When news of the attempted military coup in Turkey broke across our tv screens mid-flight, we were all a bit unsure of what this meant for our proposed itinerary. But upon our arrival in Dubai, we were reassured that an alternative plan was already being developed. A huge thanks goes out to our tour operator, Harvest Journeys, and their partner overseas operators for being able to act so swiftly, professionally and responsively to our situation. Within a couple of hours, were we able to have a new pilgrimage itinerary to get excited about, and the past couple of days have certainly not disappointed us.
DAY 0 | DEPART FOR GREECE
DAY 1 | ARRIVE KAVALA
Late afternoon arrival into port city of Kavala (ancient Neapolis), once named “Christoupolis” after being the first European city to accept Christianity. It was here that St Paul, St Timothy and St Silas first landed from Troas (Acts 16:11), one of the great moments in the history of Christianity.
DAY 2 | PHILIPPI
Today we travel out to Philippi, named after Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. It was here that St Paul won his first European convert, a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira (Acts 16:12-40). Visit the Baptistery of Lydia for a beautiful outdoor Mass in this breathtaking oasis on the River Zygaktis, and to renew our Baptismal vows. Visit the market place (where St Paul and St Silas were brought before the rulers) and the cistern which tradition identifies as the place where St Paul was imprisoned.
DAY 3 | THESSALONKIKI, BEROEA & KALAMBAKA
We journey west by coach to the outskirts of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, founded in 315 BC, and where St Paul preached during the winters of 49-50AD and wrote the two epistles to the ancient Thessalonians. It was here that he established the first Christian Church in Europe. We enjoy a panoramic view over the city.
Continue to Beroea where St Paul preached the gospel to the Jews who welcomed the word of God and began to study the scriptures (Acts 17:10-12). Finally we arrive in the small town of Kalambaka built at the foot of the majestic grey rocks of Meteora.
DAY 4 | METEORA & TRAVEL TO ATHENS
We spend some time today marvelling at this unique phenomenon of nature – 24 perpendicular rocks where 600 years ago Byzantine monks chose to worship God and build their cave-like Monastic community of Meteora. We will visit some of these living monasteries by foot and view the extraordinary collection of priceless religious frescoes and other treasures that will make this a remarkable day.
In the afternoon we then journey south to Athens, passing the site where King Leonidas of Sparta and the Legendary Battle of the 300 at Thermopylae took place.
Athens today is the thriving capital of Greece, but, more importantly, we have entered into the world of the New Testament where St Paul and his companions established the first Christian communities throughout his four missionary journeys.
DAY 5 | CORINTH & ATHENS
When St Paul first came to Athens it was predominantly a city which worshipped pagan gods. St Paul was taken before the city council at the Areopagus Hill, a rough outcrop of limestone rock from which he preached the Gospel message to the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17:16-21).
We journey out to Ancient Corinth this morning where the apostle Paul lived for almost two years, teaching the people the Word of God. We visit the ancient ruins and see the site where he preached the Gospel from the Rostrum; the Peirene fountain; and the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo. We will celebrate an outdoor Mass in this stunning pilgrimage setting before moving onto Cenchreae, the ancient port from where St Paul said farewell to the believers and departed for Ephesus (Acts 18:18).
Back in Athens, we then tour the Acropolis and the Areopagus where St Paul delivered his famous sermon about the identity of “the Unknown God” (Acts 17:15-34). We will also visit the Ancient Agora; the Plaka (Old Greece); and explore the Parthenon. Lastly, we will see Kallimármaro Stadium which dates back to 330BC and was restored for the first modern Olympic Games held here in 1896.
DAY 6 | TRAVEL TO PATMOS
Today we will be transferred to Piraeus port to board our ferry to the Dodecanese island of Patmos, where St John wrote the Book of Revelation. Lying between the islands of Leros and Ikaria is the ‘ascetic shaped’ Patmos, called the ‘Jerusalem of the Aegean’ due to the overwhelming atmosphere of the island during the great celebrations of Christianity.
DAY 7 | PATMOS EXPLORATION
We depart the port of Skala by coach and travel to the Cave of the Apocalypse – home to the birth of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Holy Bible.
In 95AD, at the time of the persecution of the Christians, St. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos where the vision of the Revelation was revealed to him in this small cave which has now become a place of worship and an important destination for pilgrims. We will celebrate a group Mass here in the outdoor amphitheatre, followed by a visit to the cave.
We continue on to the South end of the island to the Convent of Evangelismos which lays in a beautiful setting surrounded by well-kept gardens with a spectacular view over the bay of Kipi. The original chapel of St. Luke dates from 1613 and the Convent itself was founded in 1937.
We also have the opportunity to see a wonderful collection of frescoes painted by the nun Olympia who died within the last decade. This large Convent is a wonderful example of ecclesiastical architecture and houses an exhibition where examples of handicrafts made by the nuns can be purchased.
Travelling on we come to the old village of Chora where we will start with a short walk through the winding cobbled streets we arrive at the tiny Convent of Zoodoho Pigis (The Spring of Life) built in 1607. On one side of the cobbled courtyard is the chapel, where we discover an array of recently restored 17th century frescoes, the timeless art of the icon along with a beautifully carved icon wall. On the other is a small gift shop where one can purchase handicrafts made by the nuns.
We will then continue by foot through a labyrinth of atmospheric lanes winding their way to the foot of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian built in the 11th century. Here one can get a glimpse of monastic life and absorb timeless history through the magnificent ecclesiastical artifacts of its museum. Among the Monastery’s treasures are frescoes of the founder Christodoulos and miracles of St. John, ancient documents dating from the 6th century, vestments, silverware and numerous icons including a work attributed to El Greco.
DAY 8 | PATMOS
Enjoy some free time today to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of this amazing and historic island.
DAY 9 | PATMOS TO KOS
Today we depart Patmos by boat to the Greek island of Kos. On arrival at the port, we will view the Tree of Hippocrates, under which, according to the legend, Hippocrates (considered the father of medicine) taught his pupils the art of medicine. Paul of Tarsus purportedly taught here as well.
DAY 10 | KOS TO POLAND
Today we will be transferred to the airport for our flight connections leading us to Krakow. We then continue by coach to the World Youth Day host city and our long-awaited meeting with the youth of the world and Pope Francis.
DAY 11 – DAY 16 | WORLD YOUTH DAY KRAKÓW (7 NIGHTS)
Upon our arrival we will be welcomed and ushered to our designated place of accommodation for the week. At this point we will receive our WYD pilgrim’s bag containing the WYD handbook, tourist guide, pilgrim pass, transport card and all the information you need to get around Kraków and participate in WYD events.
DAY 12 | THE AUSSIE GATHERING & OPENING MASS
In the morning, we will gather with all other Aussie groups who have made the journey to Krakow for time of celebration, prayer and formation. Later in the evening, we head back to Blonia Park where the Opening Mass of the World Youth Day week will be presided over by the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz as he welcomes the youth of the world to the city.
DAY 13 – DAY 15: YOUTH FESTIVAL
We will start each day with Daily Mass and catechesis before joining the festival atmosphere across the city which will feature music, dance and dramatic performances from around the world in small and large stadiums and venues across the city.
DAY 13 | ARRIVAL OF POPE FRANCIS
Today we welcome Pope Francis to the city of Krakow.
DAY 14 | VIA CRUCIS (WAY OF THE CROSS)
The major focus of this day is on the moving Way of the Cross through the city of Krakow when we as young pilgrims will contemplate the reality of Christ’s passion and the call to true freedom.
DAY 15 | PILGRIMAGE WALK TO WYD VIGIL
Today will begin the mass mobilization of pilgrims along set walking paths through the city as we converge on Campus Misericordiae, the site chosen for the historic WYD gathering here in Kraków.
An afternoon of concerts, performances, and song will unfold as we await the arrival of the Holy Father.
This begins the main event! Millions of young people together with the Pope – a summer evening of unforgettable atmosphere. The celebrations continue all night as we share in a global sleep-out under the stars.
DAY 16 | XXIX WORLD YOUTH DAY
As the sun rises we’ll share in Morning Prayer, breakfast and the climactic WYD Papal Mass with the youth of the world.
The Pope will preside over a Mass with thousands of bishops and priests, addressing pilgrims and sending us out to the world to witness to our faiths. At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father will announce the place where the next edition of World Youth Day will be held.
DAY 17 | KRAKOW TO POST WYD RETREAT
Today we will depart Krakow for the tranquillity and relaxation of our Post WYD Retreat in the Vienna area.
DAY 18 | POST WYD RETREAT
We take time to reflect upon our past days of pilgrimage and WYD experiences.
DAY 19 | DEPART FOR AUSTRALIA
Today we conclude our post-WYD retreat and will be transferred to Vienna airport for our homebound flight connections to Australia.