Istanbul, Troy and Seven Churches
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul
Meet at the Istanbul Airport and transfer to hotel. Founded 3300 years ago, Istanbul straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, separated by the Strait of Bosphorus. This afternoon we enjoy a private cruise along the Bosphorus, viewing 19th century mansions and palaces. In the afternoon we return to the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
Day 2: Istanbul
We explore the Old City, starting at the Hippodrome, scene of chariot races in the Roman period. We then visit the 17th-centuryBlue Mosque, famous for its six minarets and magnificent blue-tiled interior. We continue to theTopkapi Palace of the Ottoman Sultans, which houses the riches of 700 years; we shall see the crown jewels and a unique collection of Chinese porcelain. In the afternoon we visit the Basilica of Saint Sophia, built by Justinian the Great in the 6th century. With its massive dome (176 feet high!) and its golden mosaics, Saint Sophia has never ceased to astonish. Our day of history and architecture will end with a visit to the Grand Bazaar, where Genoese and Venetian merchants plied their wares through the Renaissance. Exploring the aisles of the 500-year-old mall, we hunt for bargains in handcrafted souvenirs from oriental rugs to antique jewelry. Then we return to the hotel. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
Day 3: Istanbul – Canakkale
After checking out of the hotel, we drive west along the northern shore of the Sea of Marmara on the Thracian peninsula, the European part of Turkey. On reaching the Strait of the Dardanelles, we cross theGallipoli peninsula, which witnessed some of the harshest battles of World War I. We cross the Dardanelles by ferry and continue to Tevfikiye, where we visit what remains of Troy, the city sung by Homer. Founded 5000 years ago, Troy controlled the Dardanelles until the Roman era. Early in the evening we reach our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Canakkale.
Day 4: Canakkale – Assos – Pergamum – Akhisar – Izmir
We start the day with a delightful drive through olive orchards, reaching the ancient port of Alexandria Troas, from which St. Paul set sail to Macedonia. Heading south, we pass Assos, where Paul met Luke while traveling to the Holy Land for Passover. The ruins of Assos lie under the modern-day fishing village of Behramkale. Early in the afternoon we reach Pergamon, the church that John both affirmed and chastised (Rev. 2:12-17), calling it the site of Satan’s throne. Pergamon was the capital of a Hellenistic Kingdom of that name, which ruled western Asia Minor. In the afternoon we continue to Akhisar, ancient Thyathira, hometown of the New Testament Jezebel. The church of Thyatira was praised for its increasing faith but criticized for its tolerance of Jezebel (Rev. 2:18-28). Dinner and overnight in Izmir.
Day 5: Izmir – Sart – Alasehir – Pamukkale
This morning we tour Izmir (Smyrna), whose story goes back 5000 years. Two of its churches won high praise in Revelation 2:8-11. Among the first martyrs of Asia Minor was its bishop, Policarp, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. We continue our drive, through robust vineyards, toSardis, “you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1-6). The ruins of Sardis, dating from the Roman period, still convey its wealth. We then continue to Philadelphia: “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Rev. 3:8). Today’s Philadelphians still make their living from viniculture, as in Bible times. We then drive toPamukkale, home to spectacular hot springs. We visit the nearby ruins of Hierapolis, an important seat of early Christianity Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
Day 6: Pamukkale – Laodecia – Ephesus – Kusadasi
We start the day with a short drive to Laodecia: ” I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'” (Rev. 3:15-17). The city was indeed rich from textile production. The Laodiceans washed their wool in the waters of the nearby river, Lycus, which gave the product a special sheen. Thanks to their wealth they never needed assistance from Rome,even after their city was twice destroyed by earthquake. Recent excavations have revealed the Roman road and theater, both in very good condition. We continue with a pleasant drive to Ephesus, one of the Bible’s most significant cities (Rev. 2:1-7). The Apostle Paul visited in 53 A.D, and, according to tradition, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel here. We visit the house where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent the last days of her life with John. We then take a short drive to the abundant ruins of the ancient city. As capital of the Roman Province of Asia Minor, Ephesus was the scene of many political intrigues. Paul carried out his mission here for two years. We walk on theMarble Road through the city, noting temples dedicated to the emperors Domitian and Hadrian. The Library of Celsus adorns the most impressive square. We tour the ancient residential section, observing the luxury in which some Ephesians lived. The theater is the largest surviving from the Roman period. This massive building was the scene of an uprising provoked by a merchant named Demetrius against St.Paul and his teachings (Acts 19:23). Finally, we visit the Basilica of John, built in the 6th century on the traditional tomb of John the Evangelist. One of the greatest Christian shrines, it was constructed using stones from the Temple of Artemis, visible from its outer gardens. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi.
Day 7: Departure from Kusadasi
There are several possibilities. We can take a cruise to Greece, or we can fly from Izmir Airport to Tel Aviv or Cairo.