Starting a company after years of training as a classical scholar is something of an adventure in itself. This is what Via Antiqua CEO Dr. Anke Tietz decided to do after finishing her Classics PhD at Yale and working in excavations at the Xanthos valley in Turkey for a year. Classical learning has always gone hand in hand with travel. From the days of the Grand Tour, when English gentlemen of the 18th century would go on what can only be described as a high-class gap year to discover the stunning remains of ancient civilizations from Rome, Greece and Turkey, until now that Classics departments the world around put together study trips and treks.
It’s one thing conveying our knowledge about ancient culture through the medium of academic articles and classes. It’s another starting up a tours operator that aims to incorporate high-quality educational offerings into the leisure and excitement of vacation trips! It’s been a huge learning curve full of entrepreneurial seminars and industry mentoring sessions, drawing up a team of media wizzards, business experts and hospitality contacts as well as, of course, historians and classicists, out of a big handful of Classical Studies alumni.
Melanie Heinle, an archaeologist from our team, has written a brand new guide book for the Lycian Way, an ancient hiking trail in Turkey, and we based our tour schedule on her incredibly detailed knowledge. And then, thanks to the Yale connections, we have many learned friends in museums, academies and historical sites around the world whom we work with to open doors that would normally stay closed to the public.
But we were wary of those run-of-the-mill sightseeing tours offered to most people, and wanted to build something immersive and challenging, like a grand-scale treasure hunt for travelers unafraid of clambering down age-old, forlorn grave shafts with a torch in hand, and find art works that haven’t been sighted since they were last described in an out-of-print book in the early 1900s – travelers who can find their way out of fabled mazes, and who want to see mysterious sculptures in the middle of nowhere, that even historians can’t quite explain. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. We really think it’s about time that historical travel was shaken up and mixed with psychological time-travel, adventure feelings, and outdoor sports!
We’re brimming with ideas, and can’t wait to be inspired and learn lots of new things from our time at the Adventure Travel World Summit next week, where we’ve also booked in to a magical boating trip to the Skellig Islands.