Wednesday 31 Oct, 2012

Religious Experience on Greek Island Cruise

This past summer, I went on a Greek Island Cruise with EF tours, which also included about 5 hours in Turkey. After some hot, windy days in Athens, the cruise was a welcome change of pace. The first island we visited was Mykonos, with its area called “Little Venice.” Here, white buildings with colorful doorways and windows line the narrow pedestrian streets. The evening we were there, the wind was blowing so hard I felt as if I was being blown backward, as I walked up the hill to the windmills. These giant windmills were once used to mill grain, but now just make for a great photo spot. Once up on the hill, I looked out at the wild waters of the Aegean Sea below and saw the waves crashing close to the many outdoor cafes. The sunset was the highlight of Mykonos. As the sun starts dipping lower and lower it sets a pinkish glow on the white buildings against the deep blue water. Some people get their spot to watch the sunset hours before, much like they wait for the fireworks on the 4th of July here in the states.

Turkey Temple of Hadrian

Beautiful Architecture at the Temple of Hadrian in Ephesus, Turkey

The next morning, our ship, The Louis Olympia, docked at the port of Kusudasi, Turkey. Here we boarded a bus at 7 am for a tour of Ancient Ephesus. Up until about 2 months before, I didn’t even know what Ephesus was. I quickly learned it is one of the most well preserved archaeological sites in the world and dates back to the 8th century BC. It is also one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It once was a port city, but now sits about 7 miles from the sea. It is where Paul (from the Bible) lived for many years. He also wrote the book of Ephesians to the people of Ephesus. This is where he preached the Gospel and was later “kicked out” for doing so. All in all, Ephesus, is mentioned in the Bible 23 times.

We arrived in 100-degree heat to this site where detailed carvings and statues grace the sides of the ancient buildings. Among all this beauty and history, the ruins of the public toilets never cease to amaze the tourists. Here, the ancient Ephesians had an advanced water system that carried the waste away from the town. The funny part is, that these toilets were in the center of town and were holes in a stone seat. Here, men would gather, and discuss the gossip of the town, while being serenaded by a violin player. With all this information, I never did figure out where the women went to the bathroom and/or gathered to gossip.

Windmills on Patmos taken from Monastery

Windmills on Patmos taken from Monastery

After the tour, we headed back to the port to shop in the Turkish market and visit a carpet factory. The secret to shopping in Turkey, is this: If you are not interested in buying something, don’t look at it, and for Pete’s sake, don’t touch it! If you do either of these things, the shop owners assume you want to buy not just one, but several. That is how I ended up with 5 purses and 4 boxes of Turkish Apple Tea! Be ready to bargain, and do some quick math in your head. Also, check the change they give you and make sure it is in Euros. Some of the vendors try to give you Turkish Lira for change and that is basically worthless.

Later that afternoon, our ship docked on the island of Patmos, Greece. I never knew anything about Patmos, but soon was very thankful I chose the tour I did. Here, I got to see the cave that John (one of the disciples) was exiled in and where he lived. It has since been made into a chapel by the Greek Orthodox Monks. Here you can see where John received his inspiration and together with his scribe penned the book of Revelation. St. John’s Grotto looks out over the crystal clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea. It is quite beautiful up there and I kept thinking, that if John had to be exiled somewhere, this wasn’t such a bad place.

Greece Mykonos

Sun getting ready to set made the white buildings glow in Mykonos

That night back on the cruise ship I got on my iPod and read the first chapter of Revelation. I had a “Wow!” moment as I realized that this was everything the tour guide had just told us. I also read about Ephesus that night from the book of Acts and had another “Wow!” moment. I had visited two ancient Biblical spots in one day! With all those deep thoughts I was ready for the Greek buffet and a night of karaoke on the cruise ship.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I don’t find things very interesting until I’ve been there. One year ago, I didn’t even know what Ephesus was or what significance Patmos was to the Bible. Traveling can open up new doors and create those “Wow!” moments.

(Editor’s note: Laurie Frey has been on 6 EF Tours and enjoys how EF has plenty of structured activities and tours, but yet allows adequate freetime to explore the tourist spots.  She work as a school social worker in Illinois and first got involved with EF Tours by tagging along with the Spanish teachers and students from her school district.  She believes that each trip is an eye opening experience in which one can grow and learn something about the world. She always keeps a journal when she travels, mostly so she can remember the details about the places she has been. )