Greece is an amazing country. Its climate is enjoyable, pleasant, most of the year. Its people are friendly and open to travelers from America. The food is much like what you have had if you have ever eaten in any Mediterranean country, or a Greek Restaurant. Greece is also a safe country and travel within the country is easy. It is also, easily one of my favorite places in the world.
I never tire of Greece. The mountains are amazing. The sea is beautiful. The antiquities are out of this world, literally from some of the most important periods in human history.
There are two cities in the northeastern part of the country that are interesting from a historical point of view. We include them on our Steps of Paul tours in Greece. They are Kavala, which is referred to in the New Testament as Neopolis, and Philippi, which is now an ancient archeological site. Together they are worth a day on any tour you do that puts you close to them.
Kavala is a port town. This is the place where the Apostle Paul first stepped onto European soil. He arrived by ship. A quick tour of the port is a must. You can see from here how appealing the country must have looked as Paul pulled into the harbor and got off the boat.
Take a while, walk along the ramparts of the port. There are some great places to sit and have a meal or a drink right on the edge of the Bay. Explore the Byzantine fortress on the hill if you have time. Stop at the top of the hill where you enter into Kavala from the highway and look out over the panoramic view across the city and to the Bay of Kavala which is part of the Aegean Sea.
It is a short drive from Kavala to the ancient site of Philippi. The city was conquered by Philip II of Macedonia who also happened to be the father of Alexander the Great. This city is also where in 42 B.C. Marc Antony and his army killed Brutus and Cassius and avenged the murder of Julius Caesar.
More important, Ancient Philippi is where the first European convert to Christianity occurred. It was a lady named Lydia. You can see her story and in fact trace Paul’s journey through Greece beginning in Acts 16. This land was known as Macedonia at that time.
The archeological site at ancient Philippi is a national park. It will take anywhere from an hour to three hours to go through the entire sight. You will enter at the theater which stands almost untouched by the years.
Built into the hillside, it is easy to imagine this theater filled with people watching a play, or some other performance. Wonder around through the theater or continue on through the site. This site has been painstakingly uncovered and preserved. You can visit the prison where it is believed the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Acts 16. Walk among the remains of the Roman Forum or look through the remains of the Basilica of St. Paul, also known as Basilica B.
A short drive after you finish in the official site takes you to the river where Lydia and other converts were baptized.
Through out the site it is easy to imagine this as a once vibrant city. It has been that well preserved.
Walk along the pathways where ancient Romans walked. Or follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Either way, history is all around you as you wonder through Philippi. Climb the hills of the ancient city. Imagine being here before the Romans when the Macedonians controlled the city under the rule of Philip II.
This city is the beachhead from which all of Europe was ultimately evangelized and converted to Christianity. From here Paul went deeper into Greece and ultimately returned before finally going to Rome. Without Philippi the history of Christianity in Europe is much different than we know it to be. Without the Apostle Paul’s vision of the man in Macedonia beckoning him to come, he would likely have gone east, and the history of the world would be something other than what it is. One moment, eternal consequences, like much of our lives.
I was blessed to travel through Greece with a modern-day Apostle Paul, Larry Draper. Dr. Draper was an amazing man who probably knew more about the Apostle Paul than most anyone alive. We would be walking along. Dr. Draper would be lost in thought. Suddenly, he would start sharing about the Apostle Paul and something significant that happened in the very place we were walking. Every where we were in Greece this happened.
This trip to Greece was Dr. Draper’s last mission trip. He preached in Corinth. He preached in Athens. He preached as David Thornton and I drove him through Greece. What a blessing!
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