With his vigor to spread the Gospel, St. Paul spent most of his Christian life traveling over thousands of miles by land and sea, encountering endless difficulties. Most of these journeys were done in the lands of present day Turkey for a multiple of reasons. The main reason was that Anatolia and the states therein were culturally, commercially and intellectually so advanced that, Christianity’s acceptance here would mean a speedier spread throughout Anatolia. In order to reach the people, St. Paul had to travel through Anatolia extensively. Another reason may be the state of moral deterioration existing among the pagan world of ancient Anatolia, which was ripe and ready to accept new philosophies, religions and doctrines. No doubt these journeys were a great hardship for St. Paul who had to cover most of the area on foot, spending most of his nights outside in bitter cold or hot temperatures. Our journey through the same routes will not be as difficult.
ORNHLTSP (15 Nights/ 16 Days)
Istanbul, Adana, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Izmir, Ephesus, Bursa, Iznik
Day 1 Istanbul
Arrival at Istanbul airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2 Istanbul (B,L)
Following breakfast, we drive to the ‘Old City’ where we will visit the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, famous for its delicate blue ceramic tiles and Haghia Sophia. This church – turned mosque – turned museum takes the breath away with the sheer architectural size of its interior and magnificent dome. Next we will visit the spectacular Topkapi Palace that was built on one of the seven hills of Istanbul. This huge complex commands views of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. It was the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire for many centuries (1453-1852). We will see the extravagant Treasury, the priceless Chinese porcelain. We will finish up the day in the bustling Grand Bazaar that is an attractive shopping center and biggest “souk” in the world.
Day 3Istanbul / Adana / Antakya (B,D)
We will take the early flight to Adana, ancient Cilicia, and drive straight to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul. During St. Paul’s time Tarsus was a university city surpassing Athens and Alexandria. Cicero was a governor here in 51-50 BC and the romantic meeting between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony took place in Tarsus. Highlights here will be St. Paul’s well, the recently excavated ancient main street and Cleopatra’s Gate. Continue to Antakya or Antioch-on-the- Orontes for dinner and overnight.
Day 4 Antakya / Adana (B,D)
Antioch is thought to have been founded in 300 BC among all the cities in the ancient world. Antioch offered the most ferric ground for new ideas, philosophies and religions. First to preach here was St. Peter followed by St. Paul and Barnabas whose extensive efforts proved to be very fruitful for Christianity. Incidentally, the word “Christian” was first coined in Antioch. The strong and wealthy community of Antioch contributed financially to the Christian community of Jerusalem. Highlights include the museum which houses a superb collection of mosaics from Antioch, Daphne and Seleucia Pieria and St. Peter’s Grotto, the cave church came to be known as the meeting place of the early Christians. According to the legend, ancient Daphne was the sacred grove where Apollo tried to rape a nymph of the same name whom Eros struck with an arrow thus making her incapable of loving neither a god nor a mortal. Apart from being dedicated to Apollo, Daphne was also a place of carnal pleasures and any soldier caught in the area was dismissed from service. The next site we will visit today is Seleucia Pieria which was the port city of Antioch in ancient days. The most interesting monument here is the Tunnel of Titus which is a tremendous water canal dug for the purpose of diverting waters of Orontes river. Another highlight here will be the rock tombs with their impressive facades pertaining to the Hellenistic period. Return to Adana for dinner and overnight.
Day 5 Adana / Cappadocia (B,D)
After an early breakfast, we drive north to Cappadocia and first stop at Derinkuyu or Kaymakli. This is an underground city, carved into soft rocks resembling a huge labyrinth of tunnels, rooms, kitchens, wine cellars and passageways. A huge chimney ventilates this 8-levelled dwelling which was used by Christians to hide from their Roman and Byzantine persecutors. Further on we come to central Cappadocia. What Turks commonly call “Fairy Chimneys” are jutting pieces of volcanic rocks that have been beaten and shaped by the wind and rain. Highlights will be The Apple Church, The Serpent and Sandal Churches and the Church with a Buckle in Goreme. Their colorful frescoes remain as vibrant as when they were first made. Dinner and overnight.
Day 6 Cappadocia / Konya (B,D)
We further continue our visits in Avanos, Uchisar and stop at Pasabag to see the fairy chimneys. Time will be provided for your shopping on Turkish carpets, pottery and Cappadocia souvenirs.
Later we begin our drive to Konya or ancient Iconium which became an important Christian city following St. Paul’s preaching. A Phyrigian legend says that Konya was the first city to be founded after the flood. St. Paul and Barnabas came here in 47 AD and their preaching was accompanied by many miracles. St. Paul made two more stops here on his second and third journeys. Today’s Konya is quite new but the center of the city is very old. It is also the center for Whirling Dervishes of Mevlana. We may arrange a visit to the existing Catholic church in town center. Dinner and overnight.
Day 7 Konya / Antalya (B,D)
Early morning we will drive to Psidian Antioch (Yalvac) where St. Paul opened Christianity to the world. Yalvac’s history goes back to 280 BC. During St. Paul’s time, the population was a mixture of Jews, Romans and Greeks.There are propylaea of the acropolis with a number of carved stones, a small theater, a prehistoric altar to Cybele in the Agustus Forum, aqueducts and the remains of a beautiful Byzantine church. We pass by Egirdir Lake and arrive in Antalya for dinner and overnight.
Day 8 Antalya (Perge- Aspendus) (B,D)
Ruins of Perge are 18 kms to the east of Antalya. This is where St. Paul began preaching after arriving from Cyprus. Highlights are the Theater, the Bath, the Agora, the main street with a water canal, the Stadium and the beautiful Hellenistic Gate. Another one of the Pamphilian cities is Aspendus. The Theater is the best preserved in the world with its incredible acoustics. Dinner and overnight in Antalya.
Day 9 Antalya / Pamukkale (Laodicea- Hierapolis) (B,D)
We leave our hotel early in the morning and drive to Hierapolis but before we get here we stop at Laodicea. We find here two Theaters, a large Stadium, a Water Tower, an Odeon, Agora and the fountain.. The city is supposed to have been named by Antiochus II in honor of his wife, Laodicea. St. Paul wrote a letter to the nearby city of Colossae. (Acts: 4:16). We arrive in Hierapolis that was founded by Pergamon king Telephos and named after his wife Hiera. Most likely, the very large Jewish element in this city was an important factor in the rapid expansion of Christianity. During the Byzantine period the city became the seat of diocese with a large Christian Church dedicated to St. Philip who was martyred here in 80 AD. Highlights include the Roman Baths, the Temple of Apollo and the Theater and the calcified terraces. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
Day 10 Pamukkale / Kusadasi (B,D)
We start early as we will see two sights today. Our first stop is Didyma that served as a religious sanctuary to god Apollo. Oracular inscriptions in Didyma indicate dates as far back as 6th.BC. Legend tells us that with the arrival of Alexander the Great, the sacred spring of the Temple that had dried up began to flow again. Highlights will be the Temple of Apollo. Further north we arrive in Miletus whose history dates back to 800 BC. Famous Philosopher Thales comes from Miletus and he is credited with the theory that all things come from water. Highlights here are the Lion Harbor that St. Paul sailed in, the Main Colonnaded Street, the Theatre, Baths of Faustina and the Council Chamber. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
Day 11 Kusadasi / Izmir (Ephesus) (B,D)
On our way to Izmir this morning we will stop by the famous city of Ephesus. Our tour will begin with the Basilica of St. John “the Evangelist” who came here with the Virgin Mary and wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis, considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was located here.Ephesus, as you will see, is in very good state of preservation and the overall existing view of this ancient city will make it evident that she was a wealthy, cultural and commercial center in the past. St. Paul’s preaching in the area resulted with the uproar of the Guild of Silversmiths and eventually the whole population of Ephesus. Highlights include the Library of Celcius, the Temple of Hadrian, the Fountain of Trajan, the Brothel and the Theater. We will also stop by the House of Virgin Mary close by where she is reputed to have spent her last years. Pope Benedict XVI visited this area and held a Mass in December 2006. You will be able to collect some holy water from the Sacred Spring. Dinner and overnight in Izmir.
Day 12Izmir (Sardis) (B,D)
We drive to Sardis whose history dates back to 12th cent. BC. Sardis felt the influence of Christianity very early and was included in the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. During the Byzantine times, it was the seat of a bishopric. Highlights will be the Synagogue, the Gymnasium, the Byzantine Church and the Temple of Artemis. We will then proceed to Thyateria or Akhisar that was another one of the towns where Christianity spread quickly. It was the site for one of the Churches of Revelation. We have yet one more to see, the church of St. Polycarp in Izmir. Dinner and overnight.
Day 13Izmir / Ayvalik or Assos (B,D)
On our way to Ayvalik this morning we will stop by the hauntingly beautiful Pergamon. Among the impressive structures of this city, dating from 399 BC, we will see the Trajaneum, Altar of Zeus, Temple of Dionysus, Theater and the 200,000 volume library which was surpassed only by that found in Alexandria at the time.The Asclepieum of Pergamon was a famous health center where methods of treatment included blood transfusions, music therapy and meditation. Dinner and overnight.
Day 14Ayvalik / Bursa (Troas – Assos) (B,D)
Today is a long and challenging day for every body! We leave our hotel and proceed to Assos and Troas before heading towards Bursa. Assos perches high on a cliff overlooking the Aegean and the Island of Lesbos is breathtaking. Its Acropolis carries the impressive Temple of Athena. Arriving in Assos on foot from Troas, St. Paul preached here and went down to the little port on the shore to board the boat on his return journey to Jerusalem. Troas was a busy port situated further south from Troy but north of Assos. Recent excavations revealed a dozen different cities covering 3000 years of human occupation. During his stay in Troas, St. Paul had a dream in which he saw a vision of a man asking him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us” after which he decided to go to Europe. All in all, he stopped and preached here 3 times. Continue to Bursa. Dinner and overnight
Day 15 Bursa / Istanbul (Iznik/Nicea) (B)
After breakfast, we will visit the Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) and the Yesil Turbe (Green Tomb). The Ulu Camii (Grand Mosque) is completely Seljuk style, a big rectangular building with immense portals and a forest of supporting columns inside. Bursa is the silk center for Turkey. We leave Bursa behind us and drive to Nicea. The city was founded around 1000 BC. In 325, the First Ecumenical Council was held here for the purpose of condemning the heresy of Arianism. The Seventh Ecumenical Council was also held here in the St. Sophia Church which we will visit first. The church was built in the 4th century and has a mosaic floor which dates to the 6th century. All gates and walls date from the Byzantine times. We proceed to Istanbul and check into our hotel.
Day 16 Istanbul (B)
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.
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