Day 1: Tuesday: 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”).
Your journey begins with an overnight flight to Thessaloniki.
Day 2: Wednesday: Arrival in Greece
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).
You will arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece, where you will be met by our Faith Journeys representative and transferred to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Thursday: Amphipolis, Philippi, & Neapolis
“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, as we travel in the footsteps of the apostle Paul and Silas, is in Amphipolis, a Greek city abandoned in the 8th century. Amphipolis (presently known as Amfipoli) prospered anciently as evidenced by the large number of Christian Churches, the ruins of which we will see today. We’ll next visit 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). 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 visit the place where this event is remembered and see a crypt dating from the Roman period, which is thought to have served as a prison for the apostle Paul. We will also see the famous Acropolis, the Market Place, the Basilica, and the Theater. Lastly, we’ll visit one of Greece’s most picturesque mainland ports: Kavala known anciently as Neapolis, where Paul landed with his disciples, Timothy and Silas, on his first voyage to Europe Before returning to Thessaloniki for dinner and an overnight stay, we’ll see the Roman Aqueduct and Acropolis.
Day 4: Friday: Thessaloniki & Veria
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).
Today, as we visit Thessaloniki, the city where Paul was accused of turning the world upside down by his preaching of Christ (Acts 17: 3-6), we’ll see the places where he lived and preached including the ancient Agora and Jason’s home at the Walls. Our tour of this special place, celebrated as “the most blessed of cities,” includes seeing 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. We’ll also see two of the most beautiful basilicas in the city, St. Sophia and St. Demetrios (Hagios Demetrios) constructed on the site of an ancient Roman bath. The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels (depicting St. Demetrius with the founders of the restoration and with children) that represent a rare example of art surviving from the Dark Ages. Our journey continues through beautiful Berea (Veria) where we’ll 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). After a full and rewarding day, we’ll make our way to Kalambaka, home of the breathtaking Meteores, for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 5: Saturday: Meteora & Delphi
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.
Today we visit the rock forest of Meteora in western Thessaly and ponder the rough terrain in which the apostle Paul walked during his missionary journey. We’ll see the home of the breathtaking Meteora Monasteries. The Metéora, defined as “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. We make our way through the mountainous Greek countryside to arrive in Delphi, 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. 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. With innumerable pagan ruins surrounding our day’s experience, we’ll catch a glimpse of the challenge the apostle Paul incurred in preaching the Gospel of Christ in Macedonia. We’ll then continue on to Athens, known as the cradle of western civilation, where Paul, on Mars hill gave his 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). Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in Athens.
Day 6: Sunday: Athens
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).
We 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.” From here we have an excellent view of the ancient agora, former center of the Athenian public life. We’ll also see the House of Parliament, the Presidential Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The afternoon is free to explore Athens on our own or enjoy an optional journey to Sounion to visit the famous Temple of Poseidon (additional $65). Tonight: a wonderful dinner and another overnight in Athens.
Day 7: Monday: Greek Island Cruise: Mykonos
Beauty is the gift of God. (Aristotle).
Today we transfer to the city of Piraeus which sports the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world, to embark on a lovely Greek Island cruise. We sail first to the island of Mykonos, believed to have been named after a local hero who was considered an offspring of the God Appollo. There is much to see in beautiful Mykonos, also known as Chora (i.e. the Town in Greek, a common denomination in Greece when the name of the island itself is the same as the name of the principal town), which lies on the west coast. From its legendary windmills (landmarks from as early as the 16th century), to its “Little Venice” where buildings have been constructed on the sea’s edge with their balconies overhanging the water, from its famous mascot Petros the Pelican to its inviting sandy beaches, from its quaint shops to its narrow cobbled streets, we can’t help but enjoy this cosmopolitan island. Perhaps tonight at one of the wonderful restaurants of Alefkandra, we’ll see a magnificent island sunset before returning to Mykonos Town to take the shuttle back to our ship.
Day 8: Tuesday: Greek Island Cruise: Kusadasi, Ephesus & Patmos
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7).
We dock in a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Kusadasi, whose name comes from words meaning “bird” and “island” because the peninsula upon which it sits has the shape of a bird’s head as seen from the sea. After driving through this picturesque town, we’ll explore the ruins of Ephesus, a city that for many years was the second largest in the Roman Empire and ranked second only to Rome. It is to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…. Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness… taking the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 11 – 17) after having spent three years (from 52-54 A.D.) walking its marble streets, preaching and ministering here. While in the ancient city of Ephesus, we’ll look with wonder on many historical sights including the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the fountain of Trajan, the Baths of Scolastika, the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators (used initially for drama, but during later Roman times for gladiatorial combats) where Paul preached and where the riot of the silversmiths occurred. We will walk along Arcadian Way where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession. En route to Patmos, we’ll view the Basilica of St. John, which was built over his grave in the 6th century, and we will see the Monastery of St. John noted for its exceptional architecture, frescoes and interior decoration. Patmos was an important destination where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse. Time permitting, we may see the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation (the Cave of the Apocalypse) and visit a few of the several monasteries on the island dedicated to John, including the mile high Monastery which houses a treasury of Byzantine art and religious artifacts.
Day 9: Wednesday: Greek Island Cruise: Rhodes
“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).
Rhodes, an island shaped like a spearhead, is famous for the Colossus of Rhodes, a giant bronze statue of the Greek God Helios which was documented as once standing over 30 meters tall at the harbor. The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC and significant damage was done to large portions of the city, including the harbor and many buildings. The statue, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Legend has it that Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, so they declined to rebuild it. Today we visit the island of Rhodes where Paul brought Christianity. We will enjoy the old town with its rich mix of Roman, Saracen, Turkish, Medieval and Italian influences and which was built by Crusader Knights of the Order of St. John. On the island we’ll also find the intriguing landscape littered with remnants of ancient settlements, the most famous being Lindos and Kameiros.
Day 10: Thursday: Greek Island Cruise: Crete & Santorini
Continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister (Colossians 1:23).
The morning finds us visiting the largest city and capital of Crete, Heraklion (home to many significant artists including the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous Greek painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)). Just a few miles from Heraklion are the ruins of Knossos Place (also known as Labyrinth as suggested by its maze of 1,300 rooms connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction) which is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square with detailed images of Cretan life provided by images on the walls of this palace. It was in Heraklion that Paul was warned about continuing his journey to Rome by the the owner and captain of the ship. This afternoon, we’ll cruise to the town of Fira on the breathtakingly beautiful Island of Santorini. Fira is a traditional settlement of white-washed houses built on the edge of a caldera. The panoramic view of the blue Aegean water is magnificent from Fira and there is much to see and do: open-air cafes, charming boutiques and some museums of great interest including the Santorini Archeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. We’ll return to the ship for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 11: Friday: Corinth & Cenchraeae
“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).
Today we’ll 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). In Corinth, we will visit the Temple of Apollo (6th century BC), 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). We will also explore the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth which contains a number of artifacts of great religious interest. On our way back to Athens, we’ll stop in the ancient port of Cenchreae (Kenchreai) from which Paul sailed to Ephesus (Turkey), and where he stopped during his second missionary journey to have his hair cut to fulfill a vow (Acts 18:18). Paul also mentions this place and a deaconess named Phoebe in the local assembly in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:1). Once we’re back in Athens, we may have some free time to further enjoy the “divine city” before meeting for a Farewell Dinner and our last overnight stay. After all we have seen and felt, we have much to think about. Perhaps we might contemplate Paul’s words found in Cor 2:5: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Day 12: Saturday: Depart for Home
Let all your things be done with charity (1 Cor. 16: 14).
We return home with a new understanding of Paul’s life and ministry.
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