ARMCHAIR TRAVEL ARCHIVE

Here you can find recordings of all the previous online events

Armchair travel: Moorish architecture

In Al-Andalus, the Islamic kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula that lasted nearly 800 years, the ruling Muslims created some of the most spectacularly beautiful architecture ever seen in Western Europe. In 1492 the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel,
brought this kingdom to an end, when they completed the Christian reconquest of Spain. This was the same year that they sent Columbus on his historic journey, triggering the Golden Age of Spain, and the distinctive style of Spanish art which then
followed.

The talk will cover three of the most iconic examples of Moorish architecture – the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the Alcazar of Seville and the Alhambra of Granada.

Mr Ian Cockburn, a specialist in medieval Spanish art history and Dr Jacqueline Cockburn, a specialist in the Spanish Golden Age will lead the Moorish architecture trip in September 2022.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/dH2-DCfWdkM

Armchair travel: Discover the how, where and why of the aurora

If you are lucky enough to see a display of the Northern Lights in a clear dark sky, it's an experience never to be forgotten. Sometimes seen as wide ribbons or billowing curtains stretching across the sky, or sparkling and flashing swirls above your
head, this is a phenomenon that has entranced and fascinated observers for thousands of years.

In this highly illustrated talk Dr Carolin Crawford (Camb) will discuss the how, where and why of the aurora, and the variety of shapes and structures they can form. She'll explain how their occurrence is intimately related to the Sun's activity and the
Earth's magnetic field - leading to the charged particles of the Solar wind exciting atoms and molecules in our atmosphere to release light as these stunning displays. This talk is organised by Hurtigruten who will be arranging the alumni tour to Norway with
Dr Crawford. 

Armchair travel: The vanishing kingdoms of the Himalayas

The Himalayas are the highest mountains on Earth and one of the most spectacular, dotted with sacred peaks, ancient monasteries and cliff-hanging temples. This lecture will focus on the art and culture of the Buddhist areas that lie along this mountain
chain, the spiritual domain of Tibetan culture and religion stretching 2000 miles from Ladakh in the west to Bhutan in the east. Most of these areas were at one time kingdoms or principalities, but today the only Buddhist kingdom that remains is Bhutan.
What shaped and inspired the culture of these different areas - Ladakh, Zanskar, Lahoul, Spiti, Nepal, Mustang, Sikkim and Bhutan; and what if any are the cultural characteristics that distinguish one area from another? And will Bhutan be able to
survive as a kingdom? This broad ranging lecture will be given by Himalayan Cultural historian Zara Fleming, who has travelled extensively in the region following her first visit in 1973. Since 2006, Zara has accompanied over ten journeys for the
alumni to the Himalayas.

This talk is part of the Oxford and Cambridge Universities Alumni Travel Programme and is organised by Distant Horizons who will be arranging the alumni tour to Bhutan with Zara.

Armchair travel: The origins of dinosaurs

Our September Armchair Travel event will delve into the latest evidence for the origins of dinosaurs, in what is now South America. Professor Paul Barrett will discuss how dinosaurs became some of the most successful land animals of all time and plot
their evolutionary journey from starting as small, rare animals living in the shadows of many other early reptiles in what is now Argentina and Brazil, to going on to dominate the Earth.  

Professor Barrett is the Natural History Museum's senior dinosaur specialist and a world-leading expert on the evolution and biology of dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles. He has previously held the position of Departmental Lecturer in the Department
of Zoology at Oxford and is a frequent contributor to dinosaur-related news in the media, most recently on Channel 5's World of Wonder series. Professor Barrett will also be accompanying next year's alumni trip to Argentina

Armchair travel: What does architecture tell us about the Russians?

For July’s Armchair Travel event, we are delighted to welcome Professor Alexei Leporc, Curator of Western European Art at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Alexei was previously Professor of 15th to 20th century West European Art and Architecture
at St Petersburg European University, and is a regular and popular face on our annual St Petersburg alumni tour.

Alexei will explore Russian architecture against a social, artistic, economic and political panorama, questioning whether architectural heritage plots a nation's history or shapes its culture and examining the relationship between national character and
national architecture. He will even ask whether the age old canonical forms such as onion domes, hipped roofs and non-stop ornamentation are actually Russian.

Armchair travel: Lost cities of Ancient Caria

This month’s Armchair Travel event will take us to the Carian and Lycian coasts of western Turkey. Beyond the glorious crystal blue waters, this area boasts an extraordinary tapestry of traces of past civilisations. Professor Richard Hunter will introduce
this part of the Mediterranean, focussing on two themes in particular: Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) as a city of writing and myth, and Knidos, where Praxiteles' famous' statue of the naked Aphrodite attracted both visitors and a rich body of legend.

Professor Hunter has been Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge since 2001. His research interests include Hellenistic and Roman poetry, ancient literary criticism and Greek literature and religion.

Armchair travel: Kipling - How the writer found his voice

Join Dr Sarah Shaw for our next instalment of the Armchair Travel series as she looks at how the influences of Kipling’s own childhood, and his passion for Indian culture and life contributed to the formation of his great children’s classics. The talk
will explore how his encounters with animals and the natural environment in India, his longstanding love for the country’s oral story traditions, as well as the sounds of the jungle and his Ayah’s soothing voice offered great inspiration for his tales
about Mowgli, Shere Khan and Baloo.

Dr Sarah Shaw is a Faculty Member at the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford and an Honorary Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. One of her key research interests is Indian and Asian influences on British nineteenth century writers.

Armchair travel: A Himalayan adventure - Nepal's rocks and temples

Nepal is home not only to the spectacular mountains and rock formations of the Himalayas, but also to a complex mix of Hindu and Buddhist cultures going back 2,000 years or more. Our very own Professor David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology,
and Professor Mike Searle, Professor of Earth Sciences, are teaming up to give an anthropological and geological perspective of Nepal ahead of their alumni tour there later this year.

David will introduce the rich Hindu-Buddhist civilization of the Kathmandu Valley and the fascinating Tibetan Buddhist kingdom of Mustang. Mike will then dive into the geological history of the Himalayas, in particular the spectacular geology of the Annapurna
Range and Kali Gandaki gorge.

Armchair travel: Central Balkans - past and present

This armchair travel instalment takes us to the Central Balkans where we will explore its complex but fascinating history and cultures. Nirvana Romell is a native of Dalmatia and is a lecturer in Balkan art and history. She has accompanied many alumni
tours over the years and will be the trip scholar on our trip to North Macedonia in the autumn.

Nirvana’s talk will focus on ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, explaining the socio-historical background of numerous political divisions. It will also introduce some of the key monuments of this melting pot of Slavic, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, Habsburg
and other heritages, where art and culture serve as a bridge in national and political divisions.

This event is being run and organised by Distant Horizons, who have been organising alumni tours for us for over 20 years.

Armchair travel: Fire and fury in Iceland

Join Cambridge’s Professor Robert (Bob) White as he explains how the geologically youthful Iceland has grown above the plate tectonic rift between North America and Europe in the centre of the Atlantic Ocean by successive paroxysms of
often violent, and always spectacular volcanic eruptions. Bob is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.  He will be accompanying a tour to Iceland later this year as part
of the Oxford Journeys travel programme.

In 2014, Bob and his team were fortunate to capture the largest eruption in Iceland since 1775 by tracking the molten rock as it travelled laterally for 50 km underground at a depth of 6 km before erupting in central Iceland. He will describe his work
in one of the remotest areas on earth tracking the molten rock, with videos of the eruption and advancing lava flows taken from within touching distance. A preview of Bob’s work can be viewed here.

 

Armchair travel: Curious physicists

Join Professor Roger Davies, Philip Wetton Professor of Astrophysics & Director of the Hintze Centre for Astrophysical Surveys, as he explains how the 2020 recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics showed that black holes were predicted
by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and how they were able to demonstrate the existence of such a super-massive black hole at the heart of our own galaxy. This talk coincided with a total solar eclipse crossing Chile and Argentina.

This event was hosted by the tour operator Last Frontiers who is organising the 2021 Astronomy & Wine tour to Argentina which will be accompained
by Professor Davies. 

 

Armchair travel: Curious naturalists

Professor Nick Davies (Camb) takes us on a journey to some of the biodiversity hotspots of South and Central America, wild and wonderful places with amazing wildlife. He explains how the curiosity and evolutionary ideas of early naturalists
are still an inspiration for travellers and scientists today.

This event was hosted by the tour operator Last Frontiers who is organising the 2022 Wildlife of Peru tour which will be accompanied by Professor Nick Davies.