Located in Central Anatolia, Cappadocia was part of the "land bridge" connecting Europe and Asia--making it the place where a dozen empires have risen and fallen as they marched through this region. Today Cappadocia is most famous for some of the most amazing photogenic landscapes in the world. During our visit we will explore the rock formations in the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, the Citadel of Uchisar, and Goreme's breathtaking cave churches illuminated with resplendent Christian paintings and symbols. In addition to the 3,500 cave churches in this region, Christians also built underground cities to escape from persecution and invading armies. These underground cities, which descend ten to twenty stories into the earth, feature carved rooms for kitchens, sleeping quarters, stables, and chapels for worship. We will visit the underground city of Kaymakli. Dinner and overnight in Cappadocia at the Perissia Hotel.
Today we travel in the area known as Galatia in antiquity. During his first missionary Journey the Apostle Paul and Barnabas traveled to the cities of Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, and Antioch in Pisidia. These cities are likely the churches Paul addresses in his letter to the Galatians. During his visit to Lystra, the local inhabitants tried to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods. When they refused such worship, Paul was nearly stoned to death. Unfortunately, little remains from either ancient Lystra or Iconium, except for pieces of broken pottery and fragments of ancient building material. The highlight of our day will be our visit to the Mevlana Museum in Iconium (modern day Konya). This is the former home of the whirling dervishes. The museum contains a variety of illuminated manuscripts, musical instruments, carpets, and other artifacts, as well as the tomb of its founder Mevlana. Dinner and overnight in Konya at the Bera Konya Hotel.
According to Acts, Paul entered the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch on two Sabbaths and preached Christ (Acts 13:14). In response to Paul's preaching, some local Jews stirred up a riot and had Paul driven from the city. Paul went on to travel to Iconium and Lystra. Unlike the former to cities, much remains of ancient Pisidian Antioch. We will visit the ancient theater, marketplace, a temple dedicated to Augustus, the Roman bath, as well as several other remains.
Our next stop is the ancient Colossae. The gospel probably arrived in Colossae with St. Paul's preaching in Ephesus (cp. Acts 19:10) during his third missionary journey. Epaphras, a local inhabitant of the Lycus Valley heard St. Paul at Ephesus and returned to spread the gospel in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Although Paul had not visited the city he wrote an letter to them several years later when he heard of some of the challenges they were facing. Philemon and his slave Onesimus apparently were both natives of Colossae. Unfortunately, little remains from ancient Colossae since the city has never been excavated.
Our next stop is the famed city of Laodicea, located only a few miles away. Laodicea had a thriving textile industry, a medical school that produced a eye-lotion used as an eyesalve and as a cosmetic, and was a major banking center. While the gospel once energized this city (Col. 4:15), by the end of the first century Laodicea had become spiritual dead--though they thought they were alive. In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus said to the Laodiceans, "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth." We will witness the newest excavations that are rapidly taking place there as well as visit the site that is already full of interesting remains. Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale at the Richmond Thermal Hotel.
Today we visit the last church in the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis. Hierapolis is mentioned once in the Bible at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians. According to the earliest Christian tradition, Hierapolis was the home of Philip the Evangelist. The city was well known in antiquity for its hot springs that were believed to have medicinal properties. The high mineral content of the hot springs have also resulted in spectacular white-colored calcified cliffs that have the appearance of snow from a distance.Today we travel to Sardis, a city with a rich heritage, but with a church that was mostly criticized for its lack of spiritual life.
From Hierapolis we will travel to Philadelphia. Besides Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only other church in Revelation to receive no criticism. We will see the remains of the Byzantine Church of St. John the Theologian.
Our final tour site is the ancient city of Sardis, another one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Jesus told Sardis, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3: 1-6). Once the capital of a powerful empire, Sardis is credited with being the first city in antiquity to devise the necessary technology to mint coins and to dye wool. Compared to several of the sites we have visited, much of ancient Sardis remains. One can see the foundation and the massive columns of the Temple of Artemis, which was converted into a small chapel by the early Christians, the city's gymnasium, and what was once the largest Jewish synagogue in Asia Minor. Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi at the Charisma Deluxe Hotel.