July 11: Sardis and Philadelphia
Today we begin with a trip to the remains ancient Sardia, 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.
Our final tour site is the remains of the ancient city of 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.
Dinner and overnight in Pamukkale at the Colossae Thermal
July 12: Hierapolis, Laodicea, Colossae
Today we visit the three churches in the Lycus River Valley: Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. 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.
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 eye-salve 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 spiritually 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.
Just a few miles away from Laodicea is ancient Colossae. Although Paul had not visited the city he wrote two letters to them several years later when he heard of some of the challenges they were facing. The first letter is Colossians, a general letter to the church warning them of false teachings. The second letter is written to Philemon, one of the members in Colossae. Paul appeals to Philemon to welcome back a runaway slave named Onesimus--not merely as a slave, but to grant him his freedom and accept him as a fellow brother in Christ. Unfortunately, little remains from ancient Colossae since the city has never been excavated.
July 13: Ephesus
Our last full day of touring will be extra special since we will visit one of the most important archaeological sites in the world—ancient Ephesus. Ephesus was once the most important commercial city in Asia Minor. The Apostle Paul spent nearly 3 years in Ephesus, before he was driven out of the city by a riot stirred up by Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 19:23-34). It is from this city that Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians. In addition to walking the streets of this ancient city and visiting the theater, we will also visit the famous Terrace Houses, the place were the most important people of Ephesus lived. We will also visit the remains of the ancient Temple of Artemis.
Dinner and overnight in Kusadasi at the Charisma Deluxe Hotel.
July 14: Swimming in the Aegean
After three weeks traveling through the Bible Lands, our trip has nearly come to an end. Our last event together will be a private morning swim in the Aegean on our own private boat. We will get to enjoy the beautiful weather, the crystal clear water, while reflecting on our amazing journey!
After lunch, we head to Izmir where we will catch a later afternoon flight to Istanbul. Before checking into our hotel, we will visit the Egyptian Spice market and then enjoy our own private cruise on the Bosphorus.
Overnight: Hotel Vicenza
July 15: Istanbul
This morning we 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.
After lunch, 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.
Late in the evening we will make our way to the airport to catch flight home. We fly out of Istanbul at 7:25 pm on Emirates #122 and arrive 4:35 minutes later at 1:00 am (July 16). We then have a 12:00 hour layover. Since our layover is so long, we qualify for a free hotel. So we will head into Dubai for some rest. Our flight back to Seattle leaves at 9:55 am am on Emirates #229. It is a 14:35 flight, arriving in Seattle at 1:25 pm (July 16)---what a long flight, but at last we are back in the USA!
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