Biblical Israel Tour Experiences of our 10 Day “Walk in the Footsteps of Paul” Tour
October 9-18, 2017
DAYS 1-2 – MONDAY-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11-12
Our day of departure finally arrived! Gathering at the Philadelphia Airport, we boarded our flight to Athens. Landing in Greece’s capital around 8:45, we met Tasos from our travel agent. He escorted us to our connecting flight to Thessaloniki. After a couple hours of waiting, we boarded this flight and headed north.
After this short and scenic flight across portions of the Aegean Seaand the beautiful coastline of Greece, we met our guide (Lotini) and driver (Yonas) at the Thessalonikiairport. On the way to our hotel we made a brief stop at the Citadel. While enjoying the panoramic view, we read from I Thessalonians 1, celebrating this early church’s faithfulness to the Gospel. We even came across a couple taking wedding pictures. We also made a stop at the Church of St. Demitrios Church (a Greek Orthodox Church that dates back to the 4th century AD). Close by was the Forum dating back to the Apostle Paul’s day. Paul visited this city on his second missionary journey (Acts 16).
Checking into out hotel at about 5, we freshened up for dinner at 6:30. We are excited to be here in Greece. We also look forward to the entire group being together (six in the group unfortunately missed the Philadelphia-Athens flight and will be coming tonight/tomorrow.). We pray for their safe arrival.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11:
This morning was our first full day here in Greece. Following a great breakfast, we departed the hotel shortly after 8 am. The day’s weather would be spectacular, with lots of sun and highs in the mid 70s.
Leaving the hotel, we read from Acts 17:1-9 about Paul’s experience here in Thessalonica (today it is called Thessaloniki). Driving north and then east a little over 100 miles, we followed the ancient Via Egnatia road. We passed by Amphipolis to see the famous funerary. We finally arrived at a river (the Zygakti River) outside of Philippi. Our first stop was here at the traditional place where Paul encountered Lydia of Thyatira. We visited a modern Greek Orthodox Church that celebrates Lydia’s conversion to Christ. Close by we enjoyed a time of reading (Acts 16:13-15) and singing along the small river.
Only a few minute’s drive is the archaeological site of Philippi. We first entered this ancient at the city theater. In Paul’s day, the theater could have held 2,000-3,000 people. Walking further through the ruins, we also the “traditional” prison of Paul and Silas. We read from Acts 16:19-40 about the “midnight” praise service and the salvation of the jailor. The other ruins we saw included the Agora (market place), a Late Roman/Byzantine church, mosaics, and even the remains of a public latrine. Before leaving the site, we enjoyed lunch here at the site.
About 10 miles away is the port city of Kavala(ancient Neopolis, Acts 16:11). This is the port that Paul used when sailing west into Macedonia from Troas in Asia Minor. We enjoyed walking to the church that displays Paul’s Macedonian vision that brought him here. We also saw the ancient aqueduct that was used to bring fresh water into the city.
From here we drove back to Thessaloniki to visit the White Tower(15th century AD), one of the landmarks located on the shoreline. We also stopped again at the Agora (the marketplace during the time of Paul) and the Arch of Galerius(better known as Kamara, 3rd-4th century AD).
We returned to our hotel for dinner, followed by a brief gathering time. It was a great first day here in Greece! Everyone in the group arrived also.
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12:
This morning we left our hotel in Thessaloniki shortly after 7:30. Our ultimate destination would be Athens. It was another beautiful and sunny day, with highs in the mid 70s once again.
Driving south on the main highway, our morning devotion was from Philippians 4 (”Rejoice in the Lord always…”) and Acts 16 (about the church at Berea established by Paul on his second missionary journey). The scenery of mainland Greece is actually quite mountainous. On our way to Meteora, we passed by Mt. Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain (with a peak of about 9,500 feet).
By late morning, we arrived at Meteora, the location of unique Greek Orthodox monasteries that go back to the 14th century AD. These monasteries, originally built as simple wooden shelters, are perched high on the summits of rock peaks about 1,000 feet high. We went into the St. Stephen’s monastery. Fontini shared with us about the detailed religious reliefs inside the chapel here. The view from the top outside courtyard was spectacular! After we boarded back on to the bus, we also enjoyed a few other views of the other five active monasteries in this area.
Following an enjoyable lunch at a local restaurant in Kalambaka (tasting some of the traditional Greek dishes) and some free time to roam the streets on our own, we continued our drive south. Again, the scenery was quite impressive. Along the way, we enjoy a brief stop at Thermopylae, the location where the “300 Spartans” (led by King Leonidas) battled the ancient Persians. The battle took place in 480 BC.
About 7. p.m. we finally made our arrival into Athens. We checked into the hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Following dinner a few ventured out on an optional walk to Constitution Square& Greece’s Parliamentary building to see the changing of the guards. Also, from the rooftop of our hotel we could see the Acropolis (& Parthenon) all lit up in the distance!
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13:
This morning we enjoyed a later start. The sunrise here in the classic city of Athens really is something to see (a few pictures are included from Mt. Lycabetuslooking down to the city and the Acropolis/Parthenon as the sun came up)! The day was once again filled with magnificent sun and warm temps in the 70s.
We all enjoyed another great Greek breakfast before loading the bus for a 9:45 start. As we departed from Piraeus, the primary the port of Athens, we read from 2 Timothy 3 and Paul’s encouraging words to this fellow servant of Christ and young missionary companion.
Aegean Sea Cruise
Arriving at Piraeus, Tasos (our Expedition & Tours agent) accompanied us through the usual cruise ship procedures. He will be our escort for the next three days on board the Olympus cruise-line boat. After boarding, we all found our rooms, went through the life-jacket check and orientation meeting before enjoying lunch. There are about 1,400 on board the ship.
Leaving the port, we “sailed” towards the beautiful Greek island of Mykonos. Upon arriving there around 6 p.m., we disembarked and enjoyed a walking tour of the “island of windmills.” We just barely caught the sunset. Spectacular! We also enjoyed exploring on our own and some shopping. By the water’s edge, many stopped in one of the many cafes for a bite to eat and/or coffee, taking in the culture and beauty.
We all boarded back onto the ship between 8:30-9:30 for dinner. It is amazing to think that Paul sailed these same waters. As we retired for the night, the ship kept course through the night and early morning hours towards Kusadasi on the western coastline of Turkey. We arrive their tomorrow morning prior to breakfast.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14: KUSADASI, PATMOS
Today after breakfast, we disembarked at the Turkish port city of Kusadasi. It would be another spectacular weather day, with full sun and highs once again in the 70s. This would be a day of reflecting upon the ministry of not only Paul (in Ephesus) but also John (on Patmos).
We loaded on our bus and drove directly to one of the most impressive archaeological site in Turkey – Ephesus! Our local guide who showed us this massive ancient city was “Oz.” Arriving at this city where Paul would spend about three years, we saw so many impressive ruins. These included the Agora, the Library of Celsus, statutes of Nike and other gods, a public lutrine, the newly-displayed “terrace houses” (we had a special ticket for seeing these), and the theater. In the theater we read from Acts 19, a story that took place right where we sat. We also enjoyed a time of worship in the theater as well (with a few others joining us). On our way back to Kusadasi, we stopped at a Turkish carpet shop and store. It was very interesting to see how silk is spun and how carpets are made. The Turkish people are very kind and hospitable.
We boarded back on to the ship shortly after noon and enjoyed lunch on board as we began to sail again. Sailing west, we arrived on the island of Patmos. This is where John received his vision to write the Book of Revelation. Although there is not much to see here (other than the traditional “Grotto” and cave where John was bound, the beauty of the island was remarkable. We also visited St. John’s Monastery. Located further up on the hill, the view was spectacular from here! We read from Revelation 4 and celebrated the kingship of Jesus and His return. Praise be to God for His control of both the present and the future.
Upon returning, we once again enjoyed dinner together on our own before retiring for the night.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15:
Today was our last full day on the cruise ship. Arriving during the night to the island of Crete (at Heraklion), we disembarked for a tour of Knosses shortly after 7:30 this morning. This island of mountains (the highest one being over 8,000 feet) is connected once again to the missionary work of Paul, for he left Titus here to do ministry (Titus 1:5, he appointed church leaders here). The day would be another sunny one, with highs in the 70s.
These ruins actually date back to around 4,000 BC when the great empire flourished on this island. This means that even during the days of people such as Abraham and Moses, this island civilization was thriving. Here at Knosses we saw the massive Minoan ruins. The Minoans (led by King Minos) were a people-group who lived here from about 2,000 BC (e.g. about the time of Abraham) to 1,450 BC (e.g. or about the time of the Exodus from Egypt). In about 1,450 BC and after an earthquake to the area (including Santorini), the Myceneans (from the Peloponnese region in southern Greece near Corinth) replaced the Minoans unto about 1,100 BC (e.g. the time of the end of the period of the Judges). Among the ruins we saw the palace, the “queen’s apartment,” and the throne room.
Following seeing the ruins of Knossos, we visited the city square of Heraklion for some walking and shopping. We came back to the ship about noon for lunch.
After boarding back on to the ship for lunch, we sailed to one of the most breathtaking islands of Greece –Santorini! Before arriving, we enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion on the ship. Upon arriving, we took tender boats to get to the shoreline. The primary part of the town of Santorini is located on top of the mountain. To ascend, some took the cable car to the top, while others walked up the “donkey path.” The view from the top was amazing! The combination of the white buildings, the blue roofs, and the panoramic view of this ancient volcano (now underwater) makes this island a favorite destination of many! We enjoyed exploring the shops and the continual picturesque views of there port below. The sunset was marvelous!
We returned to the ship once again for dinner. Tonight while we sleep we sailed back to Piraeus, the port of Athens.
DAY 8 – MONDAY, OCTOBER 16:
We arrived back in the port of Piraeus this morning. We sailed through the night from Santorini. The sun once again greeted us, with perfect temps in the 70s. We have been blessed with great weather!
We disembark the cruise and met Aliki, our new Greek guide. After loading the bus, we headed south to the Peloponneseregion of Greece. Crossing the amazing (and deep) Corinthian Canal(that separates the Aegean and Ionian/Adriatic Seas), we continued the path of the Apostle Paul to the city of Corinth. The canal itself is 3.8 miles long, 290 feet tall in height, 85 feet wide, with the water depth around 26-27 feet deep.
Corinthwas a city visited by Paul on his second missionary journey. He would stay here 1.5 years. He met Aquilla and Priscilla here as well. Visiting the site, we saw the Agora, the Temple of Apollo (one of 14 temples here during Greek times. At least three were here during Paul’s day – the Temples of Apollo, Asclepius, and Poseidon), the bemawhere Paul preached from before Gallio (the Proconsul), the Roman street, and fountain. Most of the ruins here date to the time of Paul, allowing us to once again literally walk in his footsteps! We read from Acts 18 and 2 Corinthians 4. Paul remained faithful to the church established here. Paul wrote I and II Thessalonians from here as well as Romans. Before leaving, some of us saw Corinth’s theater. It is primarily not excavated. However, an inscription with the the name Eratus can been seen. He was mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:23.
On the way back to Corinth, we re-crossed the Corinthian Canal but not before seeing the area of Cenchreae (Acts 18). This was the small harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia (Israel). We had lunch here at a traditional Greek restaurant. We saw a number of boats enter the canal here.
Driving back toAthens, we arrived at the well-known Acropolis. Walking to the top, we saw the Propylea (the “gateway” leading up to the Parthenon and lined with many statues), the Erechtheum (the most important shrine, where Athena, Posedion and Erechtos were honored), and the largest of them all, the Parthenon. This building was built in ten years (between 447-438 BC). It involved 4,000 workers, supervised by Phidias. It took another 5-6 years for decorations to be completed. Thus, it was finished in 432 BC. It was 17 pillars on the long side with 8 on the ends. A 40 foot high statute made of one ton of gold of Athena stood inside.
Just below the Acropolis is the Rock of Areopagusor “Mar’s Hill.” This was were Paul shared the Gospel with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. We read from Acts 17 here, celebrating not only Paul’s boldness, but also those who became believers that day (e.g. Dionysius, Damaris, and a ‘number of others’).
Leaving this area, we drove to our hotel. On the way, we passed by the Parliamentary building, the Arch of Hardian, and the Temple of Zeus. Three in the group got dropped off at the base of Mt. Lycabetusfor an optional hike to the top of this mountain that overlooks the entire city of Athens. The sunset over Athens was fantastic!
After check-in at the hotel, we enjoyed dinner before retiring for the night. Tomorrow is our last full day here in Greece.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17:
Today was our last full day here in Greece. For the last time, we are thankful for the bright sun and temps in the mid-high 70s again.
We started the day early today, at 7 a.m. This is because we had a longer drive to one of the best -preserved classical archaeological sites in all of Greece – Delphi! As we left the hotel, we read from I Corinthians 9 (running towards the “prize”) and 2 Corinthians 10 (spiritual weapons), being reminded once again of the life and culture of Paul and the need to approach ministry armed with the power of God’s Spirit.
Driving to Delphi was very scenic. After leaving the Athens area, we entered into a more mountainous region of mainland Greece. We stopped once along the way for a snack and bathroom break (wow… great glaze donuts!!). The mountain range of Delphi is called Parnassos. It is a beautiful region of mainland Greece. Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. According to mythology, the divine oracle of Apollo was given nine times each year (on the 7th day of the spring summer, and fall months). 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.
Upon arriving in Delphi, the first thing we visited was the archaeological site. Here we saw many ruins waiting form the classical Greek Period (6th-5th centuries BC) to the Roman Period and time of Paul. Among the ruins we saw were the Treasury of Athena, the famous Temple of Apollo, the theater, and the stadium. It is one of the best preserved stadiums in all of Greece!
Next, we visited the Delphi museum only a few minutes walk form the site. Here we saw some very impressive artifacts, including the inscription that mentions Gallio, Proconsul of Corinth. This helps verify that Paul was in Corinth around 51-52 AD. We also saw many statutes and temple reliefs.
After eating lunch at a traditional Greek restaurant in Arachova(a beautiful small town nearby built on the slopes of the mountain), we made our way back to Athens. We stopped at the Athens Airport first. Here we said goodbye to the six in the group who are extending their trip to Rome. There will be lots to see there! Rome was Paul’s final destination (Acts 27).
For the rest of us, we drove back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. Some in the group enjoyed walking around the streets of Athens on their own.
It was a great trip of walking in the footsteps of Paul and “connecting the dots” between the world and culture of the New Testament and the Scriptures!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18: ATHENS, U.S.A.
This morning following breakfast we loaded up our luggage and transfered to the Athens Airport for our return flight back to the States. Tasos, our wonderful Greece agent, accompanied us. We arrive home in the late afternoon/evening, catching our connecting flights a little later. Thanks be to God for a great trip!