Footsteps of Paul Cruise and Tour
In the Footsteps of Paul Tour
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Day by Day
thursdayNew York, Istanbul
Tour members are welcomed for our departing flight to Istanbul via wide-body aircraft arriving the next day. Meals served on board.
This morning we arrive in Istanbul and transfer to our flight to Athens. This afternoon we arrive in Athens and be met and transferred to our hotel for check in. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.
This morning we start our tour of Athens by visiting the important modern and archaeological sites in the city of Athens, the Acropolis and neighboring monuments. While driving through the main streets of Athens, we have an opportunity to see other places of interest such as the University, the Academy, the National Library, the Temple of Zeus, the Panathenian Stadium, Omonia Square, Constitution Square and the Royal Palace. This afternoon we drive to the port of Piraeus and embark our cruise ship, enjoying the fellowship of other Christians.
Join us for a visit to a biblical city! We travel by air conditioned coach from the port of Thessaloniki to the Citadel and Vlatadon Monastery, where St. Paul reached during his Second Missionary Journey. We then leave Thessaloniki for a one-hour drive through the countryside to reach the city of Veria (called Berroia” in the Bible), St. Paul’s next stop after Vlatadon – it was here that he preached to the city’s “noble Jews” – we pay a visit to the traditional Tribune, where three in situ steps coexist with a recently finished mosaic of the Saint that commemorates this sermon. Today Veria is the capital of the regional unit of Imathia and the largest exporter of agricultural products in the region. It may have been inhabited as early as 1000 BC. We will visit one of these immaculate churches, the Church of Christ, which was built in the early 14th century and is home to masterworks by the most famous painter of the era, Kalliergi. There will be time to wander and explore and shop in this marvelous ancient city before we return to the harbor at Thessaloniki.
Once known as Neapolis, when it was a Thasian colony, Kavala has a long and storied history. Founded in the 6th century BC by settlers from Thasos and Eretria, it was the first place in Europe where St. Paul set foot, in 49 AD, on his journey to Philippi, 15 kilometers from Kavala, where he founded the first Christian church in Europe. Kavala balances its modern urban spaces with beautiful beaches and lush green hinterlands. The city is home to a number of monuments from the first and second millennia after Christ, many of which are today pilgrimage sites. Highlights of our shore excursion include St. Lydia Purpuraria: Lydia was the first Christian convert in Europe. A Church-Baptistery and an open-air Baptistery by the riverside are located where her holy baptism took place, similar to the ones preserved in the early Christian basilicas in Philippi. We visit the archaeological site in Philippi with a guided tour through the excavations, marveling at the upper and lower parts as well as the Forum, the Walls, the two Basilicas and the Theatre. Your guide will also point out the traditional prison, which once held St. Paul and St. Sylas. We will see St. Paul’s Monument, commemorating the location where St. Paul set foot on the European Continent during his second missionary journey, establishing a thriving Christian church in the nearby city of Philippi. You will have time to explore the port on your own before returning to the ship.
This all-day Istanbul tour is an in-depth tour of some of Istanbul’s holiest sites. We begin at the Hippodrome in the Old City. The Old City, known as Stambul, was where the ancient city of Byzantium once stood and today includes the wall of the neighborhoods of Eminonu and Fatih. Within the Old City lie the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia, the University of Istanbul and Fener, the historical Greek quarter, which is home to the Orthodox Patriarchate. One of the many highlights of Sultanahmet Square, the Old Hippodrome of Istanbul was an ancient circus built before the founding of Constantinople. We visit the Blue Mosque, Istanbul’s largest and most beautiful, also called the Sultan’s Mosque, since it was built, between 1609 and 1616, by order of Sultan Ahmed I, who was 20 years-old at the time and is now buried within its walls. After the Blue Mosque we see the legendary Hagia Sophia, also known as the “Church of the Wisdom of God” and “the Great Church.” The Church has long been a symbol of Constantinople and Istanbul. From the date construction began, in 537, during the reign of Justinian, until 1453, Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is now a museum, where beautiful mosaics completed over the course of more than 12 centuries are on display. It is considered one of the preeminent extant examples of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture. Next we stop at the Topkapi Palace Museum was the acropolis of ancient Byzantium. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II. After time for lunch we leave for some incredible shopping at the awesome Grand Bazaar, also called Kapali Carci (“Covered Bazaar”), one of the oldest and largest covered markets on earth. The bazaar, which first opened in 1461, comprises about 61 streets and welcomes up to 400,000 visitors per day to its maze of banks, cafes, fountains, shops, shrines and workshops. You might actually be able to “shop ‘til you drop!” Return to the ship for dinner.
wednesdayDikili, Pergamon, Sardis
Today begins when you board your coach in the port of Dikili for the drive to Ancient Pergamon. Dating to the beginning of the 4th century BC, “Pergamon” means “fortress” or “acropolis.” One of the seven churches addressed in Revelation, the city was the center of a large kingdom and retained its status as a political and cultural metropolis during the Byzantine period. After visiting the Acropolis, we continue to the Red Basilica, built in the 2nd century by the Romans as a massive temple to the Egyptian gods Serapis, Isis and Harpocrates. After time for lunch we drive to the remains of the Asklepion, one of the world’s first hospitals. After our tour of the Asklepion, we’ll return the port of Dikili and to the ship.
thursdayKusadasi, Ephesus, Miletus
Join us for a spectacular day. Our first stop after leaving lovely Kusadasi is Ancient Ephesus, one of the 12 cities of Ionia. This is a stunning marvel in the hills above the Aegean coast, one of the world’s largest open-air archeological museums. Founded by the ancient Greeks circa 2000 BC, it was the wealthiest of the Ionian cities and one of the most important cultural centers in the Mediterranean. The city was dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and its Artemision, a temple in her honor, took 120 years to complete and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ephesus later became the second-largest city in the Roman Empire, at one time home to a quarter-million people. It was the first and most significant city in the Roman province of Asia and one of its key ports. Millennia ago the Aegean receded west, stranding the city on its sun-seared hillsides. It is believed Paul wrote his Letter to the Ephesians here. It was the most important Christian city between Rome and Antioch. Ephesus is rivaled only by the Forum and the Acropolis as one of the most complete classical cities in Europe, even though only 13% of the city has been uncovered! You can wander through the Odeon and the Prytaneion, then stroll between the marble colonnades of Curetes Street to visit Trajan’s Fountain, Hadrian’s Temple, the Scholastica Baths and the astonishing Terrace Houses. Nearby, where Curetes Street becomes Marble Street, is the spectacular Library of Celsus, which has been almost entirely reconstructed, and the Agora. Every step here takes you deeper into the Hellenistic, Roman and early-Christian eras; you’ll notice inscriptions on many of the city’s columns. The Great Theater of Ephesus, where St. Paul once preached, was carved into the side of Mt. Pion in the 4th century BC. It held up to 24,000 spectators and is still renowned for its outstanding acoustics – even today it hosts concerts and other performances. From Ancient Ephesus we drive to the Rug Village for lunch and a demonstration of traditional Turkish carpet weaving. From the Rug Village we journey to the ancient city of Miletus, near the coast, which was one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the ancient Greek world. St. Paul stopped here on his Third Missionary Journey, on his way back to Jerusalem. Miletus was located at the mouth of the River Meander, and its four harbors and strategic location made it an important port and commercial center. Miletus became the most important of the 12 cities of Ionia and was one of the first cities in the ancient world to mint coins – Homer mentions Miletus in The Iliad. The city’s fortunes declined, however, as the Meander silted up its harbor. There are many well-preserved ruins here, including a Temple of Apollo, a Byzantine church and the theater. After our tour of Miletus we return to the ship.
On todays excursion you are sure to experience the sacred grandeur of this intensely spiritual Dodecanese island. From the port of Skala we travel up the mountain by airconditioned coach to immaculate Chora. An architecturally homogenous village, the cobblestone streets and alleys of Chora are lined with mansions built by wealthy ship owners during the 17th and 18th centuries. Now surrounded by the village, the fortified Monastery of St. John, whose walls are more than 15 meters high, was built with local gray stone. In 1088 St. Christodoulos requested the entire island of Patmos from Byzantine Emperor Alexis I Comnenus so he could found a monastery dedicated to St. John. Even after “The Blessed” was driven from Patmos by pirates, monks continued building the monastery which, within a few centuries, became an important cultural, religious and spiritual center. Within its warren of chapels and courtyards, the Monastery of St. John houses medieval icons of the Cretan school and the Chapel of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary), whose beautiful frescoes date to the 12th century; the monastery’s main chapel dates to the end of the 11th century. There is also a museum within the monastery, with icons, religious objects of silver and gold, sacred relics and embroidered vestments of inestimable value on display. Halfway down the mountain to Plaka we stop at the Holy Grotto of the Apocalypse. According to Christian tradition, three fissures (a symbol of the Holy Trinity) opened in a wall in the grotto, and St. John heard the voice of God, who granted him a series of visions of the future (revelations), vivid pictures of how the Church would grow, battle the wicked powers of earth and hell and ultimately emerge victorious. The voice commanded the saint to transcribe these visions: St. John dictated the revelations to one of his disciples, Prochoros, and this text became the Book of Revelations. During his time in this sacred cave, St. John also composed the Fourth Gospel. The entrance to the grotto is marked with a mosaic of the visions of the saint. Inside the grotto, the nightly resting place of the saint’s head is fenced off and delineated in beaten silver. We return to Plaka, where you’ll have free time for shopping and a coffee beside the harbor. Close your eyes and let the grandeur of this miraculous island suffuse your soul.
saturdayDisembarkation, Corinth, Athens
This morning we disembark the cruise ship and drive along the coastal road to Corinth. Continue along the wonderful beach of Kinetta, make a brief stop at the Corinth Canal, then on to ancient Corinth to visit the Museum, the Bema of St. Paul, the Doric Temple of Apollo, the Askeleion, Agora, Lechaion Road, and the Peirene Fountain. Return to Athens where we check into the hotel and have the remainder of the afternoon free to explore on your own. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
This morning we transfer to the airport for our flight back home. We arrive back in the U.S.A. and transfer to our flights home with unforgettable memories to cherish always. Knowing we have walked in the footsteps of the early Christians on such a memorable tour will bring new meaning to our Bible reading.