The Ministry Program at SSU includes a two-week study abroad trip to either Turkey and Greece or Israel, depending on its political situation. This trip is designed to give a greater appreciation for the environment in which Christianity was born by providing historical and biblical explanations of the sites visited. Students and faculty travel on a chartered coach with a tour guide, and visit sites such as the Acropolis, the ancient cities of Ephesus, Corinthians, and Philippi, Jerusalem, Masada, and the Red Sea. Follow along with our current group of SSU students as they post updates on their adventures.
This is the travel itinerary for SSU’s 2008 Greece and Turkey Study Abroad term:
Day 1: Departure (March 7, friday)
Today we embark on our Journey to the lands of ancient treasures and Christian history with an overnight flight to Thessalonica. Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience. Get some rest on the flight…Tomorrow you will be walking where the apostles walked!
Day 2: Arrival Thessalonica (March 8, Saturday)
We transfer to our hotel in Thessalonica, Macedonia for the next two evenings. The New Testament books of I & II Thessalonians will come alive to us today. En route to the hotel we will view the old city ramparts; the newly excavated Forum, St. George Church, an ancient Roman monument which was transformed into a church and the Galerius Arch which rises over the famous Via Egnatia. The remainder of the day is free to relax and explore on your own.
Day 3: Thessalonica/Philippi/Kavala (March 9, Sunday)
We begin the day by following the massive battlement Byzantine wall to the citadel for a panoramic view of the city. Next, we will visit Philippi and Kavala. Kavala is Greece’s prettiest mainland port with a most elegant harbor. Paul landed here with his disciples, Timothy and Silas. Luke, the Evangelist, also came here from Troas. This ancient city of Neapolis was later renamed Christoupolis because it was the first European city to accept Christianity. Imagine walking on the same sod as these men of the Bible! We will see the Roman Aqueduct and the ruins of the Acropolis in this beautifully located city, known since the 5th century as Kavala. Continue on to Philippi where Paul preached his first evangelical sermon and baptized the first Christians on European soil. We will view the baptismal site where Lydia surrendered her life to Christ and visit a crypt dating from the Roman period that is thought to have served as a prison for Paul. See the famous Acropolis, the Market Place, Basilica, and the Theatre. We return to Thessalonica and visit St. Demetrius basilica, dedicated to a distinguished member of the Roman army and a martyred Christian convert before returning to the hotel for the night.
Day 4: Berea/Meteora Monastery (March 10, Monday)
A stop will be made in Berea to view the Bema surrounded by newly placed mosaics of Paul and the plaque of scripture regarding the “more noble” church. We also visit King Phillip’s (Alexander’s father) tomb in Vergina, one of the most outstanding finds in all of Greece. This afternoon we see the world famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched precariously on summits of gray rock pinnacles of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliff side caves then fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, later transformed into monasteries. Our lodging this evening will be in Meteora.
Day 5: Delphi (March 11, Tuesday)
After breakfast at our hotel, we travel south west to the to lovely mountain region of Delphi-the ancient sanctuary of Apollo. Here you will gain a greater understanding of the Greek religious heritage and their influence on the early Christian church. After our time in Delphi we will travel south to Athens where we will enjoy a leisurely dinner and overnight.
Day 6: Athens & Plaka (March 12, Wednesday)
From the mountains, our tour travels southward past Thermopylae and on to the city of Athens, the birth place of democracy. Visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and Erectheum before viewing Athens atop Mars Hill where Paul stood and preached the truth to the Gentile nation. Additional sites include the Agora (ancient market place and center of Athenian public life), the House of Parliament, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Olympic Stadium, and Presidential Palace. A short walk from your hotel is the famous Plaka with a multitude of shops and cafes.
Day 7: Corinth – Mycenae (March 13, Thursday)
This morning we leave Athens by motor coach, stop for a rest stop and photos at the Corinth Canal and then travel to the ancient city of Corinth, another treat for the New Testament scholar. Corinth is the city that inspired many of Paul’s most familiar letters. See the Archaeological Museum, the Market Place, the Bema, and the Temples. To enjoy a devotional in the midst of the ruins of the church of Corinth and see the pillars, steps, and public worship place where Paul preached will enhance your understanding and love of I & II Corinthians. The ruins of this important cultural center are fascinating as we walk along the stone path that the Apostle Paul walked. The engineering skill and intellect of these people are evident in the water systems that still flow from ancient to modern day. Our guide will be sure to show you the room dedicated to the medical care of that period. After the visit to ancient Corinth we travel to Mycenae where the remains of the ancient city date back to the Bronze Age to see the famous Lionesse Gate, the Tomb of Agamennon in the shape of a Beehive, and many other sites before returning to Athens for the evening.
Day 8: Cruising Mykonos (March 14, Friday)
We sail this afternoon from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. This evening we experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes and then stroll the charming walkways through a maze of whitewashed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening activities. Cruise Ship Info
Day 9: Rhodes (March 15, Saturday)
After breakfast we will visit Rhodes. This ancient fortified city was built by the knights of St. John and is rich in Roman and Greek culture. You are free to stroll down the Street of the Knights to the market area for shopping and a wonderful Greek lunch or you may enjoy an optional tour to the ancient city of Lindos. Magnificently situated between two bays with sandy beaches, an ancient acropolis and medieval castle, Lindos is famous as a most striking and impressive city. Again we return to the ship for dinner.
Day 10: Patmos & Kusadasi, Turkey (March 16, Sunday)
This morning we visit the Isle of Patmos, under statutory protection as a historic monument. You may choose to take an optional tour to see the fortified monastery of St. John and the cave claimed to be where John received the Revelation. Docking in Turkey, we tour Ephesus, the city of the Bible and one of the largest restorations still in progress with miles of ancient treasures. Ephesus was once a thriving port town of 250,000 people. Today you can still see the spectacular excavations of the major streets in this ancient city where we view the Library, Agora, Temple of Artemis, theatre, colorful mosaics, a panoramic view of the surrounding ancient port area including a wealth of church history and cultural insight. The day will not be complete without a visit to a local Turkish Rug cooperative. Our lodging this evening will be in Kusadasi.
Day 11: Ephesus, Hierapolis, Colossae & Laodicea (March 17, Monday)
A wealth of artifacts awaits us at the Museum of Ephesus. Hierapolis, meaning “Sacred City,” was an ancient center for pagan cults until it was transformed into a Christian center in the first century. According to tradition, the Apostle Philip lived and was martyred in Hierapolis. It was likely the hot springs of Hierapolis in contrast to the cold mountain springs near Colossae that combined to bring application to the “luke warm” Laodiceans. (Rev 3:14-22) This connection between the cities lies behind Paul’s reference to Hierapolis and Laodicea in his epistle to the Colossians (Col 4:13). Colossae is well-known throughout Christian circles as the receiver of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Today, the town has fallen into obscurity and nothing remains. Laodicea contains many acres of ruins to visit including a stadium and remnants of a sophisticated water system. Our lodging this evening will be in a lovely spa hotel in Pamukkale.
Day 12: Philadelphia, Sardis, Thyatira, Smyrna (March 18, Tuesday)
Philadelphia was referred to as the “New Jerusalem” (Rev. 3:7-13) in the Book of Revelation, yet today, not much is left of the city except for the ancient wall and the remains of a Byzantine basilica in the modern city of Alasehir. Sardis was berated by John for its facade of strength when in reality; it was weak (Rev. 3:1-6). Here coins were minted and the dyeing of wood originated. We’ll visit the gymnasium and synagogue. A stop will be made in Thyatira to view the ancient roadway and period columns. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and a long time center for Jews and Christians. In Paul’s day, Izmir was known as Smyrna and was another of the Seven Churches (Rev. 2:8-11). Here we’ll see Polycarp’s Church and the ancient agora. Our lodging this evening will be in Izmir.
Day 13: Pergamum & Ancient Troy (March 19, Wednesday)
Once a busy trading center and famous as a “seller of purple,” the most favored of the Seven Churches, the church of Pergamum was praised for its forbearance (Rev. 2:12-17). It was here that the first Christians were executed by Rome. We’ll visit the fabled Acropolis, pass through the Royal Gates, view the foundations of the Temple of Zeus and visit the ruins of the library, which once held 200,000 volumes. Ancient Troy is well known for its 3rd and 4th Century BC excavations. Don’t forget to have your picture taken from the top of the Trojan Horse. We pass by the area known as Troas, where Paul had a vision during his second missionary journey and was called to Macedonia (Acts 16:8-13). Paul later spent a week in Troas preaching here and Eutychus was resurrected (Acts 20:6-12). Our lodging this evening will be in picturesque Çanakkale.
Day 14: Constantinople (March 20 Thursday)
This morning our bus boards a large ferry for the scenic crossing of the Dardanelles to “Trace,” the European portion of Turkey. Views of the bunkers on the hillside and the ocean going vessels give clear understanding to the commentary of the British major losses and World War I defeat in the Dardanelles Strait. Sea of Marmara with thousands of summer homes will provide the scenery as we travel to Istanbul. Upon arrival we will visit the fascinating Topkapi Palace housing the many priceless treasures and colorful stories of Ottoman Sultans. Our lodging for the next two evenings will be in Istanbul.
Day 15: Bustling Istanbul (March 21, Friday)
The tour today will be an unusual combination of Greek Orthodox, Roman, Ottoman and modern day Islam with a city driving tour and entrance into the famed Blue Mosque and St. Sophia Church. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey is a thriving seaport and commerce center with a marvelous Bazaar and Spice Market allowing for a perfect opportunity to pick up those last minute souvenirs and gift items. The entire afternoon is free for you to shop and enjoy the hotel facilities.
Day 16: Homeward (March 22, Saturday)
An early morning flight will bring us home by this afternoon.