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The Great Courses Series, "The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, From Athens To Istanbul"

I just finished watching (via the Kanopy streaming service, free through my local public library) the Great Courses series of 24 videos titled, "The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul"). The course is also available from The Great Courses company itself. TGC offers streaming for a monthly fee, but there's also a free trial period. These videos averaged about 31 minutes each.

As always, the lecturer is a college professor, in this case a professor of archaeology. The course was excellent but it is, as one might expect, very heavily focused on ancient and classical archaeological sites, especially in Greece. The Turkish segments (about 1/3 of the running time) extend into the Byzantine period and later.

I am not much interested in ancient/classical sites (an understatement), so I didn't find the Greek content terribly worthwhile for myself (though, again, it was well-presented). But for the more typical tourist heading to Greece, I believe the course would be very worthwhile. I took a lot more notes from the Turkish episodes, partly because I was just less knowledgeable about Turkey to begin with.

One quibble: the closed captions defaulted "On", and I saw some blatant errors before I eventually turned them off. Most were just homonyms (most frequently "sight" vs. "site"), but "Ataturk" was twice rendered as "Atat", and one reference to the island of Paros showed up as "Piraeus", which could be problematic for the uninformed. Overall, the captions were too good to have been machine-generated, so I was surprised to see all those errors creeping in.

I've been dipping into the another Great Courses travel-related series, "The Great Tours: England, Scotland and Wales", and it is not so single-mindedly focused on one particular type of tourism.

Posted by
1386 posts

Thanks. That looks really interesting. I’ll have to see whether it’s available via my library here in the UK.


Posted by
472 posts

This one was our first Great Course, prep for a trip, loved it. Now we watch random courses for entertainment/enlightenment, with, yup, the occasional eye-rolls of caption errors, but overall terrific productions & food for future travel dreams. Different presenters have different styles, some drier, some enthusiastic, they're professors :)

Posted by
850 posts

The series on medieval cities of Europe is excellent.

Posted by
2488 posts

We purchased on sale "The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales" and have been watching it. We are enjoying it very much as the professor from Emory actually was born in England and is quite personable. He adds personal antidotes such as when he was at Stonehenge at 7 and you could go up and walk between the stones. He also tells you his opinion, which is not always kind, but useful as certainly not everything is wonderful and beautiful!

I looked up the series you are recommending above, as we have traveled to Greece and would love to go to Turkey someday, and it was over $200! Then I decided to see if my library has the Kanopy streaming service you referred to and much to my surprise it does! So I am going to try that and I thank you very much for the information. I had never heard of it.

Posted by
27041 posts

A third option for those whose libraries don't offer Kanopy is the monthly streaming subscription offered by The Great Courses. You'd have to check to be sure what you want is available in that format, but you could subscribe for many months for less than the cost of an outright $200 purchase.

Posted by
919 posts

As acraven knows, one of the Washington, DC area PBS stations is running the England, Scotland, Wales Great Courses right now. I agree with Beth that the lecturer is personable, and the series delves into details about the Industrial Revolution, waterways, smaller industrial towns—the type of places and history not covered in your typical guidebook. The episode on Wales was, well, great. I like the personal photos mixed with professional slides, and the “although most visitors go to X, you may want to consider seeing Y because...” comments. Great to have the professor’s perspective! So, I haven’t seen the Greece and Turkey series but can attest that the UK series is worthwhile.