Greece and Turkey

Trip to Turkey and Greece – May 13- 25, 2009 

   Day 1 – We flew from Houston to Paris to Istanbul, Turkey and arrived on Day 2. Istanbul is the largest city we have ever been in.  It has about 15 million people and is the only city on two continents – Europe and Asia.  We stayed on the European side of the city, but we could see across to the Asian side. This city was formerly known as Constantinople, but the name was changed in the 1900s. It is an old and interesting city.  Our hotel there was modern and very nice.  We spent 3 days seeing the historical sites:  Hagia Sophia (a 5th century church), The Blue Mosque (16th century), The Topkapi Palace, the ancient Hippodrome area, old town, the new district, Galata Tower, and much more. We are glad we saw it, but we doubt we ever go back there. 

     Our tour group of about 40 people were all English speaking and very nice.  They were from Canada, Australia, and the U.S.  We were not with them every single day because this tour allowed a lot of choices for free time. We got to spend plenty of time with them over the course of the 12 days.   

     Day 5 – We left Istanbul in the afternoon as we got on a cruise ship and headed for the Greek Island of Mykonos. The Aegean Sea is so blue and clear. There were 2 couples from Iran who lived in Kansas City that were our dinner mates on the cruise. One couple were doctors, Dr. Fereydoun Dehkharghani and his wife.  We called him Dr. Fred and his wife Dr. D since we couldn’t pronounce their names. The other couple was Abus and Heidi and I don’t have a clue about their last names, but they own a liquor store in Kansas City 

 We arrived in Mykonos on Day 6. Mykonos was absolutely beautiful.  Every building was painted white and the place was spotless.  It had narrow, winding stone streets with lots of little shops and restaurants.  We were there most of the day and evening before taking off on the ship for the next destination. This may have been my favorite island. It’s hard to say since each one was different and had something very special about it. 

     The next morning (Day 7) when we woke up, we were closing in on the island of Patmos. This island was not quite as pretty, but almost.The biblical history there is amazing.  The Apostle John was sent there in exile as an old man.  He was put in a cave to live and it was there that he received the Revelation and wrote the last book of the Bible.  We got to go through that cave!  There was an Orthodox priest reading scripture as we walked through it.  There is a large monastery that was built close by on the top of the mountain to commemorate the place. Then we went and walked through the little hilly town, then back to the ship.

      The next stop was not too far away – over to the southwest coast of Turkey to the modern city of Kasadasi.  The main attraction for tourists there is the ancient city about 20 minutes away – Ephesus.  It was quite a large and influential city during the days of the Greek and Roman Empires.  (The Apostle Paul visited there and started a church . . . and a riot.  You can read about it in Acts 19.  He also wrote a letter back to this church.  It is the book of Ephesians.)  The ruins in Ephesus are some of the best we saw.  Then, back to the ship.

      The next day (Day 8), we arrived to the Greek Isle of Rhodes. This is an old walled city with a big castle and a lot of history. This was Ken’s favorite of the islands. We walked through the Old City and along the top of the city walls.  It was clean, interesting, and we spent most of the day there.   We had a very good Greek meal there at a nice and shady sidewalk café. 

     Another night on the ship and the next morning (Day 9) we arrived at the largest Greek Island, Crete.  We spent all morning at the beautiful city of Agios Nicholas.  (In both Rhodes and Crete, we could have taken an excursion to other cities on the islands, but we chose to save our time and money.)  This place had a couple of beautiful beaches and lots to see and do.  It was much prettier than we expected.          

     We were back on the ship for lunch and by late afternoon, we arrived at our last Greek Isle – Santorini.  The city is on the top of the mountain.  We could either ride an electric tram or a mule to the top.  We chose the mules.  The views from the top were incredible as we overlooked the beautiful blue Sea below.  The city was mainly whitewashed buildings and was very lovely.  We were there till almost sunset and then rode the mules back down the mountain.  (It was scarier going down than coming up.) 

     We had our final farewell dinner on the ship.  The food was very good for every meal.  The breakfasts and lunches were buffet style and the dinners were menu choices.  We ate too much and never missed having a dessert (or two). 

     Early the next morning (Day 10) we arrived in Athens.  It took awhile for our final departure with all the luggage, etc.  Our group got on a tour bus and went straight to the Acropolis at the top of the city where all the famous ruins are.  It was surreal to actually be there.  Our tour guide took us all around explaining what everything was. Mars Hill was great (or the Areopagus -See Acts 17– Paul and his famous speech.).  Then we had some free time to wander around.  Then they took us to our hotel – The Metropolitan Hotel – it was very nice, but not conveniently located.  Oh well, we managed. After checking in and getting settled, we took a bus to the Plaka area.  It is a very popular area close to the foot of the Acropolis and close to their Parliament.  We saw the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and walked through the Plaka.  The Plaka is a market area of shops and restaurants that is full of people. 

     Day 11, we rented a car and drove a couple of hours south of Athens to Corinth.  There we saw the Corinth Canal and then visited the ancient city ruins of Corinth.  It was very, very interesting.  We weren’t with a group, so we took our time looking at everything.  Once again, Paul was here spreading the gospel (Acts 18), started a church, and wrote letters back to them (1 & 2 Corinthians).  

     From Corinth, we drove south another couple of hours to Nauplion, a beautiful Greek seaside city.  It was very upscale and pretty.  It reminded us of the French Riviera.  All the trees and bushes were blooming with flowers and it was so lovely. It may have been the prettiest city on the whole trip. 

     Driving back from Nauplion, we stopped and saw the prehistoric ruins of Mycenae (1300 B.C.).  It was up on the top of a mountain and was fascinating. 

     We drove back to Athens and decided we had time to see one more thing on our “must see list” – The Temple of Poseidon. It is about 45 minutes on the other side of Athens. It is up on a cliff overlooking the sea.  It was incredible.  Then we drove back and turned the car back in, went to a restaurant for a late dinner and got back to the hotel about midnight very exhausted. What a great day though! 

     Day 12 – our last day in Athens – we spent the morning at the Agora, the ancient market place down from the Acropolis.  It has a large area from Roman times and a much larger area from the time of the Greek Empire.  We spent a couple of hours walking around taking lots of pictures of the ruins and sites.  We ate lunch and then went to the Archeological Museum.  It was fantastic.  If we had gone there on our first day in Athens, we would have known more about all the ruins we saw – especially in Mycenae.  They had more fancy gold, jewelry and pottery that you can believe.  From there, we went back to the Plaka, then to the hotel to start repacking for the trip home.  We walked a couple of blocks and found a pizza place and had a good little pizza for our last meal and went to bed early. 

     Day 13 – The alarm went off at 3:15 am – uggh!  By 3:45 we were in a taxi headed for the airport.  We were supposed to be there 2 hours before our flight for international travel.  We flew from Athens to Paris to Houston and our son Russ picked us up at the airport.  It was a long, long day, but a really great trip.  

I thank God I was able to go and see these great places, especially the biblical locations.  I can’t wait to share with you what I saw and learned about Ephesus when we study Ephesians in September. 

I also thank God that I live in the United States of America.  It is always good to come back home.

Mary

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