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- Footsteps of Paul Part Ten
- Footsteps of Paul Part Nine
- Footsteps of Paul Part Eight
- Footsteps of Paul Part Seven
- Footsteps of Paul Part Six
- Footsteps of Paul Part Five
- Footsteps of Paul Part Four
- Footsteps of Paul Part Three
- Footsteps of Paul Part Two
- Footsteps of Paul Part One
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Today is the last day of our trip. Tomorrow we endure a long flight home but today we will enjoy sightseeing with a Local Guide in Athens, the most important city in ancient Greece and famed for its culture, learning, and great philosophers.
Our tour today includes a visit to Mars Hill, the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora.
Mars Hill, or as it is also known, Areopagus, is a bare marble hill next to the Acropolis and is where the historic sermon about the “unknown god” was delivered. (Acts 17:15-34). The Ancient Agora is where Apostle Paul met and spoke to the Epicureans and Stoic Philosophers (Acts17:17-18),
We will then cruise through some of the City Highlights of Athens seeing: the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, the Parliament Bldg. and the Panathenaikon Olympic Stadium.
The Panathenaikon Stadium, also called Kallimarmaron, is near the heart of the city of Athens. It dates back to ancient times, when it was a venue hosting athletic events for the Panathenaic Games.
I hope you enjoyed living our tour through these blog posts. This will be the last of this series. Thank you!
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After docking back at Pireaus, we continued to the ancient site of Corinth for a guided visit of the excavations where Apostle Paul worked for 18 months with tent makers Aquila and Priscilla.
Here the remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo are the primary structures left standing. However, we also saw the Bema where the Roman proconsul Gallio would likely have sat when he showed complete indifference to the accusations brought against Paul (Acts 18:12-16).
In Paul’s time, Corinth had developed into a major government and commerce center of that region. It was a large cosmopolitan city, with a estimated mixed population of 400,000 people – Romans, Greeks, and Jews. Athens always led as the classic Greek city of intellectual and architectural wonders, but Corinth was where “real life” of the time happened. Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul around the time when Paul became very active in the region.
Our next stop on the Footsteps of Paul Tour was a place Paul probably did not visit. We enjoyed it anyway!
Santorini, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century B.C.E., forever shaping its rugged landscape and villages. The whitewashed, cubist houses of its 2 principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). They overlook the clear Aegean and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
Santorini is the most popular island in Greece. It may be the most popular island in the world. There are few travel destinations that combine beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient cities, amazing restaurants, some of the world’s best wine, and an active volcano. But Santorini has all this and more.
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This afternoon, on our Footsteps of Paul tour, we continued your cruise to Patmos, one of the Sporades. A small rugged island of the Icarian Sea, part of the Aegean. The scene of John’s banishment (by Domitian), where he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” The rocky solitude suited the sublime nature of the Revelation. On a hill in the southern half of the island is the monastery of John the divine, and the traditional grotto of his receiving the Apocalypse. We got to enter into the monastery and see some of the oldest Biblical manuscripts, including the Purple Codex.
In the middle ages called Palmosa from its palms; now there is but one, and the island has resumed its old name Patmo or Patino. It is unvisited by Turks, without any mosque, and saddled with moderate tribute, free from piracy, slavery, and any police but their own.
We were also able to see the famed Windmills of Patmos. Two of these windmills on a hill just below Hora village were built in 1588 (the third in 1863), when the relatively new technology spread throughout Europe. In the 1950s the windmills were abandoned and became derelict. Since 2009 the windmills have been restored for use as an example of conservation, alternative technology, as a cultural and educational resource and tourist attraction.
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Today we docked in the Turkish port of Kusadasi. Once the ship was cleared by customs, we boarded a tour bus with a wonderful tour guide who called himself “Oz”. He had been born and raised in Kusadasi and was knowledgable and proud of his heritage.
This western quarter of Turkey was called Asia Minor during the Roman period, and Ephesus was its largest city. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila greeted him, introduced him to the congregation that met at their house and briefed him on the status of the local movement. According to Acts, Ephesus had believers who had been baptized by disciples of John the Baptist and followed a teacher named Apollos. He had since left Ephesus for Corinth, with a letter of introduction from Aquila and Priscilla. The Ephesus community knew the teachings of Jesus, but had not heard Paul’s message of the holy spirit. Similar variations, and sometimes rivalry, must have marked many early congregations, varying by teacher, local tradition, and communications with other cities. In his circuit of travels, Paul tried to establish some continuity. Paul would spend three years in Ephesus, and may have been imprisoned for some of that time. His letters indicate that he made visits to Corinth during his stay. And, as in Corinth, Paul earned his keep working as a tentmaker when he could, and depended on the support of his congregations when he could not. With this support he was able to spread his message even while under arrest.
This afternoon we continued our cruise to Patmos, the “Jerusalem of the Aegean,” where we enjoyed an excursion to the MONASTERY OF ST. JOHN and to the CAVE OF THE APOCALYPSE, where John the Evangelist dictated the Book of the Revelation during his exile. This will be the subject of Part Seven!
I hope you have enjoyed following the adventures of our intrepid band of 23 on our Footsteps of Paul trip. We certainly had a wonderful time.
Today we left Athens early in the morning for Piraeus and set sail into the Aegean Sea. In the afternoon we arrived at our first island: Mykonos (also spelled Myconos), which belongs to the group of the Cyclades. The mountainous island of Mykonos has about 400 churches. The main city consists of pisturesque white houses and the island’s trademakrs: the charming windmills. The place has a unique architecture of Byzantine and Western characteristics and will simply enchant you. Must “sees” include the Cathedral on the main square as well as the many boutiques and taverns along tiny paved streets. Mykonos combines in a unique way the luxuriant and sophisticated lifestyle with the
simple and yet charming life of a Cycladic Island.
We returned to the ship for a late evening meal and got underway for Kusadasi, Turkey, from where we would tour Ephessos in the morning.
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We stayed overnight at the Hotel Meteoritis which is within view of the Meteora Monasteries. Serene, spiritual, magical, mystical, extraordinary, breathtaking, immense, inspiring, impressive. These are only some of the words people very often use in an effort to describe the Meteora phenomenon.
A trip to Meteora offers the unique experience of nature’s grandeur in conjunction with history, architecture and man’s everlasting desire to connect with the Divine. From the early Christian times, the Meteora vertical cliffs were regarded as the perfect place to achieve absolute isolation, to discover peace and harmony and, thus, to support man’s eternal struggle for spiritual elevation.
Meteora is a truly inspiring and sensational setting of overwhelming rock formations, but one must also be prepared to expect that this trip is much more than merely visiting an exquisite landscape. It is a pilgrimage to a holy place for all Christians around the world. Meteora has become a preservation ark for the 2000-year-old Christian Orthodox creed.
The gigantic rocks of Meteora are perched above the town of Kalambaka, at a maximum height of 400 m (1200 ft). The most interesting summits are decorated with historical monasteries, included in the World Heritage List of Unesco. Only 6 of them have made it through the centuries, from an initial estimated number of 24. Mostly dating to the 14th and until the 16th century, these monasteries were built by monks who were previously hermits in the area, living in individual caves. Once united, these monks took months and years to carry the construction material to the top of rocks, using ropes, folding ladders, nets and baskets, and with much determination. They then proceeded to build monasteries that deserve everybody’s awe. The monasteries had no access to electricity and water until recently.
From here we traveled back to Athens where we spent the night at the Hotel Metropolitan and prepared to board the cruise ship Celestyal Olympia.
Our next stop was the site of the ancient city of Philippi, which caught me by surprise. The site is not nearly as developed as some of the other sites we visited. With the exception of a few places cordoned off for active excavation, we were allowed to roam freely across the site. What is remarkable about ancient Philippi is the number of very large Christian churches built around the fifth century.
Philippi has had its share of fame. It was built along the ancient Roman trade route called the Via Egnatia, which stretched from Rome to Constantinople (Istanbul). Remains of this route can still be found in the northern Greek region of Macedonia. About the year 50 AD, a new era was about to dawn on this city. Christianity had been spreading rapidly across the Middle East, down to Africa, and up through Asia Minor. One of Christianity’s foremost missionaries, the Apostle Paul, was in Troas (formerly Troy)– just across the water from Neapolis (present day Kavala). At night, Paul received a vision telling him to “step over into Macedonia and help us”.
Paul along with Luke and Silas got on a boat and made the trip, passing the island of Samothrace and then on to Neapolis. Taking the Via Egnatia, Paul and his companions travelled the 15 kilometers further to Philippi. It was Philippi that had the claim of being the first European city to hear the message of Christianity.
Philippi also entertained great names of history like Mark Antony, Octavian, Brutus and Cassius as they faced off in the marshlands west of Ancient Philippi in the “Battle of Philippi”. This city was known as being the gateway to Europe and it is not surprising that Philippi played a large role in changing the direction of the Roman Republic.
Philippi is also interesting from a Christian perspective. Here you can follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul as Christianity was first spread to Europe through Philippi.
Our guide introduced us specifically to the octagonal church of St. Paul with its magnificent mosaic floor, complete with the signature of the artist! We were also able to see where Paul had been imprisoned.
The difference between Thessaloniki and Philippi could hardly be more stark. One has grown into a massive living city; the other is an abandoned ruin.
We continued on to Kalambaka (Meteora) where we had dinner and stayed the night at Hotel Meteoritis . Along the way we caught glimpses of the Meteora Monasteries that we would visit the next day! That’s next in Part 4!
We began the morning in Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is a massive Greek port city on the site of the ancient city of Thessalonica. It has been constantly inhabited since ancient times passing through the hands of the Byazantine and Ottoman empires. Today it is the second largest city in Greece and the largest university town in Greece, as well.
One of the monuments we saw is the White Tower, an Ottoman reconstruction of an earlier Byzantine structure. At one time it was a notorious prison painted white to cover the blood stains running down its walls. Today it is a modern museum of Thessalonica.
The next stop was Philippi. Philippi owes its name to Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) who took it from the Thracians and named it after himself. We began our visit with a stop at a traditional site for the baptism of Lydia, one of the first converts in Europe after Paul crossed over from Asia Minor (Acts 16:11-15). The spot on the “river” (actually not much more than a stream) is prominently marked and also on site is a Greek Orthodox church in her honor. While we were there we wittnessed the baptism of a number of people. Mike climbed down into the river and several of us were able to “reaffirm” our own Baptisims.
Our next stop was the site of the ancient city of Philippi, and this is where we will pick up on Part Three! Stay Tuned!
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Liz and I recently joined a group of folks (mostly from our church) going to Greece & Turkey on a “Footsteps of Paul” tour. The trip was led by our pastor and friend Mike Alexander. This is the first of several posts describing our wonderful trip.
We began our trip at the airport in Myrtle Beach, SC. From there we flew to Philadelphia, PA and transferred to a flight bound for Athens, Greece.
After an 11 hour flight to Athens, we got off the plane only to grab our bags, go through customs and stow our bags on a bus headed for Thessaloniki. We would see our bags again later that evening. We, however, boarded another plane and flew to Thessaloniki where we boarded a tour bus and began the journey to Veria (Berea of the New Testament).
Berea is where Paul and Silas were sent by friends after being accused of treason in Thessalonika. There is very little left of the ancient town of Berea although modern Beria is a thriving city on the same spot. However, we know Paul visited and we know he preached the Gospel to the local community and we know the Bereans were particularly receptive (Acts 17:10-14).
There is a relatively recent monument to Paul’s ministry there, and the iconography is accessible even to people unaccustomed to interpreting it. The central component is a full-scale icon of the apostle Paul standing above a set of ancient steps discovered somewhere in the vicinity of Berea. A separate panel to the left depicts Paul’s vision summoning him to Macedonia, complete with the Greek quotation, “Come to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:6-10). Another panel on the right depicts Paul preaching and the Bereans studying scripture.
After a short stop in Beria, we were back on the road where our final destination for the day would be Thessaloniki, ancient Thessalonica.
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