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The MEDITERRANEAN

The MEDITERRANEAN Uncover architectural and historic treasures, and sample the region’s delicious cuisine on a culturally enriching voyage through these “must-see” areas of the Mediterranean 38 VIKING.COM EXPLORE MORE 2020

MEDITERRANEAN HISTORY For more than 5,000 years, the Mediterranean has been at the center of history (its name literally means “amid land,” or “the center of earth”). Some of the earliest civilizations were born in the middle of the Mediterranean region on one of its largest islands, the Greek island of Crete. Crete and Greece as a whole form an integral part of Mediterranean history, as the ancient Greeks set out to establish colonies across modern Europe and North Africa, with settlements everywhere from France to Sicily and even Crimea. The birthplace of democracy, Athens’s influence spread across the sea, and following Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire Athenians established modern-day Greece, the Middle East and Egypt as Greek speaking, which they would remain until their ultimate annexation by the Romans. This Roman Republic became an empire that ruled every corner of the Mediterranean, or Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”). The legacy of the Romans can be felt everywhere in Europe, with ruins, roads and, of course, aqueducts, but also the more subtle legacy of Latin, the root of most widely spoken languages in Europe. The empire split and Rome declined, with the West ultimately falling in 476 AD, but the Roman Empire lived on in the East, centered around the “Queen of Cities,” Constantinople (now Istanbul). This was the greatest city in the world until it was besieged in 1204 by the Crusaders, who set about capturing, looting and destroying parts of it. Istanbul was also split by faith—between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, a difference that becomes apparent the farther east you go. The Holy Land is a feature of the Mediterranean and includes Israel, which became a state in 1948. You can trace the routes taken by Crusaders who sailed from Europe into what is now modern-day Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and fought against the Islamic world for nearly 200 years. Britain took the Suez Canal in the 1800s and established control over Egypt. British rule over Gibraltar continues today, and its control of Malta, Gibraltar and the Suez was instrumental in the defeat of Benito Mussolini’s Italy and his German allies during World War II. Recent history has seen the birth of dozens of new countries; today, the Mediterranean remains a strong symbol of possibility and freedom around the world. ARCHITECTURE The Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by 22 different countries and territories. As a result, the architecture of the area is often diverse. However, the varying architectural styles do share some similarities due to the climate and Clockwise, from above: The Erechtheion Porch at the Acropolis, Athens; Plaza de España in Seville, Spain; Viking Sea sails past Dubrovnik conditions. While there are large disparities among settlements on the Mediterranean coasts, there are certain defining features that distinguish the architecture of the region. Throughout its history, this sea coast has always been vulnerable to influences from the outer areas by means of maritime trade and migration. All these influences— combined with regional styles, the natural environment, the use of locally available building materials and a certain way of life—have led to a recognizable architectural style. There are exceptions, but these are the key elements to look out for: • High ceilings, which allow for proper ventilation, light and flow. • Stucco, which is often used to protect and decorate exterior walls. • Arches for entrances are popular, as are roofed patio spaces. • Courtyards and fountains are both decorative and useful. CULTURE Each country in the Mediterranean has its own distinctive traditions, and certain traits are common across the region. For example, the balmy climate and long, hot summers mean that many people tend to rise early in the morning, and eat and socialize late into the evening. And sharing meals and local wines is an important part of the lifestyle. Mediterranean countries are home to some of the finest art in the world, from the sculptures and mosaics of ancient Greece and Rome, to the paintings of the Renaissance and the impressionists, to the flamenco of southern Spain and world-famous theaters, operas and cinemas. EXPLORE MORE 2020 VIKING.COM 39