

Robins, blackcaps, and even a nightjar rounded out the menagerie of 30+ birds, which was beginning to feel a bit like something out of Noah’s Ark.  By tomorrow, the ship will pull into Yalta, and the birds will no doubt make a B-line for the green forested hillsides for a real meal.  Once their energy is restored, they’ll have to come up with a new and better plan for how to safely get past the Black Sea on their journey south.

On Location: Sumela Monastery

October 5, 2011

We stepped out into the cool crisp air of a shaded streamside valley in northeastern Turkey. The temperature here in the mountains was noticeably different than the Black Sea coast from where we came, some 4,000 feet below us. Imbedded in the cliff face high above our heads sat the spectacular Sumela Monastery, its buff-colored stone glistening in the bright morning sun.

Local vans whisked us up the final bit of narrow winding road, but the last 300 meters to the Monastery could only be tackled on foot. The dense forest canopy broke at times to reveal the peaks on the mountain ridge across the valley, well above the tree line. After scaling a final stone staircase, we descended into the Monastery itself. 

As we strolled around the courtyard and ducked into the rooms, we couldn’t help but imagine the isolation that the monks must have experienced in this far-removed retreat. Intricate frescoes adorned the walls and ceiling of a cave-like church, and the idea that all of this was constructed between 300 and 1300AD on a sheer cliff added to the magic of this stunning place.

On Location: Sumela Monastery

October 5, 2011 | Tags: Sumela Monastery

We stepped out into the cool crisp air of a shaded streamside valley in northeastern Turkey. The temperature here in the mountains was noticeably different than the Black Sea coast from where we came, some 4,000 feet below us. Imbedded in the cliff face high above our heads sat the spectacular Sumela Monastery, its buff-colored stone glistening in the bright morning sun.

Local vans whisked us up the final bit of narrow winding road, but the last 300 meters to the Monastery could only be tackled on foot. The dense forest canopy broke at times to reveal the peaks on the mountain ridge across the valley, well above the tree line. After scaling a final stone staircase, we descended into the Monastery itself. 

As we strolled around the courtyard and ducked into the rooms, we couldn’t help but imagine the isolation that the monks must have experienced in this far-removed retreat. Intricate frescoes adorned the walls and ceiling of a cave-like church, and the idea that all of this was constructed between 300 and 1300AD on a sheer cliff added to the magic of this stunning place.