Day 1 - Friday, October 10
Arrive Istanbul (D)
Upon arrival at the Ataturk Airport, our guide will meet you and assist you all the way to the Amethyst Hotel. This will be your second home while you are in Istanbul.
We will have a great welcome dinner and meet and greet with our fellow travellers at Daruzziyafe, a charming courtyard restaurant found in the Süleymaniye mosque complex. This restaurant has some serious historical significance that dates back to more or less 460 years. Today, it is famous for their signature mouthwatering Ottoman-inspired dishes.
Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel.
Day 2 - Saturday, October 11
Istanbul (B, D)
After breakfast, we are off to some great adventures today. There are three major activities for today: storytelling, conversations and sightseeing. Phil will keep us entertained with long and fruitful conversations focusing on “The Longing”. The topic will lead us to The Art of Pilgrimage that believes on insightful and deep sense of longing that sparks journeys.
Traditions have it that those who engage in conversations are the ones that will help civilization move forward. In the evening, we will participate in another conversation, this time we will tackle the day’s experience and the deeper meaning of our journey together. These discussions help us connect ourselves to those who have gone before us.
Pumped up and inspired after the beautiful conversations, we will embark on sightseeing escapades. We will start with a tour of the old town. Must visits include the Hippodrome, the Basilica of St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) known for its marvelous architecture that withstood over fifteen hundred years, and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmed. The mosque’s is another dream destination of architectural enthusiasts. The impressive interior fortifications are covered with over twenty thousand azure Iznik tiles using more than fifty varied tulip designs.
Sightseeing continues with a stopover at the Archaeological Museum. It is home to sculptures from the Ancient Age - Archaic Era to the Roman Era. Tourists flee here to take a peak at the unique artifacts such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, several portraits, medals, seals and coins.
Next on our list is the renowned Spice Bazaar. One of the biggest bazaars in the city, here you can find exquisite jewelry, souvenirs, dried fruits, nuts, sweets, and of course, spices. Thereafter, we will visit the Chora Church. Ornamented with mosaics and frescoes from the fourteenth century, it is deemed as one of the most spectacular examples of a Byzantine church. The images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Saints and Emperors are fabulously painted on surfaces of this worship center. The highlight of it all is the incredible image of Jesus Christ raising the patriarchs of the Old Testament out of Hell.
A sumptuous dinner is waiting for us at the hotel when we get back form this wonderful tour. After dinner, we will get ready for an evening of storytelling at the fabled traveller’s crossroad, The Mystic Tea and Smoking Garden.
Tonight, we will meet at the Sufi school. It is now converted to teahouse and has perfectly fused the best of European and Asian vibe. We will touch base with the second installment of The Art of Pilgrimage. We will focus on departure and elements that make up the commencement of every journey. During this confab, we will answer questions such as:
- Is the journey what you were hoping for?
- Do you feel prepared?
- Have you left room open for serendipity to grace your travels?
Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel.
Day 3 - Sunday October 12
Istanbul, Troy, Assos (B, D)
We will greet the morning with a hearty breakfast and morning conversations with Phil. Today’s topic is “The Road to Troy”, which is very apt because we are heading to the legendary “Troy” today.
This early morning conversation with Phil will give us hints on what to expect on our tour today. This is a great opportunity for us to ask questions before setting out.
We can probably ask:
- What does Homer and his two great books mean to you?
- What role have they played in history?
- Why has Troy and the Trojan War seized the cultural imagination of the world for the last twenty-five hundred years?
- What is the relationship between love and war?
As the excitement builds up, we will depart for the archeological marvel that is Troy. The site is considered as the oldest discovered spectacles in Asia Minor with its nine different settlements and related thirty cities.
To refresh your memory banks, the siege of Troy by Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece happened in the 13th or 12th century B.C. Homer immortalized the story in the book Iliad. This work of genius has inspired countless of artists from generation to generation. It was the celebrated archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann that led the first excavations of the site in 1870 and provided pieces of evidence to support Homer’s chornicles. His great contributions to science and history will be further our theme for our evening conversations. The Long Conversation will cover Homer as the “Father of Ancient Greece” and Schlieman as the First “Starchaeologist”.
Overnight in Assos at the Assos Kervansaray Hotel.
Day 4 - Monday October 13
Assos, Kusadasi (B, D)
We have two target destinations today: Assos and Kusadasi. After breakfast, we will be driving south to the ancient city of Pergamum. This is within a stone throw away from Bergama. But, just like the first few mornings, we will have our conversation with Phil before we jump into the day’s itinerary. The book culture of Pergamum and “The Origins of Libraries” will be our subject for today.
If you know your history, you would know that one of the mightiest contributions of Greek culture to humanity is the inception of libraries. The first library carrying around 700,000 scrolls was set up in Alexandria. Pergamum became the next in line to support this book culture and later on became the pillar of publishing in the ancient world.
Historians traced back Pergamum’s foundation to the time of Eumenes II (197-159 BC). It is also believed that in the early Christian era, Pergamum’s church was the core of Christianity and one of the Seven Churches of Revelation (mentioned in the book of Revelations, Chapter 2 verses 2-17). This ancient city is composed of three main regions: the Acropolis (social and cultural avenue and is deemed sacred) the Lower City (realm of the lower classes) and the Asklepion (one of the earliest medical centers in the world).
Following an inspirational tour at Pergamum, we will continue to immerse in authentic Turkish culture via a seaside picnic lunch. We have the option to have this sumptuous lunch in one of the stunning seaside tavernas or stop by smaller towns to pick up fresh and flavorful food for hearty meals. Let our mood and cravings guide us! (Note: please expect to dole out at least E100 for lunch).
Complete gastronomical and cultural indulgence will welcome us when we arrive at Kusadasi. Our conversation tonight will be about “The Dream Temple”. The evening spells Greek experience at its finest – listening to cultivation and interpretation of dreams (geek and Greek!!!) while housed in a fabulous outdoor tavern in Pergamum. We’ll have plenty of time to share our own.
Overnight in Kusadasi at the Kismet Hotel.
Day 5 - Tuesday October 14
Kusadasi (B, D)
A thought-provoking morning will jumpstart our day. Before heading to our trip to Ephesus, we will indulge in another conversation with our topic “The Origins of Museums”. There’s a reason why Greece occupies a large portion of world history books. The nation contributed monumental feats that have thrust civilization to another level. We thank the Greeks for the birth of museums.
We will embark on a short trip to Ephesus, the largest ancient city to be uncovered. Legends have it that the female warriors known as Amazons established the city. The book of Acts in the Holy Bible made mention that it is in an amphitheater in Ephesus where a mob accused Paul of hurting Artemis and her temple.
We will pay a visit to the Ephesus Museum. This is where we can find arguably the most impressive collections dedicated to Artemis. The highlight of this cultural and historical sanctuary is the two colossal statues of the goddess – the “Great Artemis” and “Beautiful Artemis”. The intriguing protuberances are said to be bull testicles, while other thought of these as breasts or eggs representing fertility. Well, it’s for us to see and interpret. An onsite conversation tackling “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” will keep us entertained.
It’s still about Artemis in the afternoon. We will move on to explore the Temple of Artemis, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Soon after, we will set foot on the House of Virgin Mary. Many scholars believed that this is the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Most people go here to experience miracles from the spring that runs under the House of Virgin Mary. You will be astonished when you see numerous crutches and canes left behind by those who were healed by the sacred spring.
A very timely topic is going to be at the center of our evening conversation - “The Art of Pilgrimage”. We will be at the perfect spot at the perfect time to explore “the great round of pilgrimage” and discover classic pilgrimage practices such as paying homage, seeing oracles, admiring art and architecture, taking home relics.
Overnight in Kusadasi at the Kismet Hotel.
Day 6 - Wednesday October 15
Kusadasi, Bodrum (B, D)
This is your chance to unravel the mystery behind the oracle. We will have the opportunity to learn about it as a revered voice of god and place of pilgrimage when seeking advice. Our morning conversation with Phil that will teach us “The Role of the Oracle in the Ancient World”, will prepare us for our today’s adventure. Classical Greek stories would not be complete without the riddles of oracles, which in many occasions have been the channel of gods and goddesses’ will.
On our way to Bodrum, we will pay a visit to the ancient sacred city of Priene – the home of an important temple of Athena. We will have our next stopover at Miletus, another illustrious Greek ancient city. Scholars mentioned that St. Paul stopped in here during his Third Missionary Journey on his way back to Jerusalem and Didyma. The Temple of Apollo and famous oracle in Miletus are visited by thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the world. It comes as a close second place to the renowned Delphi.
Tonight’s conversation will be more open to sharing about how you feel, who you are missing back home and what you look forward to as we continue with our journey. The “Pilgrimage Redux” will be our centerpiece.
Overnight in Bodrum at the Manastir Hotel.
Day 7 - Thursday October 16
Bodrum Caves (B, D)
Our today’s voyage will just be within Bodrum. After a delightful breakfast, we will have our usual morning conversations with Phil and the reading will be about “The Blue Museum”.
Another round of interesting conversation about deep-sea archaeology will take place on the shores of the “wine-dark sea”. This will somewhat revolutionize the way you think of Greek history. Let’s savor the time to discover the whimsical and beautiful realm of Poseidon.
We are very fortunate to again be given the chance to explore another member of the Seven Wonders of the World. A structure built in 352 B.C. to honor the death of Persian Governor Maussolus ad Bodrum, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is amongst the top tourist destination in this side of the country. We will also visit the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, the resting place of the remains of the oldest known sunken ship in the world.
In the afternoon, we will move on and visit Stratonikeia, the world’s largest marble city. It is at the waitlist to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continuing this streak, we will talk about “The UNESCO List of 100 Sites to be Saved”.
Overnight in Bodrum at the Manastir Hotel.
Day 8 - Friday October 17
Bodrum, Pamukkale (B, D)
Aphrodite will be the apple of our eyes today. But before we embark to our day eight adventure, we will get into the ancient mysteries as we tackle “Who Stole the Arms of the Venus de Milo: Art, Beauty and the Cult of Love in the Ancient World”.
After our morning activities, we will leave for Aphrodisias. A sacred site established in the 5,800 B.C., this is where Neolithic farmers come to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops. It was initially dedicated to the ancient Mother Goddess and the site where The Temple of Aphrodite is erected. The latter was converted into a Christian basilica and boasts a remarkable swapping of columns.
After being smitten by Aphrodite’s legacy, we will again for an evening conversation of “Pamakukale & Healing”. We will explore the rituals of ancient Greek and Turkish cultures around healing waters.
Overnight in Pamukkale at Colossae Termal Hotel.
Day 9 - Saturday October 18
Pamukkale, Konya (B, D)
Our morning conversation will take us to the affluent heritage of the Whirling Dervishes, their role in Sufism and Islam at this day and age. We will read through the works of Sufi poets on ecstatic love. A five minute screening of “Rumi: Poet of the Heart” will perhaps be the climax of our gathering.
Thereafter, we will spend the remainder of the morning visiting Hierapolis, whose name literally means “sacred city”. The ancient folks believed that Apollo, god of healing, built this place. Around the city, we will be greeted by sacred hot springs. The vapors that come out of this body of water are consistently linked with the god of Underworld, Pluto. In Christianity, the city had its significant share of mentions in the letter of Paul to the Colossians. Lunch at Konya follows.
We have immersed ourselves with the abundant history of the places we have visited. Tonight, we will be honored to witness sema, a famous whirling dervish performance. The dancers with their long billow skirts will give us the impression that they are floating on air. If we still have time, we will gather again in a local outdoor café to continue where we left off in the morning. A group reading of Rumi, poetry, dance and other cultural treats are some of the items in our list.
Overnight in Konya at the Hilton Turkiye.
Day 10 - Sunday October 19
Konya, Cappadocia (B, D)
We will continue with an in-depth exploration of Sufism and Rumi. For our morning conversation, we will have a better understanding of “Rumi, the Most Popular Poet in the World”.
It is said that for a traveller to fully grasp the Turkish culture, he or she must fathom the mystical and historical significance of Sufism, especially as a personified in the work of the twelfth-century poet, Mevlana Rumi – the Shakespeare of the Islamic world. Because of several adaptations and translations, Rumi is considered as the world’s greatest poet.
Apart from our discussions, we will have a special viewing of the clips from the film Rumi: Poet of the Heart. After that, we will visit the Mevlana Museum also known as the Green Mausoleum or Green Dome. It is the original lodge of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes, a mystical Sufi Muslim group. This sacred site is also home to the tomb and shrine of the Mevlana and Rumi.
Our next stopover is at Cappadocia. On our way, we will visit the World Heritage Site of Catalhoyuk, largest and best-preserved Neolithic site ever found. It carries a settlement that was thought to exist between 7400 B.C. and 6200 B.C. Within this marvel are paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Looking at the surroundings, it is easy to conclude that this was once a worship center. The oldest shrines show the transition from a gatherer-hunter to an agricultural society. The most astounding evidence are the sites of worship of The Great Goddess of Anatolia scattered around the area. There is a guest speaker that will further enlighten us about the significance of the sacred city and the details surrounding it.
The sightseeing will leave us hungry. We will enjoy a delicious dinner in Cappadocia before our evening conversation. Tonight, we will be go through the “The Mystical Life: The Monks of Cappadocia” and the influence of Marija Gimbutas, the late Lithuanian archaeologist and “Grandmother of the Goddess Movement.”
Overnight in Cappadocia at the Lykia Lodge Kapadokya.
Day 11 - Monday October 20
Cappadocia (B, D)
Cappadocia is still the integral part of today’s tour. We will open the morning with conversations led by Phil on the monks of the caves of Cappadocia. These caves are architectural wonders and carry an intriguing spiritual element.
The conclusion of our conversation marks the beginning of our sightseeing escapades. We will visit the hidden monastic valley of Pasabagi, where we can see a number of carved rock houses and churches that truly embrace the art of isolation. We will then feed our artistic instinct and visit a local municipal carpet farm. At this point, we will get the opportunity to explore the district from a cultural perspective.
Our jaws will continue to drop as we move to the fascinating Goreme Valley. The lunar-like landscape of this region is uncanny, yet stunning. Thousands of years and weather have contributed to the erosion that eventually paved the way to the strange formations known as “Fairy Chimneys”. There is also a fair share of grottos that depict biblical scenes around town.
Our Evening Conversation today is an “Open Discussion”.
Overnight in Cappadocia at the Lykia Lodge Kapadokya.
Day 12 - Tuesday October 21
Cappadocia, Fly to Istanbul (B, D)
We reach the final day and stage of our tour. This is the perfect time to reflect on the incredible, sacred sites we have witnessed for the past few days. Our morning conversation will be filled with reminiscing and joys of our journeys.
The morning session will leave us energized. We will embark on a half-day tour and start with the Ozkonak Underground City. Christian settlers in the region began to tunnel into the soft volcanic rock of a large hill. Thousands of people thrived in this subterranean city, which is as deep as two hundred and seventy five feet with eight different levels.
We will then explore the neighboring Turkish village of Avanos. It is a glorified meeting place for pottery artists around the globe because of the ancient techniques of ceramic art. If you haven’t bought any souvenirs yet, you may want to pick up some art pieces.
At this point, we will now be transferred back to the airport for our flight to Istanbul.
A lavish farewell dinner at the Orient House will surely delight our hearts. We will have our final feast together and enjoy traditional music and dancing.
Overnight in Istanbul at the Amethyst Hotel.
Day 13 - Wednesday October 22
Depart Istanbul (B)
We still can enjoy morning leisure before we head back to Istanbul airport for our flight home.
B = Breakfast
L = Lunch
D = Dinner
Note: The details of the itinerary are subject to change for conditions beyond our control.
Summary of the Tour:
- Day 1 - Arrive Istanbul
- Day 2 - Istanbul
- Day 3 - Istanbul – Troy - Assos
- Day 4 - Assos - Kusadasi
- Day 5 - Kusadasi
- Day 6 - Kusadasi - Bodrum
- Day 7 - Bodrum
- Day 8 - Bodrum - Pamukkale
- Day 9 - Pamukkale - Konya
- Day 10 - Konya - Cappadocia
- Day 11 - Cappadocia
- Day 12 - Cappadocia - Fly to Istanbul
- Day 13 - Depart Istanbul
This was a life-changing experience as I found myself among well read and knowledgeable people, some of whom wrote profound poetry. Phil always created a safe atmosphere where we could feel comfortable sharing our thoughts and feelings. The silent walks, journaling, poetry readings, blessings and sharing connected us on a deeper level which became more and more evident throughout the trip. Thank you Sacred Earth Journeys for introducing me to a warm and kind hearted man named Phil Cousineau.
Marlene Donegan, Montreal, Quebec (Ireland – The Mythic Heart of Ireland – Sep/13)
The fact that Phil loved and knew the land so well, made our journey unique and very rich. From the edge of the Cliffs of Moher on the very first day, to Trinity College and The Book of Kells on the last day, we combed the Irish landscape, were introduced to Irish culture, Irish music, Irish poetry, Irish history, Irish rituals, Irish architecture, Irish humor, and best of all....The Irish SOUL!! Phil illuminated our experience and heightened our awareness about why we came here, what we offered and what we took from it. This was indeed a sacred journey.
Cornelia Eulert, San Diego, CA (Ireland – The Mythic Heart of Ireland – Sep/13)
The Mythic Heart of Ireland journey led by Phil Cousineau was magical in every possible way. To see and understand a country from its beginnings to the present could not be done without a tour guide as knowledgeable about Irish history, culture, mythology, music and poetry as Phil Cousineau is. We will remember this tour for the rest of our lives.
Arnold & Jianulla Zimmerman, Redondo Beach, CA (Ireland – The Mythic Heart of Ireland – Sep/13)
Ireland was magical, Phil is a wonderful guide. His knowledge appears to be unlimited and his ability to express his passion in such a warm and personal way is truly a gift. The Ireland journey was a wonderful experience providing me with many opportunities for personal insights and even more great memories. Thanks so much Sacred Earth Journeys for your care and attention to detail.
Wendy Clark, Calgary, Alberta (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)
Amazing tour. Phil's knowledge of Irish Culture, History, Mythology, Music and Poetry were incredible. I can't imagine a deeper, more meaningful, more impactful tour. So much has come up for me during the tour and since I've been back. I lot to digest. Bravo to Phil, Heather, Greg and Helen and all who made this tour an incredible journey.
Arnie & Jianulla Zimmerman, Redondo Beach, CA (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)
The Mythic Heart of Ireland was a heart-felt, life-changing event. Our Tour Leader, Phil Cousineau, gave his all to make this an informative, creative, warm and inspiring pilgrimage for all of us to connect deeply with our souls. Thanks, Sacred Earth Journeys for making this possible! Your attention to relevant details made this feel safe and real!
Sarie Hobbs, Calgary, Alberta (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)
As a first time tour person, my expectations were moderately set. Maybe that is why we were so blown away. A mythical journey hosted by an extraordinary person with deep knowledge, big mind, and a kind and commpassionate heart. Aho! Incredible energy and durability. Great!!
Michael & Carol Hollander, Skillman, NJ (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)
The trip was absolutely incredible. The sacred places we visited, the deeply meaningful treatment of those places, and Phil! It was indeed a pilgrimage. His soulful presence and depth of knowledge of the land and connections with so many people gave it a depth that I suspect no other guide could do. Greg, our bus driver, was not only an extraordinary driver, but a prince of a fellow. And our fellow journeyers. I've never seen such a wonderful group of people ~ we really seemed to respectfully "jell."
Sandra Paul, Brevard, NC (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)
This experience was indeed a different kind of travel, one in which the journey within was as important as the outward journey.
Joan Bliss, Brevard, NC (Ireland - The Mythic Heart of Ireland - Sep/13)