We leave Seattle at 1:40 pm and fly to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
After arriving in Amsterdam, Netherlands at 8:30 am, we transfer by bus to downtown Amsterdam for a day of touring. Our tour begins with a 75 minutes canal cruise at 10:30. After grabbing a bite to eat, we will walk to the Anne Frank House where we are schedule for a group tour at 2:00 and 2:30 pm. After our tour, we will enjoy a nice stroll through the streets of Amsterdam before heading back to the the Schiphol airport to catch our evening flight to Istanbul at 8:25 pm (and hopefully some sleep).
We arrive in Istanbul at 12:40 am and transfer to our hotel. After a very late breakfast at the hotel, we will depart to visit the stunning remains of ancient Constantinople. We will begin at the site of the ancient hippodrome--the large, open square that was once the site of a Roman circus that rivaled the Colosseum in Rome and could seat a quarter of a million spectators. Monuments on the site include the Snake Column from Delphi and an Egyptian obelisk taken from the Temple of Karnak at Luxor. Our tour continues to the Blue Mosque, famous for its six minarets and magnificent interior blue tiles. Built in the 17th century, the Blue Mosque takes its name from the thousands of Iznik tiles lining the walls. Next we visit the Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine Basilica built in the 6th century by the emperor Justinian and for centuries the largest Christian church in the world. Before leaving Istanbul, we will visit the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, a famous market that dates back to 1660. Dinner and overnight in Yalova.
Today we begin with a trip to the remains Nicea, known today as Iznik. Nicea is where the famous Council of Nicea was held in 325 AD. The Council of Nicea was called by Constantine the Great, who had converted to Christianity a decade earlier and replaced official persecution of Christianity with official support. The Council of Nicea was the first ecumenical (worldwide) council of the church and the first of Seven Ecumenical Councils recognized by most Christian denominations as having doctrinal authority. Around 300 bishops from across the Christian world attended. Unfortunatelly, the First Council of Nicea was held in the Senatus Palace, which sadly now lies beneath the waters of Lake Iznik. We, however, will get to see the ruins of the 4th-century St. Sophia Cathedral, which was the site of the Second Council of Nicea in 787.
Our next stop is Pergamum, one of the Seven Churches in Revelation. Revelation refers to Pergamum as the place "where Satan's throne is." This is not surprising since Pergamum was well known for its many temples, and as the city that became the site of the first cult of a living Roman emperor. At the time John wrote Revelation, Christians were suffering persecution for refusing to worship the emperor Domitian. We will visit the acropolis with its many temples, and the Asklepion, one of the famous healing sanctuaries in the ancient world. Overnight in Izmir at the Kaya Thermal Hotel.
Today we begin with a trip to the remains ancient Smyrna. The Christians in Smyrna are one of only two churches in Revelation that received only praise and no criticism. Two traits characterized this congregation: persecution and poverty. An example of the former is the death of Polycarp, the local Christian bishop, who was put to death here for his faith in Jesus in A.D. 156. Overnight Pamukkale Richmond Thermal.