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Silk Road in Central Asia, 4/2013

This trip is an excellent introduction to the historic and modern cultures of the Silk Road in Transoxania (modern-day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).  At Nisa and Merv, we see evidence of Parthian and Hellenistic culture dating back to the 3rd c. BC.  However, the majority of the monuments seen on the trip date from the Islamic period, which began in Central Asian around 750 AD: mausoleums, mosques, madrassas and minarets.  We will see a mausoleum from the 9th and 10th c. Persian Samanid Dynasty in Bukhara, and several mausoleums, mosques and minarets from the 11th and 12th c. Khorezem and Seljuk Turks in Kunya-Urgench, Bukhara and Merv. However, few buildings survived the 13th c. Mongol invasions. Therefore, the majority of the buildings we see date from the 14th to 19th c.  We see important monuments in Samarkand and Shakhrisabz from the 14th and 15th c Timurid Dynasty, founded by Timur. In Bukhara and Samarkand, we see 16th c and 17th c. Persian-influenced buildings, built under Turkish-Mongol dynasties. At Khiva, we see 18th and 19th c. buildings of the Khiva Khanate.  Under UNESCO, the magnificent buildings of Cental Asia, covered in brillian mosaic and majolica tile, have been gloriously restored.   Dinners in private homes provides an intimate encounter with contemporary Uzbek culture, as do the numerous ocassions when Uzbeks want to have photos taken with us. Not only do we see the major cities, but traveling by chartered bus between cities allows us to see and experience beautiful rural Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.   





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Greece, Sanctuaries of the Gods, 5/2012

This trip aboard the 34-passenger Callisto is a circumnavigation of the Peloponnese, focussing on the Archaic Greek sanctuary sites of Delphi, Olympia and Bassae.  In addition, we see Minoan sites on Crete (Knossos) and Santorini (Akrotiri), and stop at the less-visited islands of Kithara and Siphnos.  We dock in small yacht harbors with beaches and turquoise blue water and we enjoy exceptional local cuisine.





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New Zealand, 2/2012

This trip is an excellent introduction to the magnificent scenery and geology and ecology of New Zealand on both the North and South Island.  The North Island is dominated by volcanic landscapes, which we hike through on full-day excursions.  We see the myriad geothermal features of the Rotorua Caldera and visit the spectacular active volcanic crater on White Island. We also get an introduction to Maori culture at the Aukland Museum and at a cultural performance in Rotorua.  On the South Island, we get an itroduction to marine ecology and ornithology (Royal albatross and yellow-eyed penguin) on the Otago Peninsula.  We travel across the South Island, experiencing rural New Zealand, to Fjordlands National Park.  A full-day excursion on Doubtful Sound and a day in Queenstown introduce the wonderful glaciated landscapes of the Southern Alps.  





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