Private Jet: Ancient Crossroads of Eurasia. April 2011. 23 Days.
The ancient Greeks were the first to scratch their heads wondering where, exactly, the division fell between Europe and Asia. The debate continues.
Join us on Ancient Crossroads of Eurasia, an international Private Jet Journey that is a round-up of the personalities, places, and passions that define this lesser-known region of the world map.
Europe first. We gather in Helsinki, Finland. Then we’re off to Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. Its history reflects its geographic position at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin, and Slavic cultures.
On a guided tour, we visit Lake Bled, Slovenia, a glacial wonder surrounded by mountains and thick forests. Romanesque Bled Castle, on the north shore, dates back to the 11th century.
Our private jet then wings its way to Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Mostar, an ancient bridge, recently restored by UNESCO, stands as a symbol of international reconciliation. Peruse the Ottoman Quarter and more before we depart for Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital city. It's known for a centuries-old traditional of religious diversity.
Lebanon, next. We split our time between Beirut, Tripoli, Byblos, and Baalbek. Beirut's National Museum has a splendid collection of Phoenician art and artifacts. Lebanese Tripoli boasts an authentic Crusaders' fortress built in 1101. And we have the scribes of Byblos to thank for our own modern alphabet—not to mention Egyptian temples, wonderful old churches, a royal necropolis, and much more. Baalbek's Roman temples amaze us. Their state of preservation alone is enough to justify our trip here. Finally, at Lebanon's oldest winery, taste the dry red, and tour the natural cave cellars.
Into Syria. Touch down in Damascus, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The wealth of historic remnants here is something else. But before we dig into Damascus, we're off to experience Palmyra, mighty center of trade on the legendary Silk Road. Here we see some of the finest Roman ruins in the Middle East. Enjoy a private, traditional Syrian feast held under a Bedouin tent.
En route back to Damascus, tour a Crusaders’ castle circa 1142. The mix of architecture here speaks volumes about the history within.
There is plenty to see in Damascus, including a seventh-century mosque that houses the remains of John the Baptist. Meander through the city's colorful souk.
We fly now to Saudi Arabia. Land in Al Ula, convenient to the UNESCO site of Madain Saleh, where well-preserved Nabataean rock-hewn tombs and monuments (first century B.C.) and even older cave drawings grab our attention. The spectacular site sits on what was once a busy caravan trade route.
Sip tea with the local residents. Watch the sun set over the desert.
Small-group touring allows us to poke around Al Ula's unique 13th-century mud-brick village and a local museum before we fly out to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, bustling pilgrimage stop for those traveling to Mecca. The Museum of Adbul Rauf Hassan Khalil is our classroom, offering up an outstanding private collection of Saudi artifacts. As an alternative to Saudi Arabia, remain in Syria and tour the ancient city of Aleppo, including the Aleppo Citadel, the National Museum, the St. Simeon Citadel, and the Great Mosque.
No discussion of the ties between Europe and Asia is complete without a word about the legendary Silk Road, an conduit for cultural, commercial, and technological exchanges between traders, merchants, pilgrims, and others as they traveled between Eastern and Western countries.
Which goes a long way to explaining the significance of the Silk Road trading hub of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, traditional home of Tajik merchants. In Registan Square, the very heart of the ancient city, we tour some of the finest examples of classical Islamic architecture found anywhere.
Over the Caspian Sea by air, we land in Tbilisi, Georgia, ancient Caucasus metropolis. Here, the question comes into play: Are we in Europe or central Asia? (Or, to complicate matters, the Middle East?) Never mind. The city has its own unique culture. Other destinations in Georgia? Mtskheta, Georgia's ancient capital city known for its Jvari Monastery; Uplistsikhe, an ancient cave town laced with incredible remains; and Gori, the town of Josef Stalin’s birth. If you prefer, skip some of the above sites, and instead make the trip to Georgia's Kakheti Wine Region tucked into the Caucasus Mountains.
Then one of our favorite cities: Budapest, Hungary. Stroll historic boulevards, visit Fisherman's Bastion, St. Stephen's, Buda Castle, the Great Synagogue, and more.
From Budapest, it’s a short local flight to Bucovina, Romania. Tour incredible and unusual frescoed Byzantine monasteries recognized by UNESCO. Alternatively, tour more of Hungary, or take an excursion to Bratislava, Slovakia.
Back in Budapest, celebrate a journey well done before winging back to Helsinki to catch your commercial flight home, a map of Europe and Asia in hand.
Please note: On this journey, R. Crusoe & Son partners with TCS & Starquest Expeditions, and Crusoe travelers share the private jet with other, non-Crusoe travelers.
To request a detailed itinerary for this journey (and others), click here.