Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World

Constantinople / Istanbul - Ancient and Modern - Crossroads of the World
Istanbul/constantinople - Ancient/Modern - View of the Old City from across the Golden Horn, atop the Galata Tower.


Tenth Anniversary: Early Christian World Pilgrimage 2016
To Turkey, with optional extension to Greece
Led by: Fr. Tom Welbers
Depart Monday evening, May 9, 2016;
Return options: Wednesday, May 25, (16 days - Turkey only)
or Saturday, May 28 (20 days - Turkey and Greece)

Day 1 - Monday May 9: Los Angeles / Istanbul
We depart for Istanbul from the Los Angeles International Airport

Day 2 - Tuesday May 10: Istanbul
We arrive at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and go to our hotel in the Sultanahmet Area, the heart of the Old City of Constantinople, where we will spend four nights. We will enjoy a relaxing dinner on the rooftop terrace featuring spectacular views of the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Sea of Marmara. (D)

Days 3-5 - Wednesday to Friday, May 11-13: - Istanbul
During our three days in Istanbul, we will explore the Hagia Sophia, the 1500 year-old Church of “Holy Wisdom” built by Emperor Justinian; the Blue Mosque; the Hippodrome; Basilica Cistern; Topkapi Palace; and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, one of the finest museums of its kind in the world. All of these places are a short walking distance from our hotel. In other parts of the Old City, we will tour the Chora Church, with magnificent 12th-century AD mosaics and frescoes; the Rustem Pasha Mosque, a tiny jewel of a building designed by the great architect Sinan and featuring splendid Iznik tiles; the ancient Walls of Theodosius that protected the City from invasion for many centuries; and the Aqueduct of Valens, the all-important water supply for the ancient city. A special feature of this Pilgrimage will be the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, where all the recent Popes have also celebrated Mass, and to visit the rarely-seen Museum of Pope John XXIII, which were his living quarters during World War II when, as Archbishop Roncalli, he served as Apostolic Delegate to Turkey. He is still fondly remembered as “the Turkish Pope.” We will visit the Phanar, which is the seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, and, if possible, will arrange for a private audience with His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew. We will also enjoy an early evening cruise on the Bosphorus, one of the most important and heavily traveled waterways in the world, with great views of magnificent suspension bridges joining Europe and Asia, the beautiful buildings along the shore, and gorgeous skyline of the City at sunset. Finally, there will be time to shop at the historic Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, to stroll around taking in the sights and sounds of the ancient streets, and - for the adventurous - to enjoy a Turkish bath in an ancient Hamam. (B,D each day)

Day 6 - Saturday May 14: Istanbul to Cappadocia (by air)
After an early breakfast, we will take an hour’s flight to Kayseri, and go our hotel in Avanos, where we will spend two nights. For the rest of the day, we will begin our exploration of some of the intriguing sites of this unique region. (B,D)

Day 7 - Sunday May 15: Cappadocia
Cappadocia (in Turkish, Kapadokya) is a magnificent land, situated between two volcanoes, which are responsible for the many areas of spectacular geological formations caused by millennia of erosion as well as the soft tufa rock that made it possible to carve vast Underground Cities, splendid Cave Churches and Monasteries, and even modern houses and theaters. We will celebrate Sunday Mass at one of these, the Deremanlı Cave Church), and see many more with splendid artwork at the Goreme Open-Air Museum. In the evening, we will also have the opportunity to witness the sema (religious dance) of the mystical Sufi Muslim Whirling Dervishes. (B,D)

Day 8 - Monday May 16: Cappadocia / Konya
After breakfast at hotel, we will leave for a three-hour drive to Konya, stopping on the way to visit the medieval Sultanhan Caravanserai, one of many resting places for caravans along the Silk Road. When we arrive in Konya, we will visit the Tomb of Mevlana Rumi, the thirteenth century Sufi Muslim mystic and poet who founded the Order of the Whirling Dervishes. We will then celebrate Mass at the tiny St. Paul Church, where we will meet the two wonderful Italian nuns, Srs. Isabella and Serena, who keep the church open to serve Chaldean Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria. After Mass, we will check into our hotel for dinner and one night. (B,D)

Day 9 - Tuesday May 17: Konya / Catalhoyuk / Antalya
After breakfast at the hotel we will drive about an hour to Catalhoyuk, an extensively excavated and researched neolithic settlement, more than 9,000 years old. Here, under the direction of British Archaeologist Ian Hodder, some of the most important discoveries about early civilization are being made. After this, we will drive another five hours through the Taurus Mountains to Antalya, where we will stay for two nights. (B,D)

Day 10 - Wednesday May 18: Antalya
After breakfast at the hotel, we will visit the ruins of ancient cities of Aspendos, with its well preserved theater which is still an active venue for performances, and Perga, an important city visited several times by Paul on his missionary journeys. When we return to Antalya, we’ll see the beautiful Upper and Lower Duden Falls, and conclude the day touring the wonderful, newly remodeled Antalya Museum. (B,D)

Day 11 - Thursday May 19:  Antalya to Pamukkale
Today, after breakfast in hotel, leave on a three-hour drive to Hierapolis/Pamukkale. On the way we’ll stop at Colossae, which only a large mound still covering the ruins, and Laodicea, which has been extensively excavated and restored. These three cities in the Lycus Valley are important for understanding St. Paul’s letters and his missionary strategy. We will arrive at our hotel early enough to enjoy the thermal baths for which Pamukkale is famous, following which we’ll have dinner. We’ll spend two nights here. (B,D)

Day 12 - Friday May 20: Pamukkale / Hierapolis / Aphrodisias
In the morning after breakfast, we’ll tour Hierapolis, and spend some time at the ruins of the Martyrium (Memorial Church) of St. Philip the Apostle, and his tomb nearby, which was discovered only three years ago. In the afternoon we will drive to Aphrodisias, a great Greco-Roman city which is not mentioned in the Bible, but was an important city for early Christianity.  Here is one of the best examples of how ancient cities were laid out, with an impressively restored Entrance Gate (Tetrapylon) and a Temple to Aphrodite that had been converted into a church. We’ll return to our hotel for dinner. (B,D)

Day 13 - Saturday May 21: Sardis, Izmir
Today we will have leave early for a two-hour drive to Sardis, with its impressive, restore Gymnasium, early Jewish Synagogue, Roman shops, and Temple of Artemis, with a small, 5th-century Byzantine church built into it. Gold was prevalent in the stream bed coming from the nearby mountains, and, Lydian King Croesus around 550 BC first minted make gold coins of standard weight and value. From Sardis, we will drive about an hour to Izmir, where we will briefly tour the city, especially its beautiful waterfront, before checking into our hotel for two nights. (B,D)

Day 14 - Sunday May 22: Ephesus
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we’ll leave for a very full day at Ephesus, about an hour’s drive. First we’ll tour the excavations of the ancient city, and picture in our mind’s eye, St. Paul’s two-year stay here, where he extended his missionary influence throughout the surrounding area. The ruins of Ephesus display the famous Library of Celsus, Theater, and magnificent Terrace Houses. Before leaving this site, we’ll also explore the ancient “Double Church of Mary the Mother of God,” where the Council of Ephesus was held in 431 AD. After exploring the ruins of the Basilica of St. John the Apostle, we’ll conclude the day with Mass at the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the beautiful Nightingale Mountain, and a nice dinner in a local restaurant before returning to our hotel in Izmir for the night. (B.D)

Day 15 - Monday May 23: Izmir / Pergamon / Bursa
We will leave Izmir early, after quick breakfast in the hotel, and drive about an hour to Bergama, the ancient city of Pergamon. We’ll spend a good part of the day here, visiting the Red Basilica; the Asclepion, the famous healing center where the great physician Galen got his start; and conclude with a cable tram ride to the Acropolis to see the Temple of Trajan, the site of the Altar of Jupiter (called in the Book of Revelation “the Throne of Satan”), and the Theater with its magnificent view of the valley below. After lunch, we’ll board our bus for a four-hour drive to Bursa, where we will have dinner and spend the night. (B,D)

Day 16 - Tuesday 5/24 - Bursa / Iznik / Athens
After breakfast, we’ll see a few of the famous places in Bursa: the Green Tomb, the Green Mosque, and the Great Mosque. Then, we’ll take a short one-hour drive to Iznik, which is the ancient Nicaea. Here we’ll visit the Hagia Sophia church (now mosque), the site of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD, then have a festive fish lunch at a charming restaurant by the lakeshore, where the remains of the Palace of Constantine lie submerged under the water. This was the site of the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which affirmed our belief in the true divinity and humanity of Christ, and gave us the Nicene Creed by which we profess our faith at every Sunday Mass. After lunch, board the bus to catch a high-speed ferry, which will return us to Istanbul near the airport. (B,L)

Those continuing on to Greece will go directly to airport to board an evening flight to Athens, and will spend four nights in Athens. Those ending the Pilgrimage here will stay for one night in a hotel, and fly to Los Angeles tomorrow.

Day 17 - Wednesday May 25: Athens
After breakfast in our hotel in the heart of Athens, we will take a tour of the city, which will include the Acropolis, Parthenon, Areopagus, Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Olympic Stadium, Lykabettos Mountain, etc. (B,D)

Day 18 - Thursday May 26: Athens / Corinth
After breakfast, we drive about an hour to Corinth to explore the ancient city which was very significant in the life and mission of St. Paul. After stopping for lunch at the Corinthian Canal, we’ll go back to Athens, where we will have the afternoon and evening free, with dinner on our own. The Plaka and Syntagma Square have wonderful venues for shopping, dining, and just soaking in the local culture. (B,L)

Day 19 - Friday May 27: Athens
This day will be mainly dedicated to exploring three wonderful museums: the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, and the Benaki Museum. The artifacts and displays we will see here provide a summary and fitting conclusion to our whole Pilgrimage experience of our Early Christian World heritage. To complete the  memorable last day of our Pilgrimage, the museum tours will be followed by a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of St. Denis, and a festive Farewell Dinner. (B,D)

Day 20 - Saturday May 28: Flight to Los Angeles
After Breakfast at the hotel, we will transfer to the Athens International Airport for our return flight home.

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