Day 1: Depart USA
Overnight flight to Europe.
Day 2: Arrive Innsbruck
Transfer to your hotel in Innsbruck, capital of Austrian Tyrol. Innsbruck is a gem in the middle of the Alps with wonderful scenery, extensive history and numerous shops to explore.
Day 3: Innsbruck Walking Tour, Neuschwanstein, Oberammergau
A walking tour today will include the Triumphal Arch commemorating the wedding of the Duke of Tuscany, Saint Anna’s Column and Swarovski Kristallwelten, a wonderland of crystal works of art by artists past and present. This afternoon we stop at the Rococo-style chapel in the Meadow and Ludwig II’s most luxurious former residence, the Neuschwanstein Castle. We continue to the charming town of Oberammergau, site of our Passion Play tomorrow.
Day 4: Passion Play
Today is dedicated to the Oberammergau, site of the famous Passion Play and magnificently painted houses with free time in the morning and an afternoon program. This play, hundreds of years old has lasted throughout time. We enjoy the world-famous Passion Play, spending the evening nearby in one of the lovely hotels.
Day 5: Augsburg, Romantic Road, Rothenburg, Wurzsburg
This morning, we travel north to the ancient city of Augsburg. It was here in 1518 at St. Anne's Church that Luther met the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan, who demanded that Luther submit to the pope. Augsburg was also the site of another Imperial Diet (1530).
Early this afternoon we stop along the panoramic "Romantic Road" and visit the best preserved medieval town in all of Europe, Rothenburg. We include the quaint Rathaus (town hall) with its tower, the Kriminal-museum, housing all manner of Medieval instruments of torture and especially for the ladies, one of the most fascinating Christmas stores you will ever see - Kathe's (pronounced Katie's). After free time, our trek north through the fertile countryside brings us to Wurzburg, for dinner and overnight.
Day 6: Heidelberg, Worms, Frankfurt
This morning we travel on to one of the most charming cities in all of the world - Heidelberg, ancient capital of the Palatinate and home of Germany's oldest university. But most importantly, it was a stronghold of German Reformed Protestants beginning in 1560. One of the great confessional statements of the Reformation, the Heidelberg Catechism was produced here in 1563. Heidelberg Castle, a most impressive historic landmark of Germany, stands majestically overlooking the Neckar River. The structure, now largely in ruins, preserves numerous examples of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque German architecture. Our next stop is in Worms. It was here, during the Imperial Diet in 1521, that Martin Luther challenged the entire Roman Catholic establishment by his refusal to recant the great doctrines of Protestantism. It was also here that William Tyndale completed the printing of his English version of the New Testament in 1525 which he had begun in Cologne. After seeing St. Peter's Church and the symbolic Luther memorial near the town square, we transfer to our lodging and dinner in nearby Frankfurt for the next two evenings.
Day 7: Frankfurt Free Time
Frankfurt is a charming city. Today is free with many things to do and see. Take a relaxing stroll down to the majestic River Main and pay a visit to the “Gardens of Nice”, brimful with all forms of Mediterranean flora. A highlight available is the vivid history on display at the Goethe-House, birthplace of Frankfurt’s favourite son.
Day 8: Flight to Istanbul
Get some rest on the flight and transfer to our hotel in Istanbul, Turkey for the next two evenings. 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 souvenirs and unique gift items. Enjoy the bustle of this fabulous city…Tomorrow you will be walking where the apostles walked!
Day 9: Bustling Istanbul
The tour today will be an unusual combination of Greek Orthodox, Roman, Ottoman and modern day Islam including entrance into the famed Blue Mosque and St. Sophia Church. After lunch we visit the fascinating Topkapi Palace housing the many priceless treasures and colorful stories of Ottoman Sultans. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 10: Sea of Marmara
This morning we depart Istanbul and travel west across "Trace," the European portion of Turkey. The Sea of Marmara with thousands of summer homes will provide the scenery as we travel. 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. Our bus boards a large ferry for the scenic crossing of the Dardanelles to our lodging this evening in picturesque Çanakkale.
Day 11: Ancient Troy, Pergamum & Izmir
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). 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. Our next visit of the day is Pergamum. 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. We continue south to Izmir 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 12: Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Pamukkale
A stop will be made in Thyatira to view the ancient roadway and period columns en-route to Sardis. 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. Our next stop is nearby Philadelphia which was referred to as the "New Jerusalem" (Rev. 3:7-13) in the Book of Revelation. 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. Our lodging this evening will be in a lovely spa hotel in Pamukkale.
Day 13: Hierapolis, Laodicea & Colossae
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). Laodicea contains many acres of ruins to visit including a stadium and remnants of a sophisticated water system. Nearby 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. We spend the remainder of the day traveling through the Turkish countryside arriving in the port city of Kusadasi where we spend two nights. The day will not be complete without a visit to a local Turkish Rug cooperative.
Day 14: Ephesus
We travel to the nearby town of Selcuk for a visit to the Basilica of St. John, housing an immersion baptismal and believed to be resting place of John. From here we have an excellent overview of the Ephesus harbor and the Temple of Artemis, completed in its most famous phase around 550 BC and listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Next, we travel a short distance down the hill to visit the Mosque of Jesus (Jesus is a respected prophet to Muslims). A wealth of artifacts awaits us at the nearby Museum of Ephesus. We spend the remainder of our day in 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.
Day 15: Depart for Home
This morning we transfer to the Izmir airport for our flight back to the USA.