Port of Call
In Pics IV: European Ports of Call, Sep 1, 2013
Peace Boat stopped at a total of ten European ports on its 80th voyage around the world, beginning with Limassol in Cyprus and ending with a day on the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira. This proved to be a colourful and enriching adventure for participants, a large proportion of whom were visiting Europe for the first time. As well as taking part in and having the opportunity to meet local people through Peace Boat's renowned study and exchange programmes, participants also sampled new cuisines, haggled for souvenirs and visited famous historic monuments. The below series of photographs provide a brief overview of the passage that Peace Boat traced across Europe.

Limassol, Cyprus – GET teacher Ishida Keiko gives a big smile for the camera in the Cypriot city of Limassol. On the day of the ship's arrival, most of the locals were spending time with their families as part of a national holiday, leaving participants free to roam the quiet streets of the city and spend time at the island's stunning beaches. On the 80th Voyage there are 11 GET teachers onboard, for whom the ports in Europe represented an opportunity for rest and relaxation after a busy few weeks onboard. The GET programme – which stands for Global English/ Espanol Training Programme – organizes English and Spanish language progammes both onboard the ship and in Japan, with a focus on building participants' skills and confidence in oral communication.

Kusadasi, Turkey – A Turkish busker strums on his guitar in Kusadasi on the Aegean Sea. This laidback city was an Aladdin's cave of souvenirs and local handicrafts, from mosaics and ceramics to hanging lanterns and hand woven rugs. Many participants who did not want to spend their time bartering for goods instead travelled to Ephesus, one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era, where visitors can still sit on the steps of the giant amphitheatre and wander down long marble avenues lined by majestic pillars. Meanwhile, in the nearby rural region of Sirince, other participants taking part in the exchange programme "Exchange with Turkish Youth" had the opportunity to share their culture and customs with local young people, and learn more about the rural way of life in Turkey.

Piraeus, Greece – High up on a windy hill overlooking Greece's capital city of Athens, Peace Boat participant Evgeniya Shpot, from Russia, explores the Acropolis, which was erected in the years 437 – 432 BC and was for centuries the city's most important religious centre. Athens was only a short train ride from Piraeus, where Peace Boat docked, which meant that participants were able to travel to see the many ancient ruins still scattered across the city. "I have a really strong memory of seeing a picture of the Caryatids [six maiden figures supporting the porch of an Ionic temple on the north side of the hill] in my school textbook when I was younger," Evgeniya recalled. "It's so strange and exciting to be seeing them with my own eyes, all these many years later."

Valletta, Malta – The breathtaking sight of Malta's capital city of Valletta greeted participants as Peace Boat approached the shore. The city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, and with its golden houses, streets and cathedrals dating from the 16th Century, it was easy to see why. The steep narrow backstreets were perfect for exploring and café-hopping, though some participants preferred to head off to the other side of the small island of Malta, where they learnt about the traditional way of life in old fishing villages such as Marsaxlokk, and visited the ancient city of Mdina.

Civitavecchia, Italy – As Peace Boat travels around the world, it aims to engage in dialogue and share its stories, lessons and messages with a wide variety of people. In Civitavecchia, Italy, two Youth Ambassadors from Ishinomaki, one of the areas worst affected by the tsunami that struck East Japan in March 2011, gave testimonies about their experiences of the disaster in front of an attentive audience, along with the team from the Global Hibakusha Project, who talked about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. In addition to a number of media representatives, members of the general public and naval officers, the event was also attended by the Mayor of Civitavecchia, who thanked Peace Boat for its continued commitment to spreading a message of peace. "The city of Civitavecchia is proud of its longstanding relationship with Peace Boat," he said. "I am moved by the stories I have heard today, and I want you to know that we are taking these messages seriously."

Monaco – Tourists queue up outside the Prince's Palace to see the changing of the guards in Monaco. Marking the half-way point of the journey through the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco – the second largest independent state after the Vatican – represented an ideal place to unwind after a frenetic week spent travelling from port to port. Participants were able to take in some famous sights in this glamorous location, including Monaco Cathedral, where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer were married, and the Grand Casino, where a number of James Bond films have been set.

Marseilles, France – Roman, a French man living in Provence-en-Peyrolles, holds up a piece of paper that displays his name in kanji characters. Participants were taking part in the study programme "Future Energy in France", in which they learnt about the activities of Le Loubatas, an organisation dedicated to environmental education. Roman, an IT technician living close to Le Loubatas, told participants about how he has been trying to build his own eco-house for the last five years. "I'd underestimated how difficult it would be. I'm still living in a caravan now, but I'm getting there." During a tasty vegetarian meal, Roman and some of the staff members at Le Loubatas were also asked by participants to write messages of support for the people in Ishinomaki, which will be Peace Boat's last Port of Call before Yokohama.

Barcelona, Spain - Tapas was the order of the day in the characterful Catalonian city of Barcelona. The unique designs of architect Antoni Gaudì, the bustling markets and stalls on La Rambla, and the quaint, shaded backstreets of the old Gothic city, were for many the highlights of this stop. Study and exchange programmes were also underway in this city, including the GET Challenge, in which those studying Spanish and English as part of the GET programme had to put what they have been learning into use by walking around the city with some Spanish locals. Meanwhile, the "Exchange with Catalonians Studying Japanese" enabled participants to meet Spanish people who are learning Japanese, and to engage in cultural exchange while exploring Barcelona.

Malaga, Spain – In sunny Malaga, participants who joined "A Walking Tour to Experience the Nature of Andalucia" visited Malaga's Botanical Gardens, a 49-acre expanse of land famed not just for its vast collection of plants, but also for a range of interesting archaeological artifacts collected by its former wealthy owners. A participant is here pictured sitting on "The Whispering Bench", a curved stone seating arrangement. It is said that young lovers – who had to be escorted around the garden with an adult supervisor in the past – could sit on either end of this bench and whisper secret messages to one another. The unique shape of the bench would conduct the whispered messages to the ears of their lover.

Casablanca, Morocco – Though not a European port of call, the North African port of Casablanca was Peace Boat's penultimate stop before leaving Europe. One of the most outstanding sights was the Hassan II Mosque, whose minaret is the tallest in the world at 210 metres. Part of the site on which the mosque is built juts out over the Atlantic, since King Hassan II – who wanted the mosque to be the most ambitious structure in Morocco – believed that "God's throne is on the water." 105,000 worshippers can now gather at the mosque, which sends out a call to prayer five times a day. During its construction, however, the mosque caused much controversy, as in order to be able to finance its construction – estimated at 585 million euros - every Moroccan family was forced by police to pay a set amount, regardless of their financial situation.

Funchal, Portugal – In Funchal, the final European Port of Call, it was time to stock up on fruit and vegetables before a long stretch of travelling across the Atlantic. Participants therefore headed to the Mercado Dos Lavradores, a hive of colour and life that offered exotic fresh and dried fruits, jars of spices and intricately woven baskets. This was the first time that Peace Boat has visited Funchal, a delightful city made up of romantic winding back streets and quaint churches and squares. A low-carbon emission cable car was also available to transport people up to the top of the mountainside, affording amazing views of the bay down below.

Say cheese! Participants, GET teachers and Communication Coordinators pose here on a wall in Funchal before returning to Peace Boat for the last time before leaving Europe. It was a perfect night to say a final goodbye to this fascinating continent, with a pinkish glow lighting the dusk sky, flights of swallows swooping overhead, and the lights of Funchal winking against a purple mountainside. Goodbye, Europe!