North America, Asia, Europe · 16 Days · 18 Moments · August 2017

Turkey, Greece, and Medjugorje 2017

14 September 2017

A wonderful and spiritually fulfilling time in Medjugorje! Finding a quiet and uncrowded spot by the candles was a true gift. Next time I'll need to book with an agency rather than trying to do it on my own to take advantage of all the extra activities and side trips that come with the tours. Now off to Sarajevo to start the journey home.

13 September 2017

Sleeping in was a welcomed change compared to the 5:45 wake up calls on the tour. The hotel is very nice and owned by a family that has a winery in town. The manager helps to promote the wine region, and is also the local ballroom dance instructor. He provided a tour to four wineries. Apparition Hill is much steeper and more rocky than anticipated! I caught a glimpse of Immaculee who is here with a tour group. The mass and atmosphere around the church are wonderful.

12 September 2017

Traveled to Split, Croatia today and took a very quick lap around the old part of town. Split is the genetic home to the Zinfandel grape, so some wine tasting was a must do. Visited the narrowest chapel in Europe, along with the oldest church that has been in continuous use without a total re-build (also contains the tomb of St. Lucy). Made it to Medjugorje just in time for mass to celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary.

11 September 2017

On Monday after disembarking the ship we visited the Athens Acropolis and saw where Paul spoke (Acts 17). Great views of the city and the structures, but very crowded. We then made our way to Corinth to visit the archeological finding of the old city where Paul visited (Acts 18). The group tour ended with dinner back in Athens and recalling all the fun and interesting times on the tour. Tuesday was an early wake up for my flight to Split, Croatia.

10 September 2017

Last port on the cruise was Santorini. Visited the Wine Museum and also one of the local wineries for sunset. Vinsanto style wine is a nice alternative for port (was used as mass wine during the Middle Ages). I took the cable cars up to the city, but an alternate method is donkeys.
This morning our port was Heraklion. We stopped at a palace from 2000BC that is being excavated. This is the first known use of a 'theater' with tiered seating for public speaking and plays. Also had the chance to visit the Church of St Titus, which has a relic of his skull.

9 September 2017

The second port on Saturday was Patamos. The first stop was at the 'cave' or grotto of St John, where he had visions which resulted in his Apocalypse. He was held captive on Patamos for 18 months. John lived by the port when not in the cave writing. The second stop was the monastery of St. John. They had a 7th century copy of the Gospel of Mark along with other early manuscripts. Their most famous icon is one by El Greco.
Second port was Ephasus in Turkey. First stop was the House of the Virgin Mary. Multiple Popes have visited, so it has been blessed by the Catholic Church. John is known to have been in Ephasus, and it is widely assumed that he brought Mary with him and this is the likely spot where she lived out her life and died. Beautiful mountain top setting - quiet and peaceful. Next was the Roman city ruins. This is where Paul got into an argument with the merchant selling statues. Visited the Church of Mary - the first church dedicated to Mary, built in 300s in time for the Third Ecumenical council where Mary was proclaimed Theotokos - Mother of God, not just mother of Jesus. Also visited Basilica of St John (apostle). Legend says that he was assumed bodily into Heaven - he is the only Apostle where the burial spot is known, yet there are no relics. The Basilica was the largest church in the world from 500 to 1500.

8 September 2017

First stop was Mykonos on Friday evening. Wonderful island, and definitely a party atmosphere. It turned out there was a Catholic mass available just a short while minutes after the tour ended - just enough time to snap some so set pics. I didn't realize it was the Feast of the Nativity of Mary! Only 8 people in mass, but all different languages, so the majority was in Latin, with readings in English, Spanish and Italian.

7 September 2017

Most of today was spent driving back to Athens. We did stop in Thermopylae to visit the Leonidas and 300 Spartans memorial. Tomorrow we start the cruise to the islands!

6 September 2017

Yesterday was Philippi and the stream where Lydia is believed to have been baptized (Acts 11:14). Today we visited Beria and the steps where Paul preached. We also visited two amazing monasteries in Meteora that are built on top of mountain spires and a perfect place to protect the monks from political unrest in previous centuries. Up until 1940, when steps were carved into the rocks, a rope was the only way to get into the monastery. The rope has been replaced with an automated cable which is used to bring in supplies.

4 September 2017

Today we traveled for 7 hours north to Thessaloniki, passing Mt Olympus which was covered in clouds. We stopped the Church of St. Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki, originally built in the 4th century over a Roman bath house. Visited another wine bar this evening called Sinatra, who's music appears to be popular at wine bars.

2 September 2017

Athens has been fun! I've been trying to live up to one of my namesakes, Dionysus Greek god of wine, by visiting multiple wine bars. So far, thumbs up on Greek wine. I should be trying to live up to a different namesake, Dionysius the Areopagite (mentioned in Acts, converted after hearing Paul, first bishop of Athens). Sunday mass was in Greek at the Cathedral of St. Dionysius. Visited multiple churches, the Plaka area for shopping and dinner, and also the Byzentine and Christian museum. Met the tour group at dinner. Should be a fun journey. About 35 people and 25 are a group from Australia.

1 September 2017

Today starts the Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adah - Sacrifice Feast) holiday and most everything was shut down until 1pm. Everything except the morning call to prayer broadcast over the mosque loudspeakers. My hotel was between three mosques, with each seeming to try and outdo the other. I was one of the first in line for the Hagia Sophia when it opened. I rushed upstairs to view the Deesis mosaic (Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist). While tour groups started with the exterior and first level, I was rewarded with 20 minutes to have the upper level to myself and able to view the amazing mosaic alone in quiet. Headed to the airport early to enjoy the Turkish Airlines lounge prior to my flight to Athens.

31 August 2017

A very full day with a little over 8 miles of walking. Started at the Blue Mosque, then to Chora Church (Church of the Holy Saviour) one of the few churches to tell both the life of Jesus and the full life of Mary in mosaic. Church of Theotokos Pammakristos (All-Blessed Mother of God) was next followed by Hagia Irene (site of the second ecumenical council) - I was the only one in both churches. Topkapi Palace completed the sightseeing and was able to see the staff of Moses and relics of St. John the Baptist. Completed the day with wine tasting, a spectacular dinner and a whirling dervish ceremony at a Rumi Monastery.

30 August 2017

I was just in time to get into Hagia Sophia. Since it was only open for one additional hour, there were very few people and no line. Even with renovation in process, the church is amazing. I should be able to do a longer visit tomorrow or Friday.
The flight was wonderful, complete with in-flight chef, warm bread, Bordeaux wine with dinner and port with cheese to finish.
A short connection between flights, so no time for pre-flight wine. Very thankful for being able to cash in some frequent flyer miles and fly in business with lots of leg room. Some in-flight wine should help getting at least a little sleep. Next stop Istanbul!