Trip Experiences of our 11 Day Extensive Biblical Greece Tour (including a 3 day Aegean Sea cruise, with Ephesus!). Optional Extension to Rome and Pompeii!
October 6-16, 2019 (with optional Rome & Pompeii extension Oct 16-19)
(Note: The trip is now updated through Day 11, Wednesday, October 16)
Our Trip Experiences:
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, OCTOBER 6-7 : DEPART U.S.A. – ARRIVAL IN GREECE
With much anticipation and excitement, our trip began today! Most in the group met in Philadelphia for our flight to London and then to Athens. Others in the group met us in Athens. We also met our Greek guide, Aliki at the Athens Airport. What a sweetheart she is!
Although the flights and layovers were long, with thanks to God we made it on our final leg of the journey to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Once landing in this northern Greece city, we were greeted by our bus driver Apostolos. With in steady rain, we drove directly to the hotel for dinner. The small group from Oregon led by Pastor Elmer arrived in Thessaloniki about 10 p.m.
We are all looking for a good night’s sleep and a wonderful trip together! We also hope the skies clear tomorrow as we begin the trip!
(no photos from today)
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8: PHILIPPI, KAVALA, THESSALONIKI
Today was our first full day here in Greece. The weather was overcast, with light showers in the air throughout most of the morning. However, the clouds broke in the afternoon, with rays of sun peaking through. The high temp for the day was in the high 60s. It looks like full sun for the next week!
Following a great breakfast at 7 a.m., we landed the bus and departed for Philippi at 8 a.m. We read Philippians 1 as we started this new day. It took us about 2 hours to get to this ancient city visited by Paul on his 2nd mission journey. On the way we stopped at a classic Greek rest stop for cookies, coffee, and pastries.
At Philippi we first visited the river outside the city. It was somewhere along this river where Lydia (from Thyatira) heard and received the kingdom message of Christ from Paul and Silas. She and her household also received Christ and were baptized. At the site itself we saw the theater, the Late Roman basilicas, the forum (marketplace), and the Praetorium (judgement hall). At the traditional ancient prison, we read from Acts 16 about God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of Paul and Silas. Also, the jailor placed his faith in Christ that night. Before leaving the site, we enjoyed lunch here.
About 9 miles away and located on the shoreline of the northern Aegean Sea is Kavala or ancient Neopolis. Paul sailed into this port following his Macedonian vision at Troas (Acts 16).Today, only the Late Roman aqueduct and the Byzntine fortress can been seen. Outside a Greek Orthodox Church a modern monument is erected honoring Paul’s journey here. Some in the group also enjoyed a few more cookies and ice cream cones here.
From here we returned the same route used in the morning back to Thessaloniki. It took about 2 hours. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9: THESSALONIKI, BEREA, VERGINA, METEORA, KALAMBAKA
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.
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
Today was another great day here in Greece. It was a day involving a lot of driving, but with very scenic views along the way! Other than a brief shower in the afternoon, the weather was again pleasant, with clouds and sun and highs in the 70s.
After another great breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and began our drive towards Delphi. We read from Acts 20 and Philippians 4 as we started the day. About an hour and a half into our drive, we drove past the area of Thermopylae. It was here in 480 where King Leonidas, along with 300 Spartan greeks and 700 Thespian greeks were defeated by the Persians (who, incidentally, would be defeated in a sea battle shortly after this one). Today, only a monument stands in honor of the courage of these 1,000 greek warriors
Continuing southward, we arrived in Delphi. Following a classic Greek lunch once again, we arrived at the archaeological site. First, we walked through the museum. Many impressive artifacts are displayed here, including the famous bronze charioteeer (dating to 476 BC), and the Gallio Inscription. This was written by a scribe named Claudius who mentions “my friend Gallio the proconsul of Achaia.” Luke mentions hi as well (Acts 18:13).
The archaeological site nearby was quite impressive. We ascended through the site, complete with the famous Temple of Apollo, a theater, and a stadium. The Pythian Games were held here in Delphi every four years in honor of Apollo. Below on the other side was where the gymnasium was located. Delphi was known in this classical period of Greece as the place of oracles. The women who shared oracles were call pythia. Acts 16:16 uses the same word. Paul and Silas preached that accepting Christ as spoken in the very Word (e.g. oracle) of God and trusting in God’s Spirit is what gives purpose and direction for our lives!
Following the visit of this incredible sire, we drove to Athens. We arrived about 3 hours later. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a late dinner together. Many in the group then enjoyed an optional walk to Constituion Square, with others walking to the top of Mt. Lycabetus for a panoramic view of the city and of the Acropolis.
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11: START OUR 3-NIGHT AEGEAN/MEDITERRANEAN SEA CRUISE – MYKONOS
Today we set sail on our Aegean & Mediterranean cruise! The skies were overcast today (unlike the forecast of sun), with highs in the 70s. It would be a day of sailing past the many Greek islands!
Wake-up call was a bit later today (7:30 am). We enjoyed a deluxe breakfast was on the top floor of the hotel, giving us an amazing view of the Acropolis and Parthenon. Then, we tagged our bags for the cruise boat and loaded the bus for the drive to Piraeus, Athen’s port. Following the standard procedures of boarding the ship and life-jacket check, the ship pulled out of the port and we began our cruise towards the island of Mykonos.
We arrive at the island of Mykonos in the late afternoon. We disembarked the ship and then took shuttle buses towards the main part of the harbor. We then strolled through the maze of walkways and white-washed buildings before arriving at the windmill area. We enjoyed the waterfront (called Little Venus) lined with shops and cafes. Some in the group enjoyed dinner at one of the many restaurants while others returned to the ship for dinner. While we sleep tonight we will travel to the western coastline of Turkey.
DAY 7 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12: KUSADASI, EPHESUS, PATMOS
Today was a bright sunny day, with blue skies and highs around 80. It was another day of both connecting with Paul’s ministry and enjoying the beauty of the the islands.
Following sailing through the night, we arrived at Kusadasi (it means “bird island” in Turkish). Located on the western coastline of Turkey, this port city is a vacation and retirement locations for many Brits and Europeans. Following breakfast on the ship, we left the ship and boarded our tour bus shortly after 7 pm. Splitting up into two buses, we met our Turkish guides and drove straight to Ephesus.
We arrived in Ephesus at 8:30 a.m. This was a massive port city back in the days of Paul. He spent about three years here during his 3rd mission journey. Starting from the upper part of the city and walking on the ancient stone pavement towards the port, we past by a vast number of archaeological ruins. This included the odeon (small theater), statues, pillars, arches, inscriptions, public latrenes, and the Celsus Library. Sitting together in the agora, we read from Acts 19 about the dramatic event that took place in the grand theater. It held about 22,000 people! Seeing the city and knowing about the Temple of Artemis (Diana) that once stood here helped us understand the challenges Paul faced in sharing the kingdom message. We also read from Revelation 2 about what John would write about the church established here (e.g. losing one’s ‘first love’…)
On the way back to the ship we made a stop at a rug shop/store (it’s part of the excursion deal). It was interesting to learn how Turkish rugs are made, whether from cotton, wool, or silk. About 12 noon we re-boarded the ship and enjoyed lunch and some free time. It was fun being on the deck as the islands past by.
As we set sail out of Kusadasi for the southwest, we past by the narrowest opening, with the coastline of Turkey on our left and the island of Samos on our right. Paul stopped here on this mountainous island at the end of his 3rd mission journey en route back to Jerusalem (Acts 20).
At 3:45 we all gathered on the top deck as we approached the island of Patmos. We read from Revelation 4,5 and 19, remembering that Revelation is a victory book that honors Christ!
The island of Patmos is another one of the picturesque Greek islands. While imprisoned on this island, the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation from here. To get to the island, we had to use tender boats. Upon arriving on the island, we enjoyed a guided tour to the Grotto of the Apocalypse (a very traditional stop where John was imprisoned and received his vision). We also visited another Greek Orthodox monastery located on the high hills. It is called St. John’s and it has been active for a little over 900 years! In the museum here we saw some manuscripts of texts that date back to the 6th century AD!
Back down at the port, we took the tender boats back to the ship. We enjoyed another late dinner, a Greek barbecue on the open deck! Some in the group also enjoyed the Greek show that was offered later. During the night hours while we sleep we plan to sail to the island of Crete.
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13: HERAKLION, CRETE / SANTORINI
Today was another sunny day, with temps once again around 80. The Greek islands are known for its blue skies and beautiful islands. This would include a visit at the end of the day to Greece’s most famous island at the end of the day, Santorini.
Following breakfast, we disembarked the ship at around 7:30 for the first excursion of the day on the island of Crete. After a short ride through the town of Heraklion, we arrived at the Knossos excavations. Here we saw the archaeological discoveries of the Minoan civilization. They were probably one of the forerunners of the Philistines. Some suggest Caphtor (in Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7) is the ancient island of Crete, while they were called the Sea Peoples by the Egyptian Pharoah, Ramses III in the late 13th-12th century BC.
The Minoans date back to about 2,000 BC (about the time of Abraham). Here we saw the restored palace area, with many frescoes and other ruins. Biblically in the New Testament, it was Paul who left Titus here on this island, giving instructions on appointing church leaders in the towns (Titus 1:5ff). Also, Paul himself would have sailed around the lee of Crete (Acts 27:7) on his way to Rome. Before leaving the island we enjoyed some free time walking around the shops and stores near the modern port. Many bought olive oil (since Crete is well known for having the best!) While others enjoyed the beautiful blue waters down at the port area.
After re-boarding the ship, we enjoyed lunch and some free time before gathering once again on the top deck. The approach into the part of Santorini was incredible. Most of the city is perched high on the edge of this ancient volcano. It most likely erupted around 1550 BC and brought an end to the Minoans living here. After taking our turn taking the tender boats once again in order to get to the port, some took the cable car to the top while others walked up the steep donkey path. It is about a 1,000 foot climb.
The view from the top was breathtaking! No words can adequately describe it! From the top, most in the group explored on their own. Some enjoyed dinner on top, with spectacular views of the sunset and the “bowl” of the volcano below (now all water). We returned back to our tender boats on our own. Once back on board the ship, we set sail back to Piraeus, the port of Athens. We anticipate docking tomorrow morning by the time we wake up.
DAY 9 – MONDAY, OCTOBER 14: HALF DAY TOUR OF ATHENS, FREE TIME
Today was another typical Greece sunny day, with highs around 80 again. The visibility from the Acropolis was excellent too! We would spend the entire day in Athens, the capital of Greece.
Our cruise ship pulled into the Piraeus port about 5:30 a.m., just shortly we awoke up. After breakfast, we gathered once more in the lounge area and shortly after departed the ship. Aliki and Apostolos were there to greet us.
Athens – Acropolis
After loading the bus, we drove about 30 minutes to the Acropolis. We read from 2 Corinthians 5 along the way in preparation for the day. As we arrived, we began our climb up past the odeon (small theater that held 5,000) and the Temple of Nike, and through the Propylea (“gate-way” marked with huge pillars today). Reaching the top we saw the Erechtheum (a temple built in 421-406 BC honoring Athena, Poseidon, and Erechtheus a local goddess) and the Parthenon (built between 447-432 BC).
Looking down on the top from the Acropolis in all directions we could see the Temple of Zeus, the Agora (the center of economic and public life) the Stoa of Attilos, and Mt. Lycabetus.
Leaving the Acropolis we stood at the base of the Rock of Areopagus (“Mar’s Hill) where Paul delivered his testimony. We read this speech he gave (recorded in Acts 17). In the context of the pagan customs and culture of the day, Paul was quite bold in proclaiming Christ here. Praise God for those who heard and responded to Paul’s message that day!
Leaving this area, we boarded back on the bus and enjoyed a brief city tour of Athens. We Past by the Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, and the old Olympic stadium of Athens (made of all marble and restored for the 1896 Olympic Games).
Free afternoon in Athens
From here we drove to our hotel for the next two days. We enjoyed a free afternoon. Many went to the Archaeological Museum (featuring the famous golden masks of the Mycenaean King Agamemnon among many other artifacts). Many also walked to the Plaka, Athen’s market/shopping place. Some even checked out the Agora.
We all returned for dinner at 7 p.m. followed by a free evening.
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15: MYCENAE, CORINTH, ATHEN
Today was our last full day in Greece. It was another bright and sunny day, with temps in the low 80s. Visibility was again excellent as well.
After another great breakfast at the hotel restaurant on the rooftop, we departed about 8 a.m. We drove south to the Peloponnese of Greece. First we stopped at the famous Corinthian Canel. It was built over a 11 year span (1882-1893) and is 3.8 miles long, 85 feet wide, 300 feet deep, with the water level around 26 feet.
We then drove another 15 minutes to the ancient site of ancient Corinth. Among the ruins we saw the Temple of Apollo (one of 14 total pagan temples), the forum (agora in Greek), and the bema (judgement seat). Paul was here for 1.5 years during his 2nd mission journey. From here he wrote letters to the Thessalonica church. During his brief stay here at the end of his 3rd mission journey, we wrote Romans. It was delivered by Phoebe (Romans 16). We read from Acts 18 about Gallio and 2 Corinthians 4. We also walked down to the area of the theater where we saw the Erastus Inscription (he donated his own money for the public works, see Romans 16:23). Before leaving Corinth we drove to the Acropolis for a peak of the Temple of Aphrodite and a spectacular view of the plain of Corinth below.
From here we drove to Mycenae. We first enjoyed a late lunch here before visiting the ruins of this ancient city. Much of what we saw dates from 1,350 – 1,200 BC. At the site we saw the famous Lion’s Gate (1,250 BC), the shaft tombs (where over 30 pounds of gold was found in the 1870s excavations), the palace area, and the cistern. We also saw the Bee Hive tomb of King Agamemnon (or the Treasury of Atreus). We enjoyed singing a few worship songs in the tomb.
Leaving Mycenae at about 5:30, we returned back to our hotel in Athens for a late dinner. We past Cenchreae (Acts 18) on the way. Since most of us fly on an early flight to either to Rome or home, we all retired early. We leave for the airport tomorrow at 5 a.m.
DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16: EARLY FLIGHT FROM ATHENS TO ROME OR U.S.A.
Today, 34 of us flew to Rome, Italy the optional trip extension to Italy. Others in the group either flew back to the States or extended their trip on their own. Once we landed in Rome, the weather was partly sunny, with highs in the 70s.
Waking up at 4 a.m. today, we all gathered our belongings. We grabbed a coffee and a quite bite to eat before loading the bus at 5 a.m. With Tassos’ help, we drove to the airport for our flight to Rome. The procedure was quite quick and easy.
At about 9:30 we landed in Rome. After grabbing our luggage we met our Italian driver (Mario) and tour operator (Danilo) and drove directly to see the spectacular archaeological ruins of ancient Pompeii. Along the way we enjoyed the beautiful countryside of the southwest side of Italy. Upon arriving, we enjoyed some oven-baked Italian-style pizza!
The city of Pompeii was first established in the 6th century BC. It became a large Roman city about 20,000. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, causing the entire city instantly. Excavations began as early back as 1748 (through about 1925). Our local guide, Teresa, did a wonderful job leading us around this large 168 acre city preserved in time. Among the ruins we saw the theater, the Cardo and Decomanos (the two main streets of the city), numerous frescos, the bathhouse, ovens, fountains, and the Temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Of course we also saw a number of casts representing the figures of humans (and animals) who lost their lives suddenly due to the eruption.
Following our visit of Pompeii, we drove back to Rome. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner a late but wonderful sit-down together. We are looking forward to two full days here in Italy’s capital city.
DAY 12 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17: DOMITILLA CATACOMBS, ST. PAUL’S CHURCH OUTSIDE THE WALLS, THE COLOSSEUM, CONSTANTINE’S & TITUS’ ARCH, THE FORUM, ST. JOHN LATERAN, SACRED STEPS
Today was our first of two full days in Rome. Rome is a large city of 6 million (3 million living inside the city limits, with 3 million living around the city). There are 453 churches in Rome. The ancient Roman walls that we saw from tie to time throughout the day (dating from 269-275 AD) are 11 miles long.The weather was perfect, with full sun and highs in the 70s. Our driver (Angelo) and our guide (Paulo) were excellent as well!
After a great breakfast, we departed at 8:30 and drove straight to the Domitilla Catacombs. This is one of the three largest underground cemeteries in Rome (a total of 64 catacombs have been discovered). This one was the first Christian graveyard and it dates from about 200 – 800 AD. This catacombs here consist of 4 labyrinth layers of graves spanning about 15 miles. It was incredible to see so many of them.
St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls
From here we visited St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls. The church originally goes back to 330 AD. It was rebuilt many times. A fire in 1823 destroyed it, but it was rebuilt shortly later in 1827. By tradition, Paul was buried here. The traditional hand cuffs that bound Paul are also displayed here. 267 Popes are also displayed here all around the sanctuary. The church is owned and maintained by Vatican City.
Next we drove past the Circus Maximus (a stadium that held 300,000 people to the area of the Colosseum. After lunch on our own (it was fun to explore the small restaurants!), we visited this massive amphitheater that was built between 72-90 AD. The first 8 years was just to prepare the foundation and lower levels. Over 300 tons of iron (e.g. pins) was used to hold the structure together.
The Colosseum held up to 70,000 people. Gladiators fought here for 450 years against both animals and other men. By last use of the Colosseum was 523 AD. Later, two earthquakes destroyed about half of this structure. Going inside the Colosseum was amazing! We first went to the top for a panoramic view. We then descended down to the lower level. 54 lifts or trap doors were used to lift both animals and gladiators.
Constantine’s & Titus’ Arch
Exiting the Colosseum we next past by Constantine’s Arch. This was built in 315. It is one of seven arches still standing today. Titus’ Arch was built shortly after the Jerusalem campaign in 70 AD. Inside of this are the Menorah can still be seen.
Before leaving the area, we walked through the Roman Forum. We past by all kinds of Roman structures, pillars, and the open area of this ancient marketplace. Standing by the Basilica of Julia and the Temple of Castor & Pollux, we read from Acts 28 (28:11 mentions these two “twin gods” of Jupiter, gods of protection for sea-farers and warriors), and Romans 15 and 16. Flowing Paul’s successful ministry here in Rome (and probably in Spain), he comes back to Rome where he is tried most likely in the Basilica of Julia. He was beheaded in 67 AD. God used him in amazing ways to spread the Gospel to so many! It was special to stand nearby where he was condemned to death. He gave his life for the cause of Christ!
St. John’s Lateran Church & Sacred Steps
Our last stop of the day was to St. John’s Lateran Church (formerly called Church of our Savior). This was the very first official church, built in 313 AD (St. Peter’s Cathedral was built in 319-326 AD). This church was later redone in the 1500s. The new Pope always comes here and appoints the Bishop of Rome here. Across the street we also briefly visited the Sacred Steps. As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness.
We returned back to our hotel for dinner. Many in the group then caught the subway for a visit to St. Peter’s Square. We will be visiting here tomorrow morning! What a great first day here in Rome!
DAY 13 – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18: VATICAN & SISTINE CHAPEL, ST. PETER’S CATHEDRAL, TREVI FOUNTAIN, SPANISH STEPS
Capernaum served as the “home-base” city for Jesus in the Galilee. It was located on the NW corner of the lake. Jesus called at least five disciples from this area. Jesus performed miracles here as well as taught with authority. Passages like Mark 1,2, 9; Luke 7, 8; and John 6 connect us to this site!
The synagogue that stands here dates to the 5th century AD, although the foundation of the 1st century one can been seen below. Other ruins date to the 1st century.