Pictures from Turkey

Paul: From Damascus to Ephesus

A Pilgrimage to Syria and Turkey

Led by:

The Rev. Canon Marianne Borg

Dr. Marcus Borg

Dr. John Dominic Crossan

May 2 - 17, 2011

Trip map

For the first time, the Borg-Crossan pilgrimage will include Syria as well as Turkey.  We start in Damascus where Paul’s life as a follower and apostle of Jesus began.  There we will stay for a week in a charming hotel in the old city, one of the most fascinating places in the Middle East.  In Turkey, our base for a week will be a magnificent hotel on the Aegean Sea a few miles from Ephesus, from which we will do day-trips to sites associated with Roman imperial theology and Paul.

As in past pilgrimages, our days include visiting sites, typically from about 9 am to 3 or 4 pm (with a couple of longer days); early evening teaching times before dinner; and optional morning contemplative times.

Some factors to know about:

*This trip requires a reasonable degree of physical fitness.  In Damascus, we will be staying in the old city whose narrow streets mean that we will walk to sites up to a mile away.  The monastery at Mar Musa requires ascending a stairway with 350 steps.  Age is not the primary factor, but fitness:  Dom and Marcus, in their 60s and 70s, as well as Sarah and Marianne, their much younger wives, did so in the spring of 2010.  So, also, in Turkey, some sites require walking more than a mile, and a couple of sites require ascending several hundred feet.

*Entering Syria.  Visas to Syria are relatively expensive:  last year, $131 per person, and they must be obtained before leaving the United States.  They are valid only for three months and therefore should not be obtained before about March 1, 2011.  Importantly, you cannot enter Syria if your passport has an Israeli stamp in it.  So if you have recently visited Israel and have an Israeli stamp in your passport, you will need to get a new passport before applying for a Syrian visa.  The visa application form will ask you if you have ever been to Israel.  If you have, answer yes.  In our experience that does not constitute a problem in getting a visa.

DAY 1, Monday, May 2, 2011 - Depart the United States for a nonstop flight to Istanbul.  Meals on board flights. M

DAY 2: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - Arrive Istanbul and connect to the flight to Damascus arriving in Damascus in the late afternoon.  We will be transferred to our hotel in the old city.  Dinner and overnight in Damascus. MD

DAY 3: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - Damascus.  There will be a morning gathering for group formation followed by a late morning walking tour of “the Street called Straight,” the Ananias Church, and the Paul Church at the Kisan Gate—the traditional site of his basket-escape from the city-wall.  Most of the afternoon is free for rest and relaxation.  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 4: Thursday, May 5, 2011 - Damascus.  We visit the National Archeological Museum with a relocated third-century synagogue covered with biblical figures from Dura Europos on the Euphrates.  We will also visit the magnificent Ummayad Mosque, the fourth holiest site in Islam.  It has a minaret dedicated to Jesus and a shrine to both John the Baptist and Ali, the grandson of Muhammad.  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 5: Friday, May 6, 2011 - Damascus.  We take a day-trip to Ma’alula, an ancient city where Aramaic—the language of Jesus—is still spoken.  Visit the Greek Catholic monastery of St.  Sergius (Mar Sarkis) with one of the oldest Christian churches in the world.  Visit also the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Thecla (Mar Takla), a “proto-feminist” saint converted by Paul (see Acts of Paul and Thecla).  She traditionally “disappeared” from this earth through a narrow defile opened up by God in the nearby mountain (we will walk through it).  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 6: Saturday, May 7, 2011 - Damascus.  Today we take a day-trip to the ancient and now revitalized monastery of St. Moses the Ethiopian (Mar Musa) on a mountain in the Syrian desert north of Damascus.  It has very impressive twelfth century frescoes in its small chapel and is now a center for Christian-Muslim dialogue.  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 7: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - Damascus.  We will have morning worship in a Syriac Orthodox Church followed by a meeting with Syriac Christians.  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 8: Monday, May 9, 2011 - Damascus.  Today we will have a full day free in Damascus for rest, additional sight-seeing on your own, or shopping.  Overnight in Damascus. BD

DAY 9: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - Damascus to Izmir.  We transfer to the airport for our flight from Damascus to Istanbul with a connecting flight to Izmir, Turkey.  A one-hour bus ride to our gorgeous hotel in Kusadasi on the Aegean Sea. BD

DAY 10: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - Kusadasi.  This morning we visit the 6th Church of St. John and the Ephesus Museum in nearby Selcuk.  Some free time in the afternoon.  Overnight in Kusadasi. BD

Day 11: Thursday, May 12, 2011 - Kusadasi.  We visit Priene with ruins from the Greek and Roman periods.  We see an important inscription dedicating its main temple to Augustus as Son of God and God Incarnate.  The bouleterion (council chamber) and theater are particularly well preserved.  It also has one of the two ancient synagogues ever discovered in Turkey.  Return to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 12: Friday, May 13, 2011 - Kusadasi.  We will have an early departure down the Meander Valley to Aphrodisias, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Turkey and yet slightly off the beaten track for tourists.  Its’ Sebasteion, dedicated to Rome, Augustus, and “the Olympian Imperial Gods”, is a uniquely dramatic illustration of Roman imperial theology.  Many of its bas-reliefs are now beautifully displayed in the museum’s new wing—where we begin our visit.  Return to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 13: Saturday, May 14, 2011 - Kusadasi.  Today, we visit Didyma, a sacred site since time immemorial.  Early Ionian settlers arrived here in the 11th century BC and in the 4th century BC a vast temple with more than 100 columns was built to protect the holy spring and the laurel tree (sacred to Apollo).  This extraordinary Temple of Apollo and the beauty of Didyma were famed far and wide.  We continue to Miletus, where Paul met with the elders of Ephesus on his final journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:15-38).  We also see a reserved-seat inscription to the “God-worshippers” in the theater.  Return to our hotel in Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 14: Sunday, May 15, 2011 - Kusadasi.  Today we visit Ephesus, the best preserved ancient city in the world.  Once on the sea, Ephesus is now about 3 miles inland. Ephesus was a major center of Paul’s activities (see Acts 19), as well as one of the seven cities of the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:1-7).  Many of Paul’s letters were written during the years he lived here.  We see the Theater, the Library of Celsus, and the “terrace houses”, the villas of the wealthy, a special exhibition only recently opened to the general public.  We also have a special visit to “The Cave of St. Thecla” with a 5th century fresco of her conversion by Paul—a site not normally open to tourists.  Then we visit Mary’s House a few miles away, a site sacred to both Christians and Muslims.  There we hope to celebrate the Eucharist in a small chapel.  Return to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 15: Monday, May 16, 2011 - Kusadasi.  We travel from Kusadasi to the ancient city of Sardis, one of the seven cities of Revelation (Rev. 3:1-6).  It has impressive ruins including the most beautiful Jewish synagogue ever discovered from the ancient world.  This is Turkey’s second ancient synagogue and is located in what was Sardis’ central public space.  Return to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. BD

Day 16: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 - We depart from Izmir and connect in Istanbul to our nonstop return flight to JFK Airport in New York City arriving back in the mid-afternoon. BM

Price: $5,299.00 per person.  Air from JFK, New York City

Price is based on double occupancy without airline taxes and fuel surcharges, which will be added to your final invoice.  Taxes and fuel surcharges are currently $359.00 and may change.  Air transportation available from other cities.  Single supplement:  $1,099.00

Deposit of $300.00 per person due with application.

Final payment due February 1, 2011

Cancellation Penalties
◊ Until January 31, 2011: $200.00 plus any unrecoverable fees.
◊ After February 1, 2011: NO REFUND

An application for travel insurance will be included with the receipt for your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you seriously consider this coverage.

Meals: B Breakfast, L Lunch, D Dinner, M Meals on Aircraft

The itinerary is subject to change due to local conditions or at the discretion and direction of the leader or guide.