Day 1: Departure from the USA
Enclose in your soul Greece (or something equal) and you shall feel every kind of grandeur (Dionysios Solomos; Note to “Free Besieged”).
We leave the US on an overnight flight to Greece. Dinner and breakfast will be served on board the aircraft.
Day 2: Thessaloniki (D)
Now… they came to Thessalonica… And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ (Acts 17:1-3).
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians will come alive in our minds and hearts as visit the places where he lived and preached including the ancient Agora, and the Church of St. Demetrius (Hagios Demetrios) constructed on the site of an ancient Roman bath. Today in Thessaloniki, celebrated as “the most blessed of cities” and a treasure trove of architecture because of its position at the center of all historical developments in the Balkans, we’ll see the ramparts of the city, the Triumphal Arch of Galerius (built in 298-299 to celebrate the victory over the Persians) and the Rotunda (oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches, and some claim that it is the oldest Christian church in the world although there are a number of other claimants to that title; it is certainly the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire) along the Via Egnatia, an ancient road of the Roman Empire. Our tour will also include the Roman Market, theatre and baths, the Chain Tower and Citadel, and many beautiful Byzantine churches. We’ll visit Aristotelous Square (a main square in the city’s heart serving as site of music concerts, rallies, cafés and the Olympion Theater where the Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival is held), the Monastery of Vlattadon, and statue of Alexander the Great. We will enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in Thessalonika.
Day 3: Kavala & Philippi (B,D)
“And from there [he went] to Phillip, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman Colony. We remained in the city some days…” (Acts 16:12-18).
Our first stop this morning is Kavala known anciently as Neapolis, where Paul landed on his first voyage to Europe, as we make our way to nearby Philippi, where Paul, accompanied by Silas, Luke and Timothy, first preached on European soil to sow the seeds of Christianity. Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten while in Philippi, but an earthquake caused their prison to be opened. It is said that when their jailer awoke, he prepared to kill himself, thinking all the prisoners had escaped and knowing that he would be severely punished, but Paul stopped him, convincing him that all the prisoners were still there. The jailer became one of the first Christians in Europe (Acts 16: 12-40). We will also see Krinides (or Crenides), an area that includes the archaeological site of Philippi in the Kavala Prefecture. It was also in Philippi that Paul met with a woman named Lydia, a purple-dye merchant (Rev. 2:18-29 and Acts 16: 14-15) who became the first Christian convert. We’ll return to Thessaloniki for dinner and our second overnight stay.
Day 4: Veria & Kalambaka (B,D)
And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).
Our day’s journey takes us to beautiful Berea (Veria) to see Paul’s Bema where both he and Silas preached in AD 54 or 55 to a Jewish settlement after leaving the Thessalonians (Acts 17: 10-15). Then we continue to Kalambaka, home of the breathtaking Meteora Monasteries. The Metéora which means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”, is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece (which began when an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles as early as the 9th century). Access to the monasteries (only six remain, five of which are inhabited by men, and one by women; each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants) was originally and deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. Going up required quite a leap of faith! The ropes were only replaced, so the story goes, “when the Lord let them break” but eventually steps were cut into the rock. Today we’ll visit the Monasteries starting with the Meteora Monastery, then the Grand Meteoron Monastery (Transfiguration of Christ) which is built upon the highest rock and considered one of the most beautiful Byzantine monasteries. After spending the day “in the heavens above”, we return to Kalambaka, for dinner and another overnight stay.
Day 5: Delphi (B,D)
Croesus king of Lydia beginning in 560 B.C., tested the oracles of the world to discover which gave the most accurate prophecies. He sent out emissaries to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that very moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, and so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts. He then consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus was advised, “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” Believing the response favorable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians.
After breakfast we travel through the mountainous Greek countryside to arrive in a renowned city labeled the omphalos (navel) of the earth, or in other words, the center of the world! Delphi was also the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. Today, in a most beautiful and ruggedly majestic landscape, we’ll explore the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the museum located at the foot of the main archaeological complex. The museum houses an impressive collection of items associated with ancient Delphi, including the earliest known notation of a melody, the famous Charioteer, golden treasures discovered beneath the Sacred Way, and fragments of reliefs from the Siphnian Treasury. We’ll continue on to Athens, known as the cradle of western civilization. Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in Athens.
Day 6: Athens (B,D)
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:24-25).
Awaken in a place aptly called the “divine city”! Our sightseeing tour begins with the Acropolis, a flat-topped rocky area that rises 490 feet above sea level, where we explore the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena. The Parthenon, truly one of the world’s greatest monuments, is considered to be the most enduring symbol and important surviving building of Ancient Greece. We will also visit the Areopagus or Areios Pagos (in Greek pagos means big piece of rock) north-west of the Acropolis, which in classical times functioned as the high court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases in Athens and from which the Apostle Paul gave his famous sermon about The Unknown God. “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship…” (Acts 17: 22, 23). From here we have an excellent view of the ancient agora; former center of the Athenian public life. We’ll further enjoy a driving tour of the city to see the House of Parliament on Syntagma Square (with the Evzones or guards in uniform guarding the Presidential Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Solder), the Library, University and Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern-day Olympics were held. We’ll also see the Olympieion (constructed in the 6th century BC), a colossal ruined temple that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, and see Adrian’s Ach. The rest of the day will be at leisure. Perhaps some of us will want to peruse a museum, gallery or visit the Plaka to shop or eat in at one of the many fine restaurants. We’ll enjoy a night’s stay in Athens.
Day 7: Corinth & Athens (B,D)
Beauty is the gift of God. (Aristotle).
Today we will travel to Corinth, one of the oldest towns in Greece, which, in classical times rivaled Athens and Thebes in wealth. Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months working as a tentmaker and establishing a church (“… and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” – The Acts 18:8) but as we know, the Corinthians caused Paul much grief as evidenced by the four letters he wrote to them. We’ll visit the ruins of this ancient city including the remnants of the first-century shops, the agora (where Paul’s trial by Gallio took place), the Fountain of Peirene, and Temple of Apollo, one of the oldest stone temples in Greece and built on a hill overlooking the remains of the Roman marketplace (where Paul preached to the Corinthians). After a full day, we’ll return to Athens for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 8: Depart for Home (B)
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity (1 Cor. 16:13-14).
After our life-changing journey, we transfer to the Athens airport for flight back home. We have much to remember and think on as we say good-bye to our new Greek friends.
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