DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9: THESSALONIKI, BEREA, VERGINA, KALAMBAKA/METEORA
Today provided another opportunity to connect to the world of the Bible and the mission trips of Paul. Weather wise it was a partly sunny day, with perfect temps in the 70s.
Leaving the hotel after breakfast, we packed the bus and enjoyed a city tour of Thessaloniki. We read from Acts 17 as we started the day. The city was established in 317 BC and named after the daughter (and also half-sister of Alexander the Great) of Philip II. Today the city is 1.2 million, the second largest city in Greece (Athens has 5 million).
We first stopped by the water front to see the White Tower. This was initially an Ottoman structure dating to the 15th century AD. Here also was a statute of Alexander the Great. In the heart of the city was the Roman Forum (agora in Greek). This was the marketplace mentioned in Acts 17 where Paul was. Close by is the Church of St Demetrius. This was an ancient church dedicated after Demetrius, a martyr who died in 450 AD. Some of the early structures can be seen below the level of this modern Greek Orthodox Church today. Lastly, we drove to the Acropolis for a great view of the city and harbor below. We read from I Thessalonians 4 (about the hope of Christ’s Second Coming). We also remembered certain believers mentioned by name (Aristarchus and Secundus) who were from this city (Acts 20, Romans 16). They served as later companion travelers with Paul.
“Today we saw much of inland Greece. The scenery was interesting as we drove south. The highlight for me was seeing the monasteries built on the tops of the unique rock formations. Really incredible views too!” -Tour Member-
Driving about an hour south, we came to Berea. It is called Verea in Greek. While there is no archaeology here to see, we read the Acts 17 passage at a very nice monument constructed in the heart of this city. We recalled about how the believers here searched the Scriptures diligently. Sopiter, a believer from this city (Acts 20) was another one who eventually became a traveling companion with Paul as well.
About 15 minutes away is Vergina. We first walked to the archaeological ruins of the royal tomb of Philip II and Alexander IV. Discovered in 1977, these tombs were quite impressive! While there are actually four tombs to see here, the tombs of Philip and Alexander IV (or the “Prince”) are amazingly well preserved even after 2,300 years! These two tombs were found intact. In the museum we also saw many of the items found in these tombs, including many incredible gold pieces. Nearby we enjoyed a very usual Greek lunch including traditional dishes such as moussaka, bean soup, lamb, and a Greek salad. It was a great meal!
In the mid-afternoon, we continued our scenic drive south to Kalambaka. This is the heart of the country of Greece. We traversed up and over the Pindos mountain range. At about 4:45, we arrived to the area of Meteora. Six (6) Greek monasteries are still active here (of a total of 24), the earliest dating back to the early 1,300’s. We entered the monastery of St. Stephen’s. Aliki took us into the chapel area. Monks for 100s of years have dedicated their lives in carefully building these with such precision. The view from the top of Kalambaka below was stunning. Upon leaving St. Stephen’s, we made a few other stops for stunning views of other monasteries and the beauty of this region!
In Kalambaka was our hotel. After checking in, we enjoyed an amazing dinner once again!
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10: THERMOPYLAE, DELPHI, ATHENS