Beyond the Berlin Wall

Berlin WallThis coming week marks the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the years since the wall came down, Germany’s vibrant capital has become a major center for the arts and a top destination for tourists.

In 2014, Academic Arrangements Abroad organized several educational tours that took place around the 25th anniversary of the collapse of Berlin Wall. One of our groups visited St. Mary’s Church to see an exhibition about Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic sermon there. Travelers on this journey also explored the iconic sights of post-reunification Berlin, including the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the original Wall covered with international paintings, and the Brandenburg Gate, meticulously restored since the reunification.

Image courtesy Hamburg tourism

Image of St. Michael’s courtesy of Hamburg tourism

This coming year, we’re exploring new parts of Germany. Join lecturer Olivier Bernier in June to discover Hamburg, the country’s biggest port, as well as enchanting small city of Hannover. In Hamburg, an architectural tour takes us past the great Art Deco businesses houses and to the Baroque St. Michael’s church. Discover the city’s museums including the Arts and Crafts Museum, with extraordinary objects ranging from medieval sculpture to a rich Art Nouveau collection, and the Bismarck Foundation Museum.

Image of Buddenbrook House by Andreas Geick

Image of Buddenbrook House by Andreas Geick

In the Hanseatic port city of Lubeck, visit St. Marein’s Church and Buddenbrook House, a literary museum devoted to Thomas Mann, before continuing to Schwerin to see its Baroque castle and lovely gardens. En route to Hannover, once the capital of a North German Electorate, stop to explore the enchanting town of Celle. Highlights in Hannover include a private tour of the perfectly restored gardens at Herrenhausen and visit to the city’s museums.

Herrenhauser gardens by Johannes D.

Herrenhauser gardens by Johannes D.

Academic Arrangements Abroad, together with leading cultural and educational institutions, is proud to offer a diverse portfolio of exceptional trips. For additional information, call us at (800) 221-1944 or email

11 Reasons to Sail the Black Sea this Fall


Painted church of Modovia by Remus Pereni

We’ve got new experts—and new reasons—to join
“Sailing the Black Sea Aboard Variety Voyager,” September 24 to October 7.

  1. Paul Kennedy, Yale Professor of History
    The Yale historian and best-selling author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, has joined as lecturer, bringing a global perspective to strategic issues in the region.
  2. Metropolitan Museum of Art Lecturer
    Elizabeth Milleker, for many years a curator of Greek and Roman art at the Met, will enhance our appreciation of the region’s treasure trove of art, architecture, and archaeology.
  3. The Painted Churches of Romania
    Discover the region’s vibrantly colored churches, painted by artists fleeing the 16th-century fall of Constantinople, on an exclusive excursion by privately chartered plane, including the Voronets Monastery, which has been called “the Sistine Chapel of the East.”
  5. History
    The shores of the Black Sea were colonized by the Greeks as early as 800 B.C.E. Roman rulers, Byzantine emperors, Ottoman sultans, and Russian tsars have all held sway here, reflected in the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites on our itinerary. This is also where Stalin summered (see his villa in Sochi, painted green for camouflage).
  6. Mystery
    The Black Sea is the legendary home of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts, and of the Amazon warrior women. Some scientists even believe it’s the site of the Great Flood described in the story of Noah’s Ark.
  7. Georgian Wines
    Wine has been produced in Georgia for more than 8,000 years. After setting sail from the country’s fin-de-siécle resort town of Batumi, we’ll enjoy a special tasting of Georgian reds and whites.
  8. Variety Voyager
    With just 36 cabins, our ship—the elegant Variety Voyager—offers the atmosphere, access, and pleasure of a private yacht.
  9. Amazing Vistas
    Drive into the Caucasus Mountains, which have been viewed as a dividing line between Asia and Europe and also contain Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus. With extensive areas of forests, the Western Caucasus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  10. harpist

    Anita Burroughs-Price

    Heavenly Harp Music
    Anita Burroughs-Price, principal harpist with the North Carolina Symphony, will join us aboard Variety Voyager to play melodies inspired by Constantinople and Eastern European composers.

  11. “Veni, Vidi, Vici”
    Julius Caesar wrote this famous phrase after his swift conquer of the formidable Kings of Pontus (whom we’ll learn all about during our tour of their capital city of Amasya, Turkey).

Sailing the Black Sea
Round-Trip Istanbul Aboard Variety Voyager

September 24 to October 7, 2015
From $9,995
No single supplement in all cabin categories!

Please click to download brochure

Rustem Pasha mosque

Rustem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul

Academic Arrangements Abroad, together with leading cultural and educational institutions, is proud to offer a diverse portfolio of exceptional trips.
Call us at (800) 221-1944 or email

We look forward to having you aboard!

14 Fascinating Facts & Figures About the Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago Albert Rodriguez

Camino de Santiago by Albert Rodriguez

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have walked the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), seeking penance, enlightenment, and adventure. Their destination was Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where it is believed the remains of St. James, Apostle and patron saint of the country, are buried. Here are some of our favorite facts and figures about the famous pilgrimage trail.

  1. Number of people each year who visit Santiago de Compostela (primarily by modes of transportation such as train, plane, etc): 2.5 million

  2. green valley next to pamplonaMost popular route: The Camino Frances, which begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and passes through Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Leon, and Astorga. The pilgrimage to Santiago concludes at the Tomb of Saint James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

  3. Length of Camino de Santiago from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela: 800 km (497 miles)

  4. Average time taken to walk this route: 30 days

  5. Camino shellThe scallop shell, commonly found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The shell is frequently seen along the trail to help guide pilgrims. In addition, pilgrims often wear shells or attach them to backpacks to denote that they are travelers on the famous trail.

  6. Santo Domingo de SilosHow do you document your pilgrimage? The official document used by pilgrims to record their journey to Santiago de Compostela is called a credencial. Pilgrims need to have at least two sellos (stamps) per day for at least the last 100 kilometers if they are walking or traveling on horseback, and 200 kilometers if they are cycling, to qualify for a Compostela.

  7. Number of Pilgrims who received the Compostela in 2013: 215,880

  8. Percentage of Pilgrims who were over 60 in 2013: 15.5%

  9. Percentage of pilgrims who received the Compostela by bicycle in 2013: 12.34%

  10. Number of pilgrims who received the Compostela by horse in 2013: 977

  11. Percentage of pilgrims in 2013 who were Spanish: approximately 49%

  12. Services offered by the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago de Compostela include: Welcoming pilgrims and issuing the Compostela, bicycle parking, toilets for pilgrims, and a service returning bicycles home.

  13. Capacity of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: 1,200

  14. Botafumiero courtesy Santiago de Compostela tourist boardSize of the Botafumiero: The famous Botafumiero, which is one of the largest censers in the world, weighs 80 kilograms (176 pounds) and is 1.60 meters (more than 5 feet) in height.

Want to hike along the Camino de Santiago? Join Academic Arrangements Abroad and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in August to explore the history, legends and legacy of Europe’s most famous walking trail. Additional tours are being organized in 2016.

Please call our office at 1-800-221-1944 for details and availability.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Forgotten Trip to Divided Berlin

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In September 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Cold War Berlin. He’d been invited by Willy Brandt, then the Mayor of West Berlin, to speak at the 14th annual cultural festival of the city. The famous clergyman’s whirlwind visit included a stop at the Berlin Wall, where an East German had escaped to the West the previous day, sparking a gun battle between East German border guards and U.S. soldiers.

Additionally, Dr. King crossed the border at Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. There, he preached to an excited crowd in the overflowing St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) at Alexander Square about African Americans’ struggle for civil rights in the United States. Although information about his appearance had only been made known by word of mouth, at least 1,000 people packed into the church. Later that night, Dr. King performed a second church service at Sophia Church (Sophienkirche) in East Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie“May I say that it is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth, “said Dr. King in the sermon.  “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”

Dr. King’s visit to Germany has been largely forgotten during recent years. However, his journey there and his message of non-violent social revolution inspired Germans on both sides of the Wall.  (Click here for a full transcript of the sermon.)

Berlin WallDuring our 2014 Berlin Wall trips, Academic Arrangements Abroad will visit St. Mary’s Church and see the current exhibition about Dr. King’s historic sermon there. Travelers on this exciting new program will also explore the iconic sights of post-reunification Berlin, including the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the original Wall covered with international paintings, and the Brandenburg Gate, meticulously restored since the reunification.

For additional details about the 2014 Berlin trips operated by Academic Arrangements Abroad, visit our website or call 800-221-1944.

The Mother of All Universities

By Anastasia Mills Healy

Those who know Italy well find it remarkable that no one they know has been to Bologna. A hidden gem, an undiscovered treasure…Call it what you will, but do put Emilia-Romagna on your itinerary. The tortellini de zucca, spaghetti alla bolognese and other regional specialties are worth the journey. Then there’s the lovely centro storico with porticoed walkways. But what has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to Bologna for nearly one thousand years is its university.

As the classes of 2012 from around the globe are spreading their wings, thoughts turn to higher education. Most agree that the University of Bologna was founded in 1088, which makes it the oldest in the Western world and gives credence to its motto, “Alma mater studiorum” (“Nourishing mother of studies”).

University of Bologna

Before the university was officially established, students hired professors and kept them accountable, which worked out very well. This gathering of eager students and highly motivated teachers evolved into a center of learning whose reputation for high quality tutelage was second to none.

Famous thinkers from a variety of fields who studied at the university include several who are known by one name – Dante, Petrarch, Copernicus – as well as the likes of Albrecht Dürer and Umberto Eco.

In some ways Bologna is a typical college town, full of young people, cafés and bookstores. In other ways, its unique history permeates everything. Today the campus includes many buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries and some dating even to the 15th century.


Take the Museo di Palazzo Poggi, the most interesting of the university’s museums. This imposing palace displays a fascinating array of wonders, including ancient Roman weapons, ship models dating to the 16th century and thousands of fossils, plants, minerals and other items now categorized as “natural history.” Don’t ignore the exquisite murals and architectural details throughout the palazzo. A perfect blending of art and science.

Note: Bologna was not damaged by a May 20th, 2012 earthquake whose epicenter was 22 miles northwest of the city.

Two of Antalya’s Classical Sites

By Anastasia Mills Healy

Situated in one of the many picturesque inlets of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is Antalya, gateway to the important cities from antiquity, Aspendos and Perge.

Antalya harbor

The main draw of Aspendos, approximately 30 miles east of Antalya, is its impressive 20,000-seat theater, which has presented everything from gladiator battles to recent opera and ballet performances. Built in the latter half of the first century C.E., it is exceptionally well preserved, beautifully proportioned and boasts excellent acoustics.  In the 13th century, the theater was converted into a palace by the Seljuk Turks, an act that in some ways preserved the structure by covering it with bricks.  In addition to the theater, seek out the remains of structures including a 50-foot-tall aqueduct and the nymphaeum (sanctuary to water nymphs).

Sarcophagus in Perge

Closer to Antalya is Perge, which was founded in 1,000 B.C.E. and is name-checked in none other than the Bible. According to the book of Acts, St. Paul visited Perge twice in 46 A.D., once giving a sermon there. After the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity, Perge became an important ecclesiastical city. But the vestiges of buildings here are mostly not related to religion. Instead, visitors can see a theater with wonderful marble reliefs detailing the life of Dionysus and a stadium with shops identifying their proprietors and wares with inscriptions. The Pergeans enjoyed their shopping: In addition to an agora (marketplace), Perge also had the precursor to an outdoor mall. A covered walkway once housed shops on both sides of a long reflecting pool that acted as air-conditioning.

Back in the city, don’t miss the Antalya Museum, which has a sizeable and excellent collection of statuary from Perge in addition to ancient coins, icons, mosaics and much more.

The Stone Beauty

By Anastasia Mills Healy

The word “Trogir” sounds like the name of a fearsome Tolkien troll king and its ancient Greek meaning, “isle of goats,” does it no favors either. But the Croatian town of Trogir enchants visitors with its small island charm and meticulously preserved buildings that tell its 2,300-year history.

The Greeks first settled this island in the third century B.C.E. and its nearly uninterrupted human occupation since, with architectural vestiges from many eras of rule (including Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian), earned this delightful spot a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is unusual to find a gathering of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, all beautifully maintained, within such a small radius. But Trogir is not only remarkable for its edifices: urban planners are fascinated by how the streets still follow their original grid and that its two main roads have been in use since the town began.

Trogir city view

Meander through Trogir’s narrow, winding streets, lined with churches and palaces. Of particular note is the main square with its medieval loggia and clock tower, the graceful façade of Cipko Palace and the pièce de resistance, St. Lawrence Cathedral.  The cathedral’s western door is an outstanding Romanesque work by the famous Croatian architect and sculptor Radovan. Study his masterful carvings: scenes from the Nativity, the life of Christ, and Adam and Eve on either side of the door, both perched on lions.

After exploring the highlights of Trogir, linger over a coffee, an ice cream or a lunch of freshly caught fish at one of the cafes dotting the waterfront promenade. As you sit back and admire the homes and streets built from ancient sun-soaked stones, with their exquisite architectural details, you will understand why locals call Trogir “The Stone Beauty.”