Pen and Sword Tour II

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Last year, fifteen intrepid readers (seventeen at one point, but that’s a long story) joined me in Athens and spent eleven days touring mainland Greece.  This is us at the Lion Gate at Mycenae.

Look, I’m biased, but it was incredible.  For about ten years, my friend Aliki Hamosfakidou of Dolphin Hellas had egged me on to run an author-based historical tour, and I had… resisted her.  I imagined–heck, I don’t know what I imagined, but let me tell you what I didn’t imagine… I didn’t imagine the best tour of my life with fifteen instant new friends who all shared my passion for Ancient Greece.

So, of course, we are going to do it again.  This fall.  The tour will start the day after the reenactment of the Battle of Marathon

Favorite Historical Period

And we’ll follow the itinerary below.  Prices and fees and stuff are at the end.  Here’s my unpaid advertisement.  The company last year was excellent.  The food was very good, the hotels, wonderful, and the scenery and historical sites so breath-taking, so (literally) awesome that we began to mutter ‘look, another incredible view. How do they do this?’ and ‘Wow, another battlefield.’  We have our own bus, which may sound lame, but proved to be like having a small, and supremely comfortable land-yacht.  With excellent wifi.  Finally, as a many, many-time veteran of visiting Greece, the tour is cheaper than almost anything you could arrange on your own.  Oh, and there’s me, if you think that’s good, and a full day of demonstrations of Ancient Greek weapons and tactics (and Persians ditto) at Plataea!  Oh, and I teach a sword class every morning.  Free.

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This is our class at Delphi, complete with breath-taking view and massive hangover.

See?  You want to come.

We have roughly 30 slots, and I suspect 14 of them are already spoken for.

ITINERARY (Option A)
Day 1 (Nov. 2, Monday): Each guest will be arriving separately. Individual transfers to the hotel by private taxi (maximum 3 persons). Overnight in Athens. Meals: –

Day 2 (Nov. 3, Tuesday): The day begins with a walking tour of the Acropolis and its monuments: the Theatre of Dionysus, on the site where Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes gave their plays to the city; we then follow the peripatos, the ancient track around the Acropolis, before climbing the sacred rock to view the city’s most renowned artistic and architectural achievements. Passing through the great gateway of the Propylaea, we will see the fabled temples of Periclean Athens – Athena Nike nestling on the rock’s shoulder, the Erechteion with its patient caryatids and the incomparable Parthenon. We will then visit the New Acropolis Museum where you can see some of the finest ancient treasures a mere stone’s throw from where they were found. Lunch break (own arrangements). In the afternoon visit the National Archaeological Museum, a bona fide powerhouse of a museum. In the evening, we will have a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Athens. Meals: breakfast, welcome dinner
Day 3 (Nov. 4, Wednesday): We will first visit “Olympias”, a replica of an Athenian triereme. These illustrious vessels played an imperative role during what is regarded as one of the most important battles of antiquity, the naval battle of Salamis. We will stop to view the straights where the battle between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire was fought in 480 BC. We will then set out to the Peloponnese. We will make a short stop at the late 19th century Corinth Canal, the cutting of which arguably transformed the Peloponnese from a peninsula into an island. We move on to visit Acrocorinth, the Acropolis of Ancient Corinth and according to many, the most impressive fortress of the Greek mainland. We then continue to Nemea, an area renowned for its wine production. Here we will have the first wine tasting of the trip. Our end destination for the day is Nauplion, a most attractive town, one of the best preserved and once a capital of the newly liberated Greek state. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch, wine tasting
Day 4 (Nov. 5, Thursday): In the morning, we make our way to Mystras, the capital of the medieval Despotate of the Morea (an alternate name for the Peloponnese). Among the most important of all Byzantine sites, its ruins, comprising a castle, city walls, the Palace of the Despots and a whole range of elaborately decorated churches and monasteries, make for an unforgettably atmospheric visit. After lunch, we stop at the Acropolis of Sparta, which still bares traces of the past glory. Return to Nauplion for the night. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 5 (Nov. 6, Friday): In the morning we visit the vast Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, King Agamemnon’s capital in Greek myth, with its Cyclopean walls and the Lion Gate. After lunch, we set out for the eastern Argolid, stopping to cross the world’s oldest standing bridge (of Mycenaean date) before reaching the Sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of Healing, at Epidauros. The site, set in peaceful scenery that might be the secret of its therapeutic qualities, features the best-preserved ancient theatre in Greece, praised for its superb acoustics and perfect proportions. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 6 (Nov. 7, Saturday): In the early morning we will visit the superb Archaeological Museum to admire its important prehistoric collections, including the Dendra Panoply, one of the world’s oldest surviving suits of full body armour. We then depart for Tiryntha, famous for its Cyclopean walls and palatial ruins. In ancient times the sea level was higher and therefore closer to the raised hillock on which the citadel was built making it almost impregnable although it is only 26m above sea level. Time permitting, we will also stop on the way at Mantinia, the stage of two important battles. The first battle, in 418 BC, was the largest land battle of the Peloponnesian War. On one side were Sparta and its remaining allies, and on the other were Athens, its allies, plus the cities that had revolted against the Spartans. The second battle, in 362 BC, led to the fall of Theban hegemony. In that battle, Athens and Sparta were allied. Thebes won the battle, but its greatest general, Epaminondas, was killed in the fighting. Our end destination for the day is Olympia. Overnight in Olympia. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 7 (Nov. 8, Sunday): In the morning, we tour the superlative site of Olympia. The great sanctuary of Zeus, famous for the quadrennial festival and athletic contests in honour of the God, established in 776 BC. The vast site, set amongst olive trees and between two rivers, includes temples and sanctuaries, but also the training grounds and gymnasia used by athletes and the venerable stadium, according to legend founded by the hero Herakles (Hercules) himself. The excellent site museum contains a vast collection of ancient Greek weaponry and armour, the wonderful sculptures from the Temple of Zeus and the Hermes of Praxiteles, one of the very few surviving works by one of antiquity’s greatest sculptors. We then depart for Delphi, enjoying en route a lunch with wine tasting at a local winery. Overnight in Delphi. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 8 (Nov. 9, Monday): The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, was the site of the omphalos, the ‘navel of the world’. Blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning, Delphi in the 6th century B.C. was indeed the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world. We will explore in detail some of the prime monuments of the site, including the Temple of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians, the Altar of the Chains and the Tholos. The afternoon and evening are at disposal. Among other things, people can attend a short ceramics workshop or go horse riding or hiking through the antique olive grove of Amfissa. Overnight in Delphi. Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 9 (Nov. 10, Tuesday): Drive back to Athens, stopping en route at Cheronia and Platees (we could perhaps also include the museum in Thebes). Back to Athens. Farewell dinner & overnight in Athens. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 10 (Nov. 11, Tuesday): Individual transfers to the airport & departure. The airport is 30kms from the city centre and takes about 40 minutes.

ITINERARY (Option A)
Day 1 (Nov. 2, Monday): Each guest will be arriving separately. Individual transfers to the hotel by private taxi (maximum 3 persons). Overnight in Athens. Meals: –

Day 2 (Nov. 3, Tuesday): The day begins with a walking tour of the Acropolis and its monuments: the Theatre of Dionysus, on the site where Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes gave their plays to the city; we then follow the peripatos, the ancient track around the Acropolis, before climbing the sacred rock to view the city’s most renowned artistic and architectural achievements. Passing through the great gateway of the Propylaea, we will see the fabled temples of Periclean Athens – Athena Nike nestling on the rock’s shoulder, the Erechteion with its patient caryatids and the incomparable Parthenon. We will then visit the New Acropolis Museum where you can see some of the finest ancient treasures a mere stone’s throw from where they were found. Lunch break (own arrangements). In the afternoon visit the National Archaeological Museum, a bona fide powerhouse of a museum. In the evening, we will have a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in Athens. Meals: breakfast, welcome dinner
Day 3 (Nov. 4, Wednesday): We will first visit “Olympias”, a replica of an Athenian triereme. These illustrious vessels played an imperative role during what is regarded as one of the most important battles of antiquity, the naval battle of Salamis. We will stop to view the straights where the battle between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire was fought in 480 BC. We will then set out to the Peloponnese. We will make a short stop at the late 19th century Corinth Canal, the cutting of which arguably transformed the Peloponnese from a peninsula into an island. We move on to visit Acrocorinth, the Acropolis of Ancient Corinth and according to many, the most impressive fortress of the Greek mainland. We then continue to Nemea, an area renowned for its wine production. Here we will have the first wine tasting of the trip. Our end destination for the day is Nauplion, a most attractive town, one of the best preserved and once a capital of the newly liberated Greek state. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch, wine tasting
Day 4 (Nov. 5, Thursday): In the morning, we make our way to Mystras, the capital of the medieval Despotate of the Morea (an alternate name for the Peloponnese). Among the most important of all Byzantine sites, its ruins, comprising a castle, city walls, the Palace of the Despots and a whole range of elaborately decorated churches and monasteries, make for an unforgettably atmospheric visit. After lunch, we stop at the Acropolis of Sparta, which still bares traces of the past glory. Return to Nauplion for the night. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 5 (Nov. 6, Friday): In the morning we visit the vast Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, King Agamemnon’s capital in Greek myth, with its Cyclopean walls and the Lion Gate. After lunch, we set out for the eastern Argolid, stopping to cross the world’s oldest standing bridge (of Mycenaean date) before reaching the Sanctuary of Asklepios, the God of Healing, at Epidauros. The site, set in peaceful scenery that might be the secret of its therapeutic qualities, features the best-preserved ancient theatre in Greece, praised for its superb acoustics and perfect proportions. Overnight in Nauplion. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 6 (Nov. 7, Saturday): In the early morning we will visit the superb Archaeological Museum to admire its important prehistoric collections, including the Dendra Panoply, one of the world’s oldest surviving suits of full body armour. We then depart for Tiryntha, famous for its Cyclopean walls and palatial ruins. In ancient times the sea level was higher and therefore closer to the raised hillock on which the citadel was built making it almost impregnable although it is only 26m above sea level. Time permitting, we will also stop on the way at Mantinia, the stage of two important battles. The first battle, in 418 BC, was the largest land battle of the Peloponnesian War. On one side were Sparta and its remaining allies, and on the other were Athens, its allies, plus the cities that had revolted against the Spartans. The second battle, in 362 BC, led to the fall of Theban hegemony. In that battle, Athens and Sparta were allied. Thebes won the battle, but its greatest general, Epaminondas, was killed in the fighting. Our end destination for the day is Olympia. Overnight in Olympia. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 7 (Nov. 8, Sunday): In the morning, we tour the superlative site of Olympia. The great sanctuary of Zeus, famous for the quadrennial festival and athletic contests in honour of the God, established in 776 BC. The vast site, set amongst olive trees and between two rivers, includes temples and sanctuaries, but also the training grounds and gymnasia used by athletes and the venerable stadium, according to legend founded by the hero Herakles (Hercules) himself. The excellent site museum contains a vast collection of ancient Greek weaponry and armour, the wonderful sculptures from the Temple of Zeus and the Hermes of Praxiteles, one of the very few surviving works by one of antiquity’s greatest sculptors. We then depart for Delphi, enjoying en route a lunch with wine tasting at a local winery. Overnight in Delphi. Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 8 (Nov. 9, Monday): The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, was the site of the omphalos, the ‘navel of the world’. Blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning, Delphi in the 6th century B.C. was indeed the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world. We will explore in detail some of the prime monuments of the site, including the Temple of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians, the Altar of the Chains and the Tholos. The afternoon and evening are at disposal. Among other things, people can attend a short ceramics workshop or go horse riding or hiking through the antique olive grove of Amfissa. Overnight in Delphi. Meals: breakfast, dinner
Day 9 (Nov. 10, Tuesday): Drive back to Athens, stopping en route at Cheronia and Platees

Pen and Sword at Plataea in 2014...

Pen and Sword at Plataea in 2014…

. Back to Athens. Farewell dinner & overnight in Athens. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 10 (Nov. 11, Tuesday): Individual transfers to the airport & departure. The airport is 30kms from the city centre and takes about 40 minutes.

Min. Number of Paying Participants 20 (9 already signed as of 15 May)
In single room EUR 1370
In double/twin room EUR 1195
In triple room (adult) EUR 1150
In triple room (child under 18) EUR 1057

The prices are per person, in EURO, net to you and include the following services:
– 9 overnights in good 3* superior & 4* hotels (3 in Athens, 3 in Nauplion, 1 in Olympia, 2 in Delphi).
– Breakfast in the hotels everyday
– 4 dinners (1 at the hotel, 3 in local restaurants, including the welcome and farewell dinner) & 6 lunches (1 in a winery, 5 in local restaurants)
– 2 wine tastings in local wineries
– A/C modern bus of maximum 40 seats for the program (day 2 through day 9) with free WiFi
– A/C Mercedes taxi for the arrival & departure transfer (day 1 & day 10) with max. 3 persons per taxi
– Professional licensed English-speaking guide for the program (day 2 through day 9)
– English speaking escort for your two dinners in Athens
– All expenses of the driver and guide (meals, overnights, insurance, overtime) during the mainland tour (Day 3-9)
– Tolls, fuel & parking expenses

Also note that the Euro is down, and that if you want to stay in beautiful hotels, you probably couldn’t beat these prices per day–without a guide, a bus, historical fencing, and companionship…

Want to come?  10% deposit to Aliki.  First come, first served, and we cap at 32.  BTW, I feel I need to say I make no money from this whatsoever.  But it is REALLY fun.  And again, I am there, all the time.  That can be fun or really dull…

Aliki Hamosfakidou <Aliki@dolphin-hellas.gr>

13 thoughts on “Pen and Sword Tour II

  1. It was wonderful that 2014 Pen and Sword. Great company, great sites, and great museums! I did bring some of my bows and some battlegear with me. I am a battlefield tourist with a bow and added Marathon, Thermopylae and Plataea to the list of battlefields where my arrows flew. (besides Sluys, Azincourt, Crecy, Poitiers and Hastings) What I really like is that this year there will be a whole day to toy with Greek/Persian wars era weapons, gear and tactics at Plataea. I had the privilege to do some archery demos and a penetration test on a Greek aspis at Plataea-on the 2014 tour- but the time was too short to allow everybody to shoot a bit and teach the basics- the same applied to Greek hoplite spearfighting. Unfortunately I cannot make the tour this year, and Plataea is on the last day of the tour.. but I hope that somenbody else will be able to take care of the archery part.
    I really had some nice archery experiments in mind, like shooting from the Arcocorinth, and from the citadel at Mystras to establish the archery range that these fortresses will allow (both ways.. to and from)
    Perhaps another time ..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Stephen C.

    I can’t say enough good things about this tour. The company, the sites, the food, the wine! It is also a really good deal – look at comparable tours that cost twice as much or more.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Pen and Sword Tour is an experience that you do not want to miss! We would totally recommend it and we are going a second time around! Aside from the breathtaking views, you have the opportunity to meet new people and listen to Christian talk about the various battle sites. We have been to Greece before but this experience is definitely not one to miss! Great food and great conversations! We were fortunate to meet such a great group of people and have become good friends!! It is also a great package for the price!! Please come join us on this adventure! You do not want to miss it!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. David Dudek

    I have nothing but good things to say about the Pen and Sword tour. I have travelled to Greece before, and while it was a fantastic trip, the Pen and Sword tour offered more than a trip my wife and I were able to plan.

    The sites that we visited were amazing, but to be there with a group of like minded individuals, and being led by an incredibly knowledgeable guide AND one of your favorite authors that has as much knowledge about the events surrounding the historic sites was incredible.

    Then there is the food… The food was incredible. Having insider knowledge about the local areas surrounding the historic site is a huge advantage that the average tourist does not get to experience. Aliki did an excellent job of finding local historic cuisine that complements the sites we visited. Apparently this year there is wine tasting as well. 😁

    The time of year the tour takes place is also a huge bonus. With the tourist season almost over, we did not have to que up at all, and we were able to really enjoy the sites without having to contend with other tourist.

    All in all it was one of the best trips of my life. I still keep in touch with the incredibly diverse, like minded individuals that I am very happy to call friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jevon

    I went last year and will attend again this year. The sites were wonderful. The company was amazing. I could not have wished for a better group of people to tour with. The fact that at least 10 of us are going again speaks volumes. The addition of wine tours this year is a bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

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