Both Muslims and Christians need to have a more accurate knowledge, understanding and a more positive appreciation of the other religion to have a fruitful cooperation in the world. On this tour, we attempt to contribute to better understanding and in the long run to a better world based on love and ecumenism; we will meet theologians, share information with the imams of the mosques, and interact with the Moslem people.
Day 1: Istanbul - Transfer from the airport to the Hotel. We can arrange individual transfers for every one even if you are arriving not on the first day of the tour but earlier. Please check the information on arrival. The tour starts with a short orientation meeting at 04:30 PM in the lobby of Hotel Ayasofya. After visiting the Blue Mosque dinner will be at a nearby restaurant located in the middle of the two grand Christian and Moslem monuments, the Hagia Sophia of the 6th Century and the Blue Mosque of the 17th Century. Overnight at Hotel Ayasofya, an old Ottoman house recently renovated to an excellent condition located within walking distance to all the must-see places in Istanbul.
Day 2: Istanbul - In the morning, visit the Byzantine Cistern, and the Turkish Islamic Art Museum. The art style of the Muslim culture displayed in this museum will give a foundation of the Islamic dogma which will be one of the topics to be discussed later on this tour. After lunch visit St Sophia, the grandest standing monument from 1500 years before our time. At 06:30 PM we will have a group meeting at the Lobby of the hotel to go over the tour and to answer the possible questions of the tour members. Dinner will be served at a very colorful quarter of Istanbul where the ambiance is just as memorable as the food we will be served in this fish restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Ayasofya.
Day 3: Istanbul - Visit the Topkapi Palace in the morning. The White house of the Ottoman Empire for 400 year. In the outer court yard of the palace there stands Aya Irini church, though much smaller had never got lost in the shadow of her contemporary church Aya Sophia. Now a days Aya Irini is being used as a concert hall. Generally closed to public for visits, but we will try to get a chance of going in. If on the day we visit the church, if there is an art exhibit this will be very easy and meaningful visit. After lunch we will meet with a faculty member from the School of Theology at the University of Istanbul. This gentleman who is an authority on Islam will give us the introduction to the dogma of Islam, The session will allow time for questions and answers. Dinner will be served at Turkistan Restaurant near the hotel. Overnight at Hotel Ayasofya.
Day 4: Istanbul - Visit the Covered Bazaar (Grand Bazaar). Visit Chora Church /Mosque to see the Byzantine mosaics from the 11th-12th century. This site has the most exquisite mosaics and frescoes of its era describing the theology of Orthodoxy. After lunch (on your own) spend some time at the 19th century quarter of Istanbul and enjoy coffee at Pera Palas Hotel which was the terminating point of the famous Orient Express. Agatha Christie wrote her book " Murder On The Orient Express" in of the rooms of this hotel. Meet the members of the Turkish Orthodox Church congregation and find more about what it is for the Christians to be living among the Moslems. Cruise on the Bosporus by our private boat. Dinner at Ortakoy. Overnight in Hotel Ayasofya.
Day 5: Cappadocia - Fly to Kayseri and transfer to Cappadocia. In Cappadocia the Creator and man competed in creating the most unusual and the most beautiful. Enjoy the moon-like terrain of Cappadocia with endless forms of work of art. The colors of the frescoes of the twelve hundred year old churches are just as fresh as the colors of the carpets woven in the region. The rock formations are just as striking as the local pottery made of the clay obtained from the old river beds. In the morning easy hike to Zelve to see the 10-11th century churches, monasteries and houses carved in the rocks. Visit villagers at their rock dwellings. Dinner and overnight Museum Hotel in Uchisar.
Day 6: Cappadocia - Immerse into the depths of Cappadocia to understand how the early Christians lived and worshiped in the land where the seeds of Christianity were planted by St. Paul. Visit the locals in their houses. Visit the astonishing GOREME monastery to see how each monk had interpreted in their wall paintings the history of Christianity. St Paul had visited the region, Caesarea, to preach the word of God in his 1st Missionary Journey. As one visits the colorful "churches" of Cappadocia, he/she will have no doubt in his/her mind that what is surrounding you in forms of thrilling art form buried in nature is the ideas and teachings of St. Paul that had sprout into the life style of the Cappadocians for two thousand years. Witness the local craft at potters wheel and at carpet makers looms. Opportunity to buy the best Turkish carpetswhich are inseparable part of the Turkish life. Dinner & Overnight at Museum Hotel in Uchisar.
Day 7: Guzelyurt, the birth place of St Gregory - Leave Cappadocia at 07.30 Drive over the beautiful Toros mountains The grandeur of the mountains explains why they are called "toro" the bull traditional symbol of power. Visit the underground city in Kaymakli. The giant ant hole like underground refuge of the Christians explains clearly how difficult it must have been to be a Christian hiding away from the 2nd Century Roman Persecution. One best way of having a feel for people's values is to be able to interact with them. We will take this opportunity of visiting a village and we will make home visits and have one to one contact with the villagers at their homes. Overnight and dinner at a 18th Century Monastery. Home stay can be arranged for those who might be willing to stay with Turkish Families.
Day 8: Tarsus. We will all have breakfast at the house of a village family. We will discuss more about the dogma of Islam. Visit the nearby mosque and meet the imam to have his point of view on various subjects. Question/Answer session. We will visit the oldest monastery in Anatolia and enjoy the grandeur of the earliest Cathedral in Anatolia. After lunch continue to the Cillician Gate and overnight at Tarsus, the birth place of St Paul.
Day 9: Antioch - Drive to Antakya (Antioch on the Orentes) This is where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26) It was from the Church in Antioch that Paul and Barnabas started their first journey and to which Paul returned from both his first and second journeys. Visit St. Peter's church and the fabulous Mosaic Museum which clearly displays the glamour of Antioch of St. Paul's time. Overnight at Antakya, hotel Antik Beyazit.
Day 10: Tasucu - Following the foot steps of St Paul we will return to the Mediterranean coast and drive through the ancient sites which were once the most important monasteries of the Christian world. We will visit Aya Tekla's Basilica a location which is accepted sacred by the Moslem locals as well. We will have a chance to visit with more Turkish families and we can have a nice opportunity to understand how religion affects the lives of the Turkish people. The spring in the Mediterranean will be beautiful. We will have a chance to walk around the hill side following the foot steps of the early Christians who used to do pilgramages to the mountain baptismal fonts. Overnight at the southern most shore of Turkey on the Mediterranean.
Day 11: Konya -Konya (Iconium) - The Bible does not say much about what had happened to Paul and Barnabas in Iconium except that their work was sufficiently effective to antogonize the people there. They had to flee. Though not much of the city from Paul's time is left, Konya is still spiritually important as the center of the Whirling Dervishes who preach friendship, tolerance, and divine love. We will learn about the father of Sufism in Konya. Rumi and his philosophy will be the topic of our morning lecture. The teachings of Rumi are the essence of our cultural identity. Discovering Rumi will be the most pleasant experience of Christian/Moslem encounter. Overnight in Konya, at Hotel Baykara.
Day 12: Pamukkale - Drive via Antich of Pisidia where Paul had visited twice. He was getting treatment for his lung problem in Antioch. Continue to Pamukkale, Biblical Hierrapolis. Visit the ancient site of Hierrapolis and swim in the natural pool which was a Roman spa. Enjoy feeling the roman ruins under your feet while soaking in the bubbling waters of the pool giving you a feeling of being in a champagne bottle. Overnight at Pamukkale.
Day 13: Dydima Miletos Kusadasi - Drive to Selcuk. Along the way visit the ancient sites of Didyma and Miletos. Didyma is an oracle center dedicated to Apollo. It was the 3rd largest temple of its time. This 3rd Century BC monument is the best standing building of its age. Miletos as mentioned in Acts 20 is where St. Paul left his homeland Anatolia in his sail boat Teckla. St. Paul had taught the elders of Ephesus one of the best teachings of Christ "Giving is more blessed than taking." Dinner and overnight at Selcuk.
Day 14: Ephesus - Visit the ancient site of Ephesus, the Ephesus Museum and the house of the Virgin Mother. Ephesus is the largest Roman excavation in Turkey. The grand avenues and intact social buildings help one build the city in their imagination with not too much of an effort. When one walks in the theater which had a seating capacity of 24,000 people, the sounds of the mad Ephesians led by Demitrius, the silversmith, can almost be heard. According to Acts 19 St Paul, who visited Ephesus twice, was never given an opportunity to speak in this theater when the Ephesians were reminded that St Paul and his teachings were a threat to the way they made their living. So Paul wrote everything he had to say to the Ephesians in his letters. Thus Ephesus is mentioned not only in Acts but there is a whole big chapter in the Bible named the Epistle of Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. At Virgin /mary's house we will witness the best examople of Christian/Moslem encounter. For hundreds of years faithful of both religions have been worshiping together side by side. Overnight at Selcuk.
Day 15: Tour is over after breakfast. Transfer to the airport in Izmir.
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