Holy Islands and Holy Wisdom: a Pilgrimage to Holy Places in Greece and Constantinople, May 15th – 30th, 2015.
Led by Fr. Bohdan and Dobr. Tania Hladio
15 May – Depart Toronto for Athens (direct flight) at 4:50 PM on AC flight 1900
16 May – Arrival at Athens airport at 9:30 AM and transfer to hotel. Free day. Vespers. Group Welcome Dinner at 7 PM (after Vespers).
17 May – (Sunday) Morning: Divine Liturgy at a local Church; Brunch at hotel to follow.
Afternoon: City Tour of Athens. Our tour begins at the Panathinaikon Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games were held (short stop). We continue on to the city’s center, Syntagma Square, the House of Parliament and the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Panepistimiou, the broad avenue that follows, is full of Neoclassical palaces and buildings: the fine house of pioneering archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), credited with rediscovering the ancient Homeric city of Troy, the impressive National Academy, the State University of Athens and the very rich and symmetrical National Library. Omonia Square is Athens’ other great gathering place — literally, the pulse of the city — with a combination of modern and neoclassical architecture.
The closer we come to the Acropolis, the more ancient the monuments we encounter: the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus (built over a period of 640 years: 520BC-120AD), where 15 (of what once were 104) Corinthian pillars in fine, Pentelic marble still rake the sky; and the Arch of the Emperor Hadrian — where we will be treated to a guided visit inside the archeological preserve.
Next, the imposing Acropolis itself — the six million-year old geological apex of ancient Athens. First fortified in Mycenaean times, the Acropolis served from the early 6th century as a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Athena Polias (protectress of the city). The Acropolis, a surface area of less than 3 hectares where masterworks of ancient art, architecture and engineering are concentrated (the Propylaea — the Acropolis’ monumental entrance, the Parthenon, the Erectheon and the Temple of Nike Apteros) is more than the living history of Greece: it is the western world’s prototype of aesthetic — “the supreme expression of the adaptation of architecture to a natural site.”
18 May – Breakfast at hotel. Free morning. Lunch at a “Fish Taverna”, followed by a Tour to Cape Sounion.
Our tour begins with a pleasant drive out of the hustle and bustle of the city along the scenic coastal road through Athen’s most affluent and beautiful suburbs (Glyfada,Vouliagmeni, Varkiza), affording us a splendid view of the Gulf of Saron. At the end of of our journey, Cape Sounion, the “Cape of Columns,” rises — a sheer cliff, 200 feet above of the sea. Crowning its promontory are the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, built by Pericles in the early 5th century BC, on the ruins of an earlier temple, three centuries older. The temple is one point of a “magic triangle” the ancient Greeks enjoyed. From here, one can see both the temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina and the Acropolis itself. In Greek myth, it is from atop Sounion’s cliff that Aegeus, king of Athens, stood watch for the ship bearing news of his son Theseus, sent across the sea to Knossos and into the labyrinth of the minotaur. Here, he watched that ship heave into view, and believing its black sail heralded the death of his son, hurled himself into the sea that henceforth bears his name: the Aegean.
Of the temple and the promontory, Martin Heidegger wrote:
“These few standing columns were the strings of an invisible lyre… resonating over the Cycladic world of the islands. This single gesture of the land suggests the invisible nearness of the divine and dedicates to it every growth and every human work.”
The steep rise, the setting sun, Doric columns softly gleaming, the sharp relief of distant islands against a sparkling sea — perhaps the most beautiful sunset in the world.
Island of Andros
19 May – Breakfast at hotel. Transfer by private bus to the port of Rafina, travel by Ferry to the Island of Andros, and private transfer to the hotel in Batsi. Group Dinner in Batsi.
20 May – Breakfast at hotel. Private tour of Andros.
Andros is off the beaten, tourist path. It is a beautiful, verdant island, with extraordinary treasures. We will visit the monastery of St. Nicholas, with its wonderworking myrrh-streaming icon of the Theotokos. In addition to this treasure of the faith,we will have the opportunity to venerate the relics of St. Nicholas, as well as an icon of the Saint, embroidered by a penitent woman who incorporated her own hair into the composition as a symbol of her repentance. We will also visit the monasteries of St Marina and St. Panteleimon, and the village Church of Panagia Agridiotissa with its own wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, and visit some of the most beautiful villages of the island.
21 May – (Feast of the Ascension, and of Ss. Constantine and Helen) Morning: Divine Liturgy at local Church followed by Brunch at the Hotel. Afternoon: Transfer to port and board Ferry for Tinos, arrive in Tinos, transfer to Hotel.
Island of Tinos
Tinos, with its “Evangelistria” Church and miracle working icon of the Theotokos is undoubtedly the most popular pilgrimage destination for the Orthodox faithful of Greece. The location of the wonder-working icon of the Theotokos was revealed to the nun Pelagia in a miraculous way — and after repeated attempts, was discovered in an excavation at the present site of the magnificent Church in 1823. It had been buried for centuries in the ruins of an ancient church which had been devastated by the Saracens in 1200 AD. In addition to its preeminence as an Orthodox site of pilgrimage, as a result of the centuries long Venetian occupation of the Cycladic islands there is a notable Roman Catholic presence on Tinos, including a monastery and school.
22 May – Breakfast at Hotel. Depart for our Tour of Tinos.
We will visit Monastery of Agia Pelagia, the church of Agia Triada in Falatado, “Iera Kardia” (catholic monastery) on the rock of Exombourgou, the Monastery and School of the Ursulines. We will also visit the village of Steni, the church of St. Antonio (a very old church whose iconostas came from Constantinople), the village of Falatados, and the village of Loutra. Upon returning to the town of Tinos, we will celebrate Vespers at the “Panagia of Tinos” church.
Island of Paros
23 May – Breakfast at Hotel. Transfer to the port and board the Ferry to Paros, arrival to Paros and private transfer to the hotel. Vespers at Panagia Ekatontapyliani — The “Church of a Hundred Doors”.
Paros is the second-largest island in the Cyclades. Its “Ekatontapyliani” (“one hundred doors”) Church was built by the same architect who designed Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. This magnificent 6th century edifice includes a large baptistery with an ancient cruciform baptismal font; and wholly incorporates an earlier church, built by St. Helen in the 4th century upon her return from Jerusalem with the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Lord.
Paros is also noted for its monasteries, including the monastery of the revered Wonderworker, St. Arsenios of Paros, who was one of the “Kollyvades” fathers, a contemporary of St. Paisius Velychkowskyj. St. Arsenios’ relics are kept at the monastery. We will also visit the Longovarda monastery (men only) where the well known elder Philotheus Zervakos was abbot, as well as the St. Philotheos Monastery (women only).
In addition, we will have time to visit the beautiful and picturesque fishing villages and towns of the island.
24 May – (Sunday) Divine Liturgy at Panagia Ekatontapyliani Church; Brunch at the Hotel after Liturgy. After Brunch we begin our Tour of Paros.
We will depart from the hotel in Parikia by bus, and proceed to the monastery of St. Arsenios. Continuing south, we will pass by Aliki village & Drios. After a stop in Piso Livadi we will visit the village of Lefkes, a beautiful typical village — and ancient capital of the island. From there, we will continue on to Naoussa, and at the end of the excursion, visit Loggovarda Monastery (men) & Moni Agiou Philotheou (women). After visiting the monasteries, we will return to the hotel.
25 May – Breakfast at the hotel. At the appropriate time we transfer to the port to take the Ferry to Piraeus. Arrival to Piraeus port and private transfer to Athens hotel. Free evening in Athens.
26 May – Breakfast at hotel, free morning. Depart hotel at approximately noon for the Airport. Flight to Istanbul. Transfer from Istanbul Airport to Hotel.
Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, needs no introduction. It was the capital of the Roman Empire from the middle of the 4th century until 1453 A.D. Following the fall of the city to the Ottomans in 1453, it remained the centre of Orthodox Church life, with its Patriarch being regarded as “first among equals” in the Orthodox world. While in Constantinople, we will have the opportunity to visit the Patriarchate with its Cathedral Church of St. George; the monastery of “Zoodogos Pigi” – the Life-giving Spring of the Theotokos; historical temples such as the “Vlacherna” and “Chora” churches; as well as one of the most important and imposing Orthodox Churches ever built, Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”). We will also have the opportunity to see the Ottoman monuments such as the Blue Mosque, the Bazaar, etc.
On Friday morning, pilgrims will have the opportunity to worship at the Holy Liturgy in the “Vlacherna” Church of the Mother of God. The history of this shrine, the fame of which had spread throughout the Christian world, extends over the entire Byzantine era, and the great events associated with it are linked with the history of the City. The first church at the site of the sacred spring was built between 450-453. Later the Hagiasma (fountain of holy water) and the Hagion Lousma (sacred bath) were added. A small chapel was built of the Hagia Soros to house the holy mantle and robe of the Virgin that had been brought from Palestine to Constantinople in 473. Like the Hagia Sophia, this church was a center of Orthodox worship. Nothing remains of the original shrine except for the Sacred Spring. In 1867, a small church was built containing the Hagiasma (Sacred Spring), and later additions were made to give the ancient sacred spring the aspect it has today.
In addition to the above, we will travel on the sea of Marmara to the Island of Halki, and visit its famed Monastery, Theological School and Library.
27 May – Breakfast at Hotel. City tour of Constantinople, including the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, St. Sophia Cathedral, Monastery of Baloukli (Life-giving Font), Church at Chora, Blue Mosque, Bazaar.
28 May – Breakfast at Hotel. Cruise on the Sea of Marmara. Visit the island of Halki, the Theological School and Monastery there.
29 May – Breakfast at Hotel. Free day in Constantinople (optional Liturgy at the Vlachernae Church in the morning). Farewell dinner in the evening at a Turkish Restaurant.
30 May – Breakfast at Hotel. Transfer to airport by private bus. Depart Istanbul at 10:55 AM on AC 811, arriving in Toronto at 2:55 PM
Cost & Particulars
Price: $3,895 per person, in double occupancy. If you wish to be alone in your room, there is a single supplement of $975
The price includes breakfast or brunch every day, plus the lunches and dinners indicated on this itinerary.
Visiting many of the monasteries, as well as several of the locations we will be visiting, can only be done on foot. Pilgrims should be able to easily walk for a kilometer, and should bring good walking shoes.
Pilgrims should be prepared to honour the clothing guidelines of the Churches and Monasteries we will visit. Men should wear long pants and short or long sleeved shirts (no tank tops), and women should wear modest skirts or dresses to below the knee and have their shoulders covered. Women may also cover their heads while in Church.
- The price does not include Travel Insurance (this is each traveler’s responsibility – you can contact Nick Dimitrakopoulos at Mr. Travel for a quote: firstname.lastname@example.org | 1.800.339.9891) and the cost of obtaining a Turkish Electronic Visa
- Passports must be valid for 3 months after the return date (i.e., through August 30th 2015)