One week ago we left GR for Chicago to join up with others in the Calvin Seminary group traveling to Turkey and Greece, folks that have now become our family. It’s hard to believe that only seven days have passed – we have seen so many stimulating sights, we have eaten many unique and interesting meals and we have made countless bathroom stops, always together. I think we truly have bonded.
A 7:20 a.m. departure from our Troas hotel this morning brought us to the Canackale (“pottery castle”) ferry in time for an 8 a.m. crossing. On the following final 2 1/2-hour leg of our Turkey trip to the Greece border, Cenk did a Q & A session on the bus, resulting in his addressing several interesting topics including the fact that Turkey is 99.9% Muslim. The remaining .1% consists of Christians, Jews, and other religious folk totaling only about 200,000 out of the 77 million-person population. This is a rather challenging situation for those folks in the .1%. As soon as we crossed into Greece, that entire picture changed: there 98% are Orthodox Christian, 1% is Muslim and “others” comprise the remaining 1%. How can simply crossing an imaginary line on a map make for such major changes?
After arriving in Neapolis and driving up to the border between Turkey and Greece, our actual border crossing was very involved: we changed buses twice and drove through three separate sets of gates where official-looking folks inspected papers, scanned our passports, and strode about looking important. When finally cleared for entry into Greece, we were met by our Greek tour guide Christiana and her bus driver Yanni [No, not the singer with whom you may be familiar : ) ].
There followed an almost three-hour trek during which the weather became increasingly cloudy and eventually rainy. We arrived in Kavala, a present-day Greek city near the ancient ruins of Philippi. Christiana zipped us through Philippi’s agora, several early Christian church remains built within or on top of the ruins of Roman temples, and a prison cell where Paul MAY have been imprisoned with Silas those many years ago
before taking us to visit a baptistery erected on the riverside spot where Lydia likely met with other Gentile believers and where she was baptized. After learning the facts about the baptistery, we capitalized on the grand acoustics and sang some hymns together that sounded terrific in the remarkable acoustics of the octagonal structure.
The rain intensified as we drove to our hotel, so it is no surprise that we all were glad to be under cover in a warm dry place. After dinner and a study session on Paul’s letter-writing style/form, we all settled contentedly in our rooms. Tomorrow – Thessalonica.