Windstar Cruises – 180° from Ordinary

by Barbara Broadbent

A few year ago, Ian and I enjoyed a wonderful week in the Mediterranean on Windstar’s Windsurf, a 5-mast luxury yacht. We sailed from Venice down the east coast of the Adriatic, ending in Athens.

Windstar’s award-winning service gives you the ability to choose, so you can enjoy what you like, when you like and with whom you like. Unusual and enchanting ports offer you glimpses through history, so you can make the most of your time ashore. Then return to your welcoming yacht to be pampered by the incredible crew. You can have a gourmet dinner, listen to the strains of festive live music, visit the WindSpa, browse the book and DVD library, enjoy the deep comforts of your oceanview stateroom, or stand on deck watching your latest port slip away into the sunset.

History comes alive in captivating Croatia. Our first stop was Pula, the largest city in Istria. Many buildings of the Roman period have survived, such as the 1st century Roman amphitheatre – the sixth largest in the world. Over the years inhabitants have been the Illyrians, Romans, Slavs, Venetians, the Hapsburg Monarchy, Austrian Empire and, in 1918, taken over by Italy. The area provides great diving opportunities, as well as walking and cycling routes.

Next stop was Trogir, founded in the 3rd century BC by Greek colonists. It developed into a major port during the Roman period. Again, over the centuries many countries were in power and, finally after wartime occupation by Italy, it was liberated in 1944. Trogir is the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex in all of Central Europe. One of the side trips while in port here was to Split, the second largest city in Croatia, and the heart of the Dalmatian coast. Facing the harbour, Diocletian’s Palace is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence, a military fortress, imperial residence and fortified town.

The last port in Croatia was Dubrovnik, whose story dates back to the 7th century. By the end of the 12th century, Dubrovnik had become an important trading centre on the coast, providing an important link between the Mediterranean and the Baltic states. Centuries of peace and prosperity allowed art, science and literature to flourish. A great earthquake of 1667 left the city in ruins, and killed more than 5000 people. Napoleon and his troops entered the city in 1806 and declared an end to the republic. The great city walls, built between the 13th and 16th centuries, are still intact and considered to be the fi nest in the world.

We then enjoyed a day at sea where we sailed further down the coast, taking in the Grecian countryside. We were able to raise the sails part of this time, and that is indeed a wonderful sight. The first Greek port was Pylos, a charming small town in a picturesque natural bay. The pleasant tree-shaded main square with its statues and cafes, and cobblestone side streets, make it hard to realize that some extremely bloody battles took place in the bay over the years. More than 6000 Ottoman sailors were butchered in what proved to be one of the critical battles in the Greek War of Independence.

Monemvasia is a well-known medieval fortress with an adjacent town, located on a small peninsula off the coast of the Peloponesse, linked to the mainland by a short causeway 535 feet in length. Its nickname is the “Gibraltar of the East” or the “Rock.” The town was protected by a fortified bridge carried on 13 arches, by a castle on top of the rock and by a circuit wall which descended from the top of the hill, swung round along the seafront, and up the hill again (thus enclosing the town on 3 sides). The city today is dedicated to tourism.

And so, our journey ended in Piraeus, port for Athens, which brought sad farewells, wonderful memories to savour later, new friends to contact another time and a wealth of knowledge acquired about this captivating area of the world.