Arrival in Amman, today the capital of Jordan
Amman : Chief city of the Biblical Ammonites, in Roman times – Philadelphia. We continue to Jerash: ancient Gerasa, grandest survivor of the Decapolis, with its forest of pillars. On to Pella, site of another Decapolis city, where the Christians of Jerusalem took refuge during the first Jewish revolt against Rome.
Today we visit Mount Nebo, from which God showed Moses the Promised Land; Madaba, with a mosaic floor from the 6th century showing a map of the Holy Land as Christian pilgrims knew it; Umm al-Rassas, whose churches offer more examples of mosaic art. Then on to Petra.
Petra, where the Nabataean Arabs, ancient masters of the desert, carved breathtaking temples and monuments, 800 in number, out of the multi-colored sandstone. We continue to Aqaba , Jordan’s outlet to the Red Sea, and cross the border to its Israeli counterpart, Eilat.
From Eilat we drive via Sodom to Masada, the Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, Qumran, and the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem: Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, St. Anne’s Church and the Pools of Bethesda, Ophel excavations south of the Temple, Shepherds’ Fields, Bethlehem.
We begin this day at Gethsemane, Israel Museum with the Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls) and the outdoor model of Jerusalem as the city may have looked in 66 AD.. The rest of the day is free for personal interests in Jerusalem.
The Rift Valley: Jericho; Beth Shean; view from the Arbel cliff.
The Sea of Galilee: Panorama of the entire lake from the Golan Heights. Mt. of Beatitudes. Optional walk down the Mount to the lake. Tabgha. On to Capernaum. We boat for an hour on the lake. We spend the afternoon in Nazareth.
A restful day at the lakeside.
The sources of the Jordan. A brief stop at Hazor. Onward to Tell Dan. Then Caesarea Philippi (Banias). We drive around Mt. Hermon for a glimpse of Damascus, 45 miles away, then head back over the Golan Heights.
Megiddo, Muhraka on Mt. Carmel, Caesarea Maritima. Overnight on the coast of Sharon.
We fly to Istanbul (the ancient Constantinople) and visit Hagia Sophia. Inside the great structure one can sense the splendor of the 6th-century church built by Emperor Justinian I, who exclaimed upon entering, “Oh, Solomon, I have surpassed thee.”
In Istanbul: The hippodrome, scene of many a crucial political struggle in the Byzantine Empire. The 17th-century Blue Mosque, among the largest in the city, famous for its interior beauty. A vast underground cistern from the 6th century. St. Savior in Chora, whose mosaics told illiterate worshippers the Gospel story: one of the world’s most important examples of early Byzantine art. St. John of Studius, among the most famous monasteries in Byzantium, where some of the greatest scholars of the era studied and taught.
Day trip to Iznik, originally a Hellenistic city, whose porcelain tiles became world famous four centuries ago. On to Bursa, featuring masterpieces of Ottoman architecture.
A free day in Istanbul.
Journey to Gallipoli, scene of one of the most famous and disastrous campaigns in the annals of warfare. Then to Assos — with the ruins of its Temple to Athena (6th century BC), its gymnasium, colonnaded agora, and theatre. We overnight in Assos.
We visit Ephesus, once the largest city in Asia Minor, where St. Paul spent two years preaching against idolatry (Acts 19). Of the Seven Churches of Revelation, the ruins of Ephesus are the best preserved. We view the agora, walk the marble Arcadian Way, and visit the Temple to Artemis (Diana), one of the seven wonders of the world. We shall also take in the Temple of Serapis, god of healing, and the huge theatre – which seated 24,000 – where riots against Paul took place. The Church of St. John is thought to contain the beloved disciple’s tomb. There is also a tradition that the Virgin Mary spent her last days on earth in Ephesus.
We cross the border into Greece and continue to Kavala, the ancient Neapolis where Paul first entered Europe. The old Roman Road, the Via Egnatia, stretched from here across Macedonia to the Adriatic.
Journey to Philippi, the scene of Paul’s first preaching in Europe (Acts 16). On to Thessalonica, capital of Macedonia, whose Jews and Gentile God-fearers heard Paul preach in its synagogue (Acts 17: 2-4).
We visit Berea (Beroea), where Paul preached for three weeks to the Jews, Greeks and Romans (Acts 17: 10-15). On to Kalambaka, a small town at the foot of majestic grey rocks. It includes the 12th-century cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, rich with frescoes.
Meteora. Medieval monasteries stand atop gigantic, barren, almost inaccessible rocks that surge into the heavens – a natural refuge for the persecuted. On to Delphi, holiest site in Greek antiquity, place of the fabled oracle whose prophecy Oedipus tried to elude. The Sacred Way leads to the Temple of Apollo.
From Delphi we journey to Ossios Loukas, a monastery built on the slopes of Mt. Helikon. It is among Greece’s finest examples of Byzantine art and architecture.
From Patra, the largest city in the Peloponnesian Peninsula, we journey to Corinth on the isthmus connecting the peninsula with the Greek mainland. Here Paul labored for a year and a half on his second journey (Acts 18). We then proceed to Athens.
Athens – center of Greek civilization. On the Acropolis we visit the Parthenon, the temple of Athena from the fifth century BC, in which Doric architecture attained unequalled harmony. We sit in the Theatre of Dionysus, where the masterpieces of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes were first performed. We take in the most significant treasures in the National Archaeological Museum, containing the world’s finest collection of Greek antiquities.