Tracing Paul’s Steps Through Thessaloniki and Philippi
We arrive in Athens mid-afternoon and are met by our representative and given the tickets for our flight to Thessaloniki. This is the city where Paul was received by Jason. Paul was preaching the Word of God here until he was rushed out of the city. We transfer to our hotel for check-in and dinner. In the morning, we start with the landmarks of the city: the White Tower, the Walls of the Byzantine Acropolis, the Roman Arch of Galerius and the Rotonda. We visit two of the city’s oldest and most admired Christian churches, the Basilicas of St. Demetrius and St. Sophia (Divine Wisdom). We then follow the route of the Via Egnatia and visit, like Paul and his companions, the area of Amphipolis, to see the famous funerary Lion of Amphipolis. Then we travel onto Philippi. There, we visit the Baptistery of Lydia near the river, where Paul baptized her. Lydia was the first convert of Paul on European soil, followed by the jailer. Also, we visit the ruins of the Forum of Philippi, the Christian Basilicas, the “Prison of Paul” and the Theater. Then we drive to Kavala (Neapolis), Paul’s first step in bringing the Gospel to present day Europe. A picturesque port, we view the Byzantine Castle and the Roman Aqueduct. We return to Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight. The next morning we see the world famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched on summits of gray rock peaks of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliff-side caves, then fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, which were later transformed into monasteries. Afterwards, we continue to Athens where we will have dinner and overnight.
Cruising the Greek Islands
We sail in the morning from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. We arrive at Mykonos, where we disembark and have time to experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes. We stroll the charming walkways through a maze of white-washed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening activities. No excursions are included today, as we will visit the island at our leisure. In the morning, we arrive in Kusadasi, Turkey. Excursion Included: A short drive takes us to Ephesus, where Paul spent three years during his ministry. The impressive remains of Ephesus include the Agora, the Theater, the Stadium, the Library of Celsus, the ruins of the Temple of Diana (one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”) and many more. Later, we sail for the island of Patmos. Excursion Included: Here we visit the Monastery of St. John, on one of the island’s highest points. From there, we walk down to the Grotto of the Apocalypse, the site of the apocalyptic Revelations of St. John the Divine. In the morning, we arrive at Heraklion, Crete and disembark. Excursion Included: During this excursion, we take a short ride through the town of Heraklion and then arrive at the Knossos excavations. Here, Sir Arthur Evan’s archaeological discoveries revealed a civilization dating back to 4000 B.C., when a great empire flourished on the island of Crete. Paul left Titus in Crete and gave instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5ff). In the afternoon, we cruise to the isle of Santorini and disembark. Excursion not included: Santorini is often referred to as the most breathtaking of all the Greek islands. The exquisite whitewashed villages, including the town of Fira, or Thira, cling to volcanic cliffs, accessible by cable-car, or mule.
Did You Know? Patmos is the Island where John was exiled and wrote the book of Revelation.
Experiencing Ancient Corinth and Athens
We disembark the cruise this morning in Piraeus. After disembarkation, we will continue our sightseeing with a visit to Ancient Corinth. This is the once-glorious city near the Isthmus, where Paul met Aquilla and Priscilla and spent a year and a half preaching the Word of God. We visit the Archaeological Museum, the Forum, the Temples and the famous Bema, where Paul stood before Gallio, accused by the Jews of Corinth. Then we drive to Cenchreae, the little harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia, thus ending his second missionary journey. Here we admire the architectural wonders of ancient Athens, as we follow our guide to the world-renowned Acropolis, to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. We visit Mars Hill, where Paul delivered his speech on the “Unknown God.” Then we see the Agora, the ancient center of the economic and public life of the city, where Paul preached to the skeptical Athenians. During the bus tour, we also see Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the Old Olympic Stadium and the Neoclassical Buildings of Athens. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Athens on your own. Dinner and overnight are in Athens. We will include a special visit to Delphi, this mountainous city which today is both an archaeological site and a modern town. For the ancient Greeks, Delphi was labeled the “omphalos” (navel) of the earth and it is here that the eternal flame burned in the Temple of Apollo. Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. It was also here beginning in 586 B.C. that athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the precursors to the modern Olympics. On our way up to Delphi, we’ll have time to stop and enjoy the small scenic villages that cling to the mountainsides. Dinner and overnight are in Athens.
We transfer in the morning to Athens Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. We arrive home the same day.
OPTIONAL ROME & FLORENCE EXTENSION
This morning we transfer to Athens Airport for our flight to Rome. We arrive in Rome where we are met by our agent and begin our sightseeing tour. We include a special visit to the Catacombs, where we explore tunnels and see the carvings on the walls from early Christians. From here we continue for a visit to St. John Lateran and visit the “Sacred Steps.” As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness. Afterwards we make a special visit to St. Paul’s Church where tradition believes the Apostle Paul is buried. We conclude our day with a stop to see the Forum and St. Peter in Chains. Dinner and overnight are in Rome. After breakfast, we transfer to the train station for the one hour and twenty-minute train ride to Florence. We then meet our city guide who takes us on a walking tour of Florence. We include a special visit to Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and Academy of Fine Arts, also known as the Accademia. The Accademia has been home to Michelangelo’s David since 1873. We then return to the train station for our ride back to Rome. Dinner and overnight are back at our hotel in Rome. After breakfast, our first visit today is to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, the celebrated Chapel of the Popes and the venue of the Conclaves for Papal elections. It is one of the most splendid masterpieces in the history of world art and is well known around the world for its magnificent ceiling, beautifully decorated by Michelangelo. From here, our next stop is the Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in the world, which overlooks the enormous Piazza San Pietro. Then we take a sightseeing tour of this eternal city. Driving through the main streets of Rome, we marvel at the monuments of this great capital. We visit the Colosseum, which symbolizes the eternity of the Roman civilization. We also visit the Piazza Venezia, dominated by the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuel II. Before we return to our hotel, we stop near the Fontana di Trevi and follow tradition by tossing a coin into the fountain, promising to return to Rome. Dinner and overnight are in Rome. In the morning, we transfer to Rome Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A. We arrive home the same day.