Hello, blog readers. This is my bi-annual ‘Pen and Sword’ tour blog (see the past one here). This fall, from November 6th to the 17th, 2017, thirty people will tour Greece and Bulgaria… with me. (Second prize two weeks… wait…)
This will be our third outing. Last two times we’ve visited the Peloponnese, and gone to such amazing places as Delphi, Mycenae and Mystra. (Not much to see at Sparta, really).
This years tour will visit Thessaloniki, second city of the Byzantine Empire, and use it as a jumping off point to visit all the newly discovered Macedonian tombs and the superb museum at Vergina. Thanks to a professional Greek guide (with a PhD in Archaeology, so no, you don’t have to listen to me…) as well as to my friend Giannis Kadaglou, we’ll get ‘behind the scenes’ looks at some amazing artifacts, many of which, I admit, feature in my books. We’ll also visit Byzantine and Frankish sites in the area before heading east into the rising sun, and changing eras. After a visit to Amphipolis, site a major battle of the Peloponnesian War, we’ll go to Alexandroupolis and visit ancient Greek and Thracian sites and then work our way north to Mesembria in Bulgaria, covering many of the sites of the Green Count’s crusade (it’s the subject of my latest historical novel, called, by no coincidence, ‘The Green Count‘ and out in July.
What are these tours like? Well, first, they are arranged by a professional tour operator, who just happens to be my friend Aliki Hamosfakidou of Dolfin Hellas. She is not just a tour operator; she helped facilitate the first reenactment of the Battle of Marathon, and she’s done yeoman service to historical writing over the years. Anyway, we stay in four and five star hotels, and we live well and eat excellent food and drink really good wine. at least in part thanks to our resident wine steward, Jamie Harrison.
In addition to good food and wine, we’ll go out at night, not to ‘tourist places’, but to some tavernas and other excitements. We go listen to music; I happen to love Greek music, and my friend Giannis plays it, so this is not necessarily what you expect to hear…
We visit museums and historical sites every day, and we travel around in a bus that is more like a land yacht. I confess that the first year, I thought of the bus as a terrible thing… a tourist bus? Like a nightmare…
Nope. It’s a fantastic way to have conversations and discussions or even a nap between sites. And it makes the whole operation flexible; our guides have a habit of saying ‘of course, there is a Frankish castle no one visits up there,’ and then we all shout a bit, and then the bus takes us there. Give or take half a mile of steep rock.
There is internationally acclaimed historical archer Chris Verwijmeren of the Netherlands demonstrating how to shoot from behind a hoplite’s shield… he will be our archery demonstrator, and teacher, this year! And there’s Smaro, who has probably the best ancient Greek women’s impression in the world, and Jevon Garrett and me… in Greek kit…
This year, we’ll take a whole day to have a bunch of skilled reenactors, including me and about 1/3 of the people on the tour, to do demonstrations of everything from weapons to cooking. You can participate to whatever extent you like, up to and including borrowing kit and getting dressed up and shooting bows and what have you. (Not required, however. Be not afraid). We’ll do our demonstrations at an un-restored Byzantine Castle of the mid 14th c. (that is also a location in both Green Count and the newest William Gold, Sword of Justice. Blatant advertisement there.)
Probably worth noting, if you are a fantasy fan, that Greece, Greek art, and Greek military history provide a lot of background for both of my fantasy series… the castle in Thrace where we’ll play with weapons is the place from which Gabriel and Michael rescue the Emperor in ‘Fell Sword.’ For example.
But wait, that’s not all… for those that wish, there are swordplay lessons every morning. This year we’ll do Italian arming sword, with some forays into Greek hoplite fighting with both sword and spear.
There’s Mike Brennan and Harriet Richert learning Arming sword, Manciolino style, in the Vale of Delphi in 2014 after an epic night of dancing and…drinking…
At Mesembria, a few of us will kit out as knights and have a small deed of arms in commemoration of the Green Count…
(I admit I reuse this photo as often as I can…)
And finally, we’ll visit Varna, in Bulgaria, and visit a large Medieval reenactment there. A few of us will participate (you can too, if you want to) and everyone else will get great seats and a good dinner….
The trip starts and ends at Thessaloniki. You have to get yourself there (not included in the tour price) by 6 November and you depart on 17 November. The trip is ten full days and costs 1400 Euros all in double occupancy or a little more if you want a room to yourself. (1755 euros). At one hundred forty euros a day, all in, with meals (not wine) and hotel, bus, tickets to sites, guide, swordplay, reenacting…
There are about ten slots left.
If you are interested, contact Aliki ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org
And contact me on Facebook so I can add you to the FB group. It’s fun; lots of people come back year after year….