The Crimean War forms a central part of many peopleís knowledge of the history of the Black Sea: Tennysonís famous poem commemorating the ill-fated charge of the British cavalry on October 25th, 1854 and the heroic exploits of Florence Nightingale have helped to focus our attention on this conflict. Indeed, a tour exploring the battlefields and military history of this period is a highlight of this cruise. There is, however, so much more to the story of the Black Sea and this two-week itinerary aims to bring to life the fascinating and intriguing history of the region: a journey that will take you from the birth of civilisation to the dramatic end of the Cold War.
Since its first incarnation as the 7thcentury BC Greek colony of Byzantium, no other city has played a more important role in the fortunes of the Black Sea than Istanbul and it is here, most fittingly, that this journey begins. The Aegean Odyssey then sails through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea coast of Turkey calling at Trabzon. Founded in the 9th century BC, the city is mentioned in the writings of Herodotus and Xenophon. An important Roman and Byzantine centre, it was the capital of the Empire of Trebizond from 1204 to 1461.
We then leave Turkey for Batumi in Georgia, a city that has played host to the Greeks, Byzantines, Persians, Turks and Mongols. It is said that Jason and his Argonauts put ashore here when they travelled to Georgia, then known as the Kingdom of Colchis, in search of the Golden Fleece. Travelling along the beautiful coastline the next stop is the Russian spa town of Sochi, future site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. We then cross to the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine.
Here you will visit the port of Kerch at the mouth of the Sea of Azov, the splendid Genoese fortress at Sudak, the Russian imperial palaces of Yalta, and Sevastopol. Before leaving the Ukraine, the ship will also call at Odessa, Catherine the Greatís St Petersburg of the South.
Before returning to Istanbul, you will have the chance to explore the churches and delightful architecture of the ancient town of Nessebur in Bulgaria.