The Odyssey retells the profound adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus as teaching stories which old insight and guidance for our own hero’s journey into the second half of life. In this hero’s journey at the Amalfi Coast Peter de Kuster explores with you the uncommon wisdom from Homer’s Odyssey.
On his winding odyssey, Odysseus meets magical and powerful beings, who are not shy about meddling in his affairs. Some see him for who he really is and help him; they bring him wisdom and attainment, and unlock creative possibilities.
Others, aggravating and difficult strangers, try to do him in. Odysseus gets sidetracked, enchanted, waylaid.
Some truths he learns easily and others he resists. In all of this, Odysseus is not so different from the rest of us.
From Troy to Sicily, in this modern Mediterranean cruise we follow the path of The Odyssey’s 3,000-year-old hero.
You will see much that he had seen: Troy, where his war ended and his wanderings began; Malta, where he was imprisoned by the nymph Calypso for seven years; Sicily, where his sailors were devoured by Scylla; the Neapolitan coast, which the ancients believed was close to the entrance to the underworld. And will we reach Ithaca? The opening lines of The Odyssey describe Odysseus as someone curiously like us—he’s the first tourist, the first person in either legend or recorded history who traveled because he thought the world was interesting, because he wanted to “know the minds and see the cities of many men,” as the poem puts it.
Your cruise on the intimate, 57-suite Corinthian II will include daily excursions to archaeological sites in Troy, Pylos, Malta, and Sicily, as well as a full program of onboard lectures every day—often two in a day—given by your guide Peter de Kuster.
And then there is the homework. The hefty pre-embarkation packet comes complete with a reading list that suggested six “essential” texts—The Odyssey, of course, but also Henry Miller’s Colossus of Maroussi and Moses Finley’s classic The World of Odysseus—and 15 “recommended” texts. Very soon after you set sail from Athens to the first stop, Çanakkale, in northwestern Turkey—the modern-day site of Troy—a nice rhythm establishes itself, of morning excursions, a leisurely lunch back on the ship on the aft sundeck, and then a lecture or two. Then there are be cocktails and dinner. It is like a very opulent graduate seminar—rich, but also rigorous.
We begin, of course, in Troy—the city where The Iliad ends, and where Odysseus’s homeward-bound adventures begin. Troy is not the name that the Greeks gave to the city where the greatest war of myth was fought; they called it Ilion, a word ultimately derived from the ancient Hittite name Wilusa. (Iliad just means “a song about Ilion.”) Homer calls the city “windy,” and it is windy still. On the day we visited, there was, despite the summer heat, a faint, steady breeze, coming from somewhere you couldn’t quite identify, just enough to persuade the spiky acanthus plants to wave their hostile leaves in your direction or the thronging wildflowers to nod their heavy heads. It’s a large, meandering site, and most of what there is to look at—once you get past the pier, which has inherited the giant Trojan horse constructed for the movie Troy—is walls: the remains of what were, in fact, nine successive settlements on the site, a seemingly endless series of massive accumulations of stone, from whose crevices little yellow flowers poke out.
Then we land at Pylos, at one of the southernmost tips of the Peloponnese, the legendary stronghold of Homer’s King Nestor. Already an old man in The Iliad and very ancient indeed in The Odyssey, Nestor is the hero who enjoys regaling the younger warriors with his tales of how much stronger heroes were in his day. Pylos isn’t far from Kalamata: when you arrive at the site known as Nestor’s Palace, the landscape shimmers with silver-green olive leaves. The palace is a Mycenaean structure consisting, now, of little more than some thigh-high foundations and an occasional column-base to suggest what the architecture had been. But every now and then, something extraordinary will pop out at you, an object that draws you right into Homer’s world. It was here we saw the richly carved, nearly intact bathtub that sits at one end of the palace enclosure and is decorated with an undulating pattern of large whorls.
Clustered around this stolid household fixture that had so improbably survived, you will remember the scene in which Odysseus’s son is given a bath during a visit to Nestor’s Palace, where he goes seeking news of his long-lost father. Or another famous bathtub moment in The Odyssey: the scene in which Odysseus, having made his way back to his own palace disguised as a filthy beggar, is recognized by the old slave-woman who’s bathing him after she notices a telltale scar on his leg—a scar that, like pretty much everything in The Odyssey, has a story of its own.
Sometimes, a site would convey not so much this or that era in history, but merely the enormity of time itself. Not far from Nestor’s Palace is a Mycenaean “beehive” tomb. Given the blazing sun, many of us practically ran to the black opening at the base of what does indeed look like a giant domed hive. But once you’re inside, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up: a dank and perfect stillness suggests what 30 centuries of being dead might feel like. When we emerged, we were grateful for the whiff of red currants in the air. They grow wild all around the tomb.
You will experience that the very richness of these sites and the immensity of their histories threatened, rather pleasantly, will distract us from our Homeric focus at times—although such distraction was itself very Odyssean. The greatest threat to his homecoming is the pleasure and interest and beauty of so much of what he encounters on his journey: fascinating new cultures; opulent riches; amorous nymphs. The claustrophobia-inducing little grotto on Gozo that has been identified as Calypso’s cave—at least since the era of the Grand Tour, when local guides wooed gullible northern Europeans —is certainly picturesque, but can’t possibly compete, for sheer jaw-dropping impact, with the enormous, Stonehenge-like, Neolithic temples nearby.
After a few days’ sailing, we reach the Sicilian coast, the cone of Mount Etna hazily beckoning in the distance, as symmetrical and ethereal as something on a Japanese print. Whatever claims this stretch of coast may have as the mythical home of the huge, cannibalistic Laestrygonians who terrorized Odysseus and his crew, it’s the doggedly optimistic symmetries of the Doric temple at Segesta, which was begun three centuries after Homer composed his poems and has sat on a little hilltop ever since, quietly asserting the values of order and aesthetic calm through two and a half millennia of war and destruction and renewal, that I remember best from the ship’s stop on the coast near Erice.
As Homer knew well, the danger of a great odyssey is that, like the Lotus-Eaters, you can be so distracted by incidental pleasures that you forget your destination and purpose. But maybe it doesn’t matter how closely you follow in Odysseus’s footsteps, in the end. More than anything, The Odyssey is a story about stories—stories about Odysseus, so long missing in action; stories that Odysseus hears; stories that, often to save his skin, he tells; stories that we all tell about ourselves, often without knowing it: the canny businesswoman who becomes a little girl again with her dad, the family whose Mediterranean reunion seeks to palliate a recent loss, the scientist who sits breakfasting pleasantly with the executive who dismantled the company to which he gave his life.
Do we make it to Ithaca? It is a surprise. For Ithaca—as the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy writes in his famous poem by that name—represents the gift of a “beautiful journey.” If the island itself disappoints, you’re still “rich with all you’ve gotten on the way.”
This 12 day journey is organized two times each year. Ask us dates by mailing email@example.com
Your investment is Euro 12.500 excluding VAT and including the cruise & diners
The number of travel companions is 4 -8 plus your travel guides