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The Great Courses: Experiencing Medieval Europe

I’ve just finished watching The Great Courses’ “Experiencing Medieval Europe”. I really enjoyed it and think many other travelers would, too. There are 24 episodes covering the cities listed below, all of which fill two episodes (just over 30 minutes each) except as noted:

Introduction (one episode)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Germany; one episode)
Mdina (Malta)
Palermo (Sicily)
York (England)
Avignon (France)
Carcassonne (France)
Barcelona (Spain)
Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Krakow (Poland)
Prague (Czech Republic)
Bruges (Belgium)
Siena (Italy)

The photos/videos of each covered building were sufficient for me to decide whether I’d find them visually interesting, and I believe the historical background offered would do the same for more history-focused travelers. The instructor’s delivery was engaging. My one nitpick was that not all the sights were labeled on the screen, so I’m going to have to do some digging in guidebooks or on the internet to figure out the correct spelling in order to identify some of them accurately in my notes.

I streamed the course by using my library’s Kanopy account. Kanopy was discussed in this earlier forum thread: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/books-movies/kanopy-streaming-service. The Great Courses can also be purchased individually from the company itself (https://www.thegreatcourses.com). Alternatively (and I think more cheaply), one can stream them through The Great Courses Plus via a membership or subscribe to the company's offerings through Amazon Prime (and possibly other pathways?). It appears there’s a one-week free trial now being offered through Amazon Prime.

I’ve also watched two of the company’s other specifically travel-related courses and found them worthwhile: “The Great Tours: England, Scotland and Wales” and “The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, Athens to Istanbul”. The British course has 36 episodes and takes a variety of approaches: by historical era, by geographical area and by topic.

Posted by
18905 posts

I see there's one on France available through Kanopy that I didn't notice before: "The Great Tours: France Through the Ages". I haven't looked to see whether there are additional travel series Kanopy doesn't have. There are definitely several on photography that might be useful for travelers.

Posted by
6337 posts

I'm watching this course right now too. Also liked the one called The Story of Medieval England. The first course I watched on Kanopy was the tour of France,it was very good also.

Posted by
4879 posts

We have visited all the places you listed except Carcassonne and Malta. Great choices, but there are more cities in Europe with a large Medieval imprint. The Romantic Road in Germany includes Rothenberg ob der Tauber, but also Dinkelsbuhl, Donauwurth and more. Nuremburg has that imprint, but much it was rebuilt after WWII. Lucca, Florence and Sienna have great Reniassance era buildings, which are close to the Medieval period.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks for this info. I just ordered it from our local library. They have copies of many of the Great Courses!

Posted by
1758 posts

Thank you for this post. I never heard of this service but our Columbus Metropolitan Libary does indeed participate. I have only just signed up, but it appears we may view 7 films per month and unlimited Great Courses (also unlimited kid’s version of Kanopy).
One more reason why I love this website and appreciate the vast range of help and information everyone provides. Be safe and happy new year.

Posted by
1783 posts

Funny, I was just on the GreatCourses website yesterday and almost purchased the France course. I still want it, but I am in the midst of another project now, so decided to wait a bit.
The course was on sale.
Is it free to watch on Kanopy?

Posted by
18905 posts

Libraries are free to set their own rules, but they pay Kanopy based on usage, so there will usually be a (calendar) monthly limit. In Washington DC the limit is 6 films and two Great Courses. The way the Great Courses worked for me (which I assume is standard but cannot confirm) is that the course counted against my quota in the month when I began it (November). Continuing to watch it in December didn't count as one of my two courses for this month. So in December I was able to finish watching one course and watch two additional full courses.

Another tip: You can play the video at 1.5 times normal speed. I was having to pause the video and back up often in order to take notes, so speeding it up helped me get through the package in a reasonable amount of time. I do that when I'm watching recorded documentaries on TV, too, though there my options are either 1.3x or 1.4x speed (both better than 1.5x).

Posted by
6337 posts

I think all libraries may differ. I'm lucky, I get 10 movie credits a month and unlimited Great Courses. It's a great benefit from your library if you get it.

Posted by
1128 posts

@Denny. I’m originally from Columbus and remember checking out The Great Courses back in the VHS and cassette tape era from the main library.

I have The Great Courses Plus subscription now and it’s great. It really is a great travel planner, the history and art lectures are excellent travel planners and then there’s the courses designed specifically for travel

Posted by
773 posts

I highly recommend this course! It's quiet well done and the instructor is one of the better ones in their series. I think there's perhaps more historical information that could be added, but I learned something from every episode, even those for the cities I know pretty well.

While not specifically a tour program, the course on "Palace's - the Architecture of Power" is eye opening if you're into the why those huge buildings are built and how the layout changes with local politics and cultures.

Posted by
503 posts

Thank you for this! I had no idea this existed and have found plenty of courses to keep me busy!

Posted by
11798 posts

Thanks. This sounds interesting. Now I have to see what I can get through my library (Fairfax County)? I just changed counties so I have to start from scratch. Everything is shut down or severely limited these days so I haven't signed up for my new library card yet. Hope I can do it online.

Posted by
1783 posts

CuriosityStream is another wonderful programming option. Subscription for $2.99 per month. My husband and I are not into sitcoms or reality shows and have found plenty to watch on this programming option. Our favorite so far, is Art Of The Heist. Right now we are watching The French Revolution.
I found out about it on this forum!

Posted by
364 posts

Libraries are free to set their own rules, but they pay Kanopy based on usage, so there will usually be a (calendar) monthly limit. In Washington DC the limit is 6 films and two Great Courses. <<

We have no limits whatsoever on borrowing Great Courses videos and audios through the Massachusetts library system. The Boston Public Library has more than 400 of the Great Courses audio courses, easily downloadable and free.

Posted by
503 posts

Thank you Acraven for this! I had no idea my library had this and have now enjoyed the first three lectures on Experiencing Medieval Europe!