In the footsteps of Alexander
Our trip began in Greece following Alexander the Great and the Greek Gods atop Olympus. Our odyssey brought us to sites like Vergina, where Alexander’s father, Phillip II, is buried. We later made a pilgrimage to Phillipi, where St. Paul preached and, at one time, was imprisoned. Sites like these along with Dion and the old Macedonian capital of Pella demonstrated the grandeur and importance of the kingdom of Macedonia. So important that Alexander himself was deemed a demi God for his great military conquest. All the while we enjoyed the robust flavors of Greek cuisine in picturesque settings.
Students also had the opportunity to experience the bustle of metropolitan Thessaloniki, a modern day culture capital of Greece. Again, we were reminded of its historical importance to the region of Macedonia and its rich history from Byzantine to modern times. From Thessaloniki we set out to complete our Turkish crossing stopping first at the historic tobacco capital of Greece, Xanthi. Once at the border, two hours of custom controls kicked off our 6 hour journey from no man’s land to cosmopolitan Istanbul.
In Istanbul, the group reveled in the deep mysticism of the lone Islamic country in Europe. Visits to the Agia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi palace demonstrated the beauty, lyricism, and prestige of the Ottoman empire. With the call to prayer guiding us throughout our visit, many in the group were moved in their hearts and minds. The trip concluded with two free days to explore the Grand Bazaar, Spice market, and enjoy the tranquility of ancient Ottoman baths. The trip was a lesson in history, religion, and self-realization.