We have had an exciting two days, but Internet connections from the ship are expensive. This is a mid-journey report.
We sailed out of Piraeus (near Athens) at mid-day Friday, April 17. It was a clear day although the horizon was hazy. We passed the southern tip of Attica and the temple of Poseidon at Sounion could just be discerned to port if you looked at the right spot with binoculars when we sailed by.
Our primary destination was Ephesus in modern day Turkey, but we stopped mid-afternoon at Mykonos. The square, white-washed Cycladic architecture stood out against the blue sky and waters of the Aegean.
We strolled through the tiny streets where it was easy to get lost and ultimately got a glimpse of the windmills Mykonos is known for. The guide travelling with us, though, got us to a cafe in Little Venice where we could watch the sun set across the bay.
We were back on ship by 10:00 PM and the ship completed the journey to Ephesus, where the real fun began. After a brief visit to a traditional shrine to Mary, we reached the archaeological site of ancient Ephesus. The visit met or exceeded all of our expectations. Our guide, Alp, knew exactly where to stop and prepare us so that the next step opened an extraordinary new perspective.
From the magnificent reconstruction of the facade of the Library of Celsus to the lowly excavation of the public toilets, nothing else to this point has given us such a clear perspective into everyday life in a Roman city during the time of Paul.
But even the Library of Celsus pales in comparison to the imposing theater of Ephesus. This is the theater where thousands of angry Ephesians chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” in response to Paul’s message that was affecting the sale of Artemis paraphenalia.
The theater is one of the few standing structures we can point to and say with almost absolute certainty, “This scriptural event happened here.” (See Acts 18-19.) The top of the theater is also an excellent vantage point to survey the site of the ancient harbor. The harbor silted up over the centuries and the coast has receded several miles; we had to imagine how it would have looked when the harbor came right up to the end of Harbor Street.
We concluded the visit to Ephesus by visiting the probable site of the church where the Third Ecumenical Council met in 431 AD to make important decisions about Christological doctrine that have influenced all Western Christians.
We were back on the ship by lunch time and sailed for the island of Patmos where John wrote Revelation. We visited a cave that is the traditional site for where the Apocalypse was written. Perhaps the most impressive site, though, was the view from the Medieval Monastery of Saint John where we could survey the entire central part of the island.
We are underway now, working our way back to Athens by a circuitous route. We visit Crete and then Santorini, sites that are culturally and geologically significant but not directly related to Paul. The next post will likely be in 2-3 days.