In the Footsteps of St. Paul
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul/Adana
After arrival at the Istanbul Airport, we connect to a domestic flight to Adana. From here we take a short drive to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, to visit the well that is believed to have been within the grounds of his home. Trade and agriculture made Tarsus a rich city. It was a center of pagan worship during Roman Era. After viewing the Gate of Cleopatra, we head to our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Adana.
Day 2: Adana-Antioch-Adana
In the morning we drive over the East Taurus Mountains to reach Antioch (Antakya today). Located near the point where the Orontes River meets the Mediterranean, the ancient city was outsized only by Rome and Alexandria. The Apostle Peter made a mission to its many Jews, as did Paul and Barnabas, who spent a year here (Acts 11:26). The Antioch converts were the first to be called Christians. We drive through the city and continue to its harbor, Seleucia, from which Paul took ship. Then we return to Antioch and visit a museum containing some of the finest Roman-era mosaics. In the afternoon we visit theChurch of St. Peter, which marks the place where the apostles gathered. Later in the afternoon we return to Adana for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Adana-Iconium
We drive to the town of Karaman and observe the unexcavated mound of Derbe, where the Lord enabled Paul and Barnabas to show miraculous signs. We continue to the city of Konya, ancient Iconium, passing the mound of Lystra (Acts 14:8-19). In Iconium Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 14:1-3). Konya became a center of theology and philosophy for many centuries. In the afternoon we shall visit theMevlana Museum, which houses the tomb of the great 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, who founded the Order of the Whirling Dervishes. Dinner and Overnight in Konya.
Day 4: Iconium-Pisidian Antioch-Hierapolis
This morning we drive west over mountains and fertile valleys to reach another Antioch: Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13). Here Paul preached both to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, winning over many of the latter. It was a major center for many different cultures in this part of Asia Minor, known as Anatolia, and became the venue of important church councils. We shall walk on theMarble Road and sit on the stones that belonged to thesynagogue where Paul first addressed the Gentiles together with the Jews. In the afternoon we continue to Hierapolis, today called Pamukkale, the Cotton Fortress, because of its white calcium formations. We visit the visually intriguing calcium pools. This evening we can enjoy the thermal facilities of our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale.
Day 5: Pamukkale-Laodecia-Philadelphia-Sardis-Smyrna
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 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 continue our drive, through robust vineyards, to Sardis, “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 visit the Roman gymnasium, the synagogue and the Temple of Artemis. Then we drive to 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. Dinner and overnight in Izmir.
Day 6: Izmir-Ephesus-Izmir
We drive to Ephesus, one of the Bible’s most significant cities (Rev. 2:1-7), with 200,000 inhabitants. 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 Maryis 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. With a respectable Jewish community, Ephesus attracted the attention of the apostles, including Paul, who 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 Izmir.
Day 7: Izmir-Assos
We drive 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). By noon we reach Pergamon, the church that John both affirmed and chastised (Rev. 2:12-17) by his famous statement “where Satan has its throne”. Pergamon was the capital of a Hellenistic Kingdom of that name, which ruled western Asia Minor. Here parchment was invented, and Galen practiced medicine. We drive north through olive orchards and traditional Turkish villages before reaching Assos, where Paul met Luke while traveling to the Holy Land for Passover. Its ruins lie under the modern-day fishing village of Behramkale. Dinner and overnight here.
Day 8: Assos-Troy-Dardanelles-Istanbul
We drive to the ancient port of Alexandria Troas (Acts16:13), where Paul raised from death a boy named Eutychus (Acts 20:7). We continue to Troy, site of the Trojan War and source for Homer’s Iliad. Founded 5000 years ago, it controlled the Dardanelles until the Roman era. After crossing the strait by ferry, we drive over the Gallipoli Peninsula, which witnessed some of the harshest battles of World War I. Early in the evening we reach Istanbul. Dinner and overnight.
Day 9: Istanbul
Founded 3300 years ago, Istanbulstraddles two continents, Europe and Asia, separated by the Strait of Bosphorus. We explore the Old City, starting at the Hippodrome, scene of chariot races in the Roman period. We then visit the 17th-century Blue Mosque, famous for its six minarets and magnificent blue-tiled interior. We continue to the Topkapi 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 10: More of Istanbul
This morning we visit the Church of Chora, an architectural gem of the late Byzantine period. It abounds with 14th-century mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible as well as the noncanonical Gospel of James. Later we explore the aisles of the 17th-century Spice Market with its magical aromas. Then we enjoy a private cruise along the Bosphorus, viewing 19th century mansions and palaces. In the afternoon, we visit the Lady Sadberk Museum, housing a rich private exhibit of Turkish folk arts, as well as an impressive collection of archaeological finds dating back to Hittite period. Dinner and overnight in Istanbul.
Day 11: Departure from Istanbul
We transfer to the Istanbul Airport for our international flight.