Sunday, July 18, 2021


 While Greece has been on Paul's and my list for a while as a place we would love to visit someday, our original plan for this summer was to go to the Holy Land with a tour and visit Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.  After months of hoping, and one reschedule, 9 days before we were supposed to leave, the decision was clear that we would not be able to go....the land border was still not open due to COVID.  Paul and I hopped into high gear and started the whirlwind process of planning a two week trip to 9 days!  Long story short, it was an absolutely incredible trip, and we agreed that even if we had more time to plan, we wouldn't have changed a thing!  We are so grateful for our two sets of grandparents each taking a week with the kiddos to allow us to travel for two weeks together.  Our kids had a total blast at Grandma and Grandpa camp (more on that in the next post!) 

We took SO MANY PICTURES!  I will organize this post by day, along with some brief descriptions of what we did/saw.

Sunday, June 27th: Travel Day

Three flights spanning many hours....and an 8 hour time change.....

Monday, June 28th: Athens and Acropolis Tour

We arrived in Athens middle of the day Monday.  After checking into our Airbnb, we started our walk around Athens, checking historical landmarks and ruins off our list as we went.  Everything was very walkable!  We did stop for gelato/smoothies as it was HOT - record breaking heat - the whole time!  After seeing quite a few sites, we headed for our 5:30pm tour of the Acropolis, which was awesome to see it in the evening, near sunset, and had fewer crowds.  Then we visited the cross that marks the spot where the Apostle Paul preached in Athens in Acts.  SO cool.  We then found the cutest street in Athens, filled with quant outdoor restaurants along terraced stairs, with vines with real grapes, live music, and so much character!  This "stepped" street was where we found dinner two of the nights we stayed in Athens.

Hadrian's Arch

Roman Angora

Theater of Dionysis, Acropolis

Herodes Theater, Acropolis

Herodes Theater in Background, Acropolis Hill

Climbing to top of Acropolis, Gateway to Athenian Temple and Parthenon

Gateway to Upper Acropolis
Inside the Gateway to Upper Acropolis


Athena Temple near Sunset

Parthenon (where Apostle Paul likely saw the altar to the unknown God, his starting point for sharing the Gospel in Athens)

Upper Parthenon, Acropolis

Temple to Athena, Acropolis

Cross built on hill across from Acropolis, to mark the spot where Paul preached in Athens (See Acts 17:22-34)


Tuesday, June 29th: Corinth Day Tour

Today we took a day tour to Corinth, to walk in the Apostle Paul's footsteps.  Reading this website along with Acts 18 is the best way to understand what we saw, but I will post a few of our pictures here along with some short descriptions.  Our first stop was to see the canal, which was not built in Paul's day, but was impressive to see!  Then we saw where Paul would have boarded a ship to Ephesis, near the current canal.  Finally we walked around Ancient Corinth, seeing lots of history that would have been around during Paul's visit and several reminders that Paul's letters and historical narrative of the Bible overlap.

Here is where the Apostle Paul boarded a ship to sail to Ephesus.  The port is now largely underwater, and has not been fully excavated, yet it was still really cool to picture where Paul would have stood.  As in all areas of this part of the world, there are layers upon layers of history, so the ruins in the picture are of a church built after Paul's missionary journey, along with Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18:18)

A stone inscription naming Erastus as the official who paved one of the city’s streets may well refer to the Director of Public Works from whom Paul sent greetings when he dispatched his Letter to the Romans from Corinth (see Romans 16:23).  (Source here)

The museum at Ancient Corinth was filled with Ancient things found in excavating the site.

This temple of Apollo is the most iconic symbol of Ancient Corinth

Here Paul is standing in the spot where they believe the Apostle Paul stood, in Ancient Corinth, when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, and he was brought before the tribunal due to his preaching about the Christ.  Gallio set him free, saying the debate was merely about matters of the Jewish law, and he refused to be judge over those things.  (See Acts 18:12-17).

Stone that marks the spot where Paul was on trial.

Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth

After lunch in Corinth, we headed back to Athens for our two hour slot at the Acropolis Museum, which was fantastic!  The lowest level is ruins from hundreds of years BC, which you can look down at.  The upper two levels show things found during excavations of the acropolis, including many statues and parts of the buildings that still stand on the hill today.

After our museum slot was up, we walked to the Ancient Athenian Angora to see more ruins and temples remains, and ended up on our favorite street of restaurants in Athens for dinner.

Wednesday, June 30th: Delphi Day Tour

Our day tour from Athens to Delphi was one of my favorite archeological days from our trip, largely due to our tour guide.  She made the history come alive, and did a fantastic job differentiating between Greek mythology, actual Greek history, and Roman history....all which are layered and intertwined in every archeological site.  The way she described these layers and pieced together history made so much sense, and also made it so we could "see" what "was" as we looked at the ancient ruins.  She explained the Greek Mythology that led to the name of this city being called Delphi, (dolphin in Greek), because god Apollo turned himself into a dolphin to rescue two shipwrecked sailors, who then settled here and built a temple to honor him.  On our two hour bus ride to get to Delphi, she told many Greek mythological stories that the ancient people used to explain how things happened.  When we arrived, it made sense then, that the temple was build on a natural gas escape, where the priestess would enhale the gas, chew leaves with hallucinagens, and get oracles for the people, who believed they were talking with the underworld who knew the future.  This website shares a lot more of the stories we learned.  It was fascinating, and so helpful when she explained which time period different structures were made, as the Romans build on top of the Greek's structures, as earthquakes demolished different parts of the hill's buildings.

Temple of Apollo in the background where the people received their "oracles"


Site where they held competitions/games

Looking down at the theater

Super cool wall from antiquity that survived all of the earthquakes due to the shapes of the stone.  Also so interesting is that each stone has a "thank you note" to Apollo inscribed on the stone by 600+ individuals

The "belly button" rock...because Delphi was considered the center of the known world and the belly button is the center of a human!  They decorated the temple with these.

If I remember right, this sphynx was sent to Delphi from Naxos as a present, and Naxos was given special priority in line for the Oracles 

After our tour we ate in Delphi and had the best Gyros!

After the two+ hour bus ride back from Delphi to Athens, we wandered the National Gardens and watched the changing of the guard, before heading to dinner.

Thursday, July 1: Ferry to Naxos

Today we got up early and took a ferry from Athens to the island of Naxos.  Boarding/unboarding the ferry was such an adventure!  It was like herding cattle getting us all on board, and then the ferry took off as soon as the last person and car was loaded.  When it arrived at an island, they started putting the door/ramp down long before we reached shore, so that as soon as we landed a mass off people boarded and unboarded in record time, and the ferry was off again!

After arriving at Naxos, and checking into our hotel, we went straight to the beach!  Agios Prokopios was and remains our favorite swimming beach, not only on the trip alone, but EVER!  It was bright blue, and as clear as a swimming pool.  The water was calm, there were no weeds, and it was perfection in every way!

After cooling off at the beach, we walked around the port area of Naxos doing some exploring.  The architecture and churches are so pretty - everything is all white!  All of the museums were closed due to COVID, but we had fun exploring anyway!

We then found a pretty spot by the water to zoom the kids for a birthday call with Larkyn!  It was around 4:30pm our time and 8:30am MN time, so we got to wish her a happy birthday just as her day was starting!

We ended up at a delicious (and cute!) waterfront dinner spot.

We spent the evening wandering around the iconic temple to Apollo on Naxos, where the gateway is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous places to view a sunset.  Unfortunately, due to the heat wave, the air was quite hazy and didn't produce much of a sunset, but we still enjoyed walking around the grounds and taking pictures!

Friday, July 2: Naxos Nature Day

Today we got up, rented a car, and headed to hike Mt. Zas (mountain of Zeus).  Of course there is a lot of mythology surrounding Zeus and Appollo growing up/being born on this mountain and living in the cave part way up.  It was SUCH a fun mountain to climb, though it was very helpful to read this description on how to "find the way" as  in many parts it isn't so much a path as much as rock scrambling to the next marker.  The cave was also SO fun to explore, and we were glad that we read the tip that an iphone flashlight is not bright enough to illuminate the cave, so if you want to climb around and explore, bring a headlamp.   We did that, and it was super fun to climb down, in, and around the cave.

Entrance to Cave of Zas.  Hard to get pics inside because it was so dark, but really fun to explore!

After hiking we had lunch in a town near Mount Zas, and then did some exploring near some villages.  

It was quite hot, so we agreed to disband our plan to walk a path between a few villages (albeit nice views) and opted instead to spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach.  It was a fantastic plan, and the best way to spend the rest of the afternoon!  We chose Plaka beach, which definitely rivaled Agios Prokopios beach - the water was so blue and the sand was actually softer, and had a longer beach.  However, as far as clarity of the water, Prokopios still won!  

One of my favorite things to do is walk the beach, so I enjoyed that....

while Paul enjoyed a well-deserved nap in the shade :)

We got cleaned up and did some shopping near the port.  The shopping here was my favorite of our whole Greece trip.  Super cute, handmade, and unique, plus, the "streets" and shops were so cute!  We ended on one such "street" for dinner and I fell in love with the atmospher!

Saturday, July 3: Ferry to Santorini and Crater Day

This morning we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast on the water, and walked around the iconic Appolo's temple one last time for some great views.  Then we boarded a late morning ferry to the island of Santorini.

Once we arrived in Santorini, we rented a car, took the CRAZY switchbacks up the mountain from the port (driving in Santorini is NO JOKE!), and found Old Port, where we had quite the adventure finding a certain location where we needed to check in for our tour of the crater boat ride, and then continued to find the location where the boat left from (which incuded climbing 20 minutes worth of non stop stairs down the mountain to Old Port!  And it was HOT!  But we made it with 10 minutes to spare, and boarded a boat tour that took us to see the island with the active volcano that formed the Cyclades, of which Santorini is a part.  We also took the same boat to visit the hot springs, and swam in/around them.  

Then we boarded the boat and arrived back at Old Port to climb the 20 minutes of stairs!   We were now able to check in to our airbnb in Imerovigli and take much needed showers.  Our place was so pretty - from one side of the balcony you could see one side of the island and from the other, you could see the water on the other side.  The views were amazing!

We got cleaned up and started walking toward Fira along the path along the water, which is GORGEOUS!  SO many amazing views.  The sun was just setting and we just had to stop every few minutes to take in the gorgeous views.  We found a gem of a restaurant, right on the water, not quite yet to Fira, so there were hardly any people.  We ended up eating here two nights, because the view of the sunset in such a peaceful and uncrowded place could NOT be beat!  It was magical!


Sunday, July 4: Santorini Kayak and Snorkling Day

Today we took a day kayak tour!  This tour was one of the best we took all trip.  A guide picked us up from our airbnb, and brought us to the "base" where they gave us coffee, and outfitted us with special hats, sunglasses cords, waterbottles/holders, and anything we could think of to need for the trip!  Then our group set out kayaking along the coast viewing amazing sites including caves - some uninhabited, and some that were turned into houses.  We saw beaches and cliffs and the water was gorgeous blue.  We landed in a little cove where we then went snorkling!  When we were done, our guide had laid out a picnic lunch for us of Greek salad, spinach bread, and a whole spread of delicious food!  We felt very spoiled!   Finally, we boarded our kayaks for the return trip back, where we were greeted and welcomed back at base, before the driver dropped everyone back off at their accommodations!  It was so much fun and we enjoyed meeting the people in our group, too!

After cleaning up, we explored Oia, an iconic picturesque Santorini town with shopping and views.  We then drove to Fira and explored there as well - lots of fun buildings, views, and shopping!  We ate dinner in Fira and watched the sunset from there.  It was beautiful, but very crowded!


Monday, July 5: Santorini Archeology Day

Today was an archaeology day!  We started the day early visiting Akrotiri, an absolutely fascinating partially excavated city from the Bronze age, destroyed in the 16th century BC by the volcano that we visited on July 3rd, and preserved by volcanic ash.  We downloaded an app that explained the history to us, as well as what we were seeing, as we walked around.

We then drove up a crazy set of switchbacks to the archeological site of ancient Thera.   It had quite a layered history, so we viewed ruins from several time periods built on top of each other.

We then drove to Fira, had lunch there, and went to the museum that housed many artifacts found in the excavations of the two sites we visited that morning.  It was fascinating how old the articles were (over 3500 years old!) that were so well preserved!

We then opted for the rest of the afternoon to be a beach one, as again, it was steaming hot all day!  We chose to explore one of the black beaches on Santorini, formed from the volcanic activity.  We enjoyed a very relaxing afternoon!

After cleaning up, we went back to our favorite dinner spot in Santorini for our last night, and again, enjoyed an absolutely magical sunset.

Tuesday, July 6: Hike in Santorini, Ferry to Crete

For our last morning in Santorini, our airbnb host, Fred, (who was ABSOLUTLY fascinating - ask me about him) and his wife made us a beautiful breakfast and brought it to our room!  After checking out, we decided to hike the path from Imerovigli to Oia, which mean going up and over a little mountain, but getting an amazing view of the caldera.  The views did not disappoint!  Pictures do not do it justice, but it was possible to see much of the island of Santorini from that point, and visualize how the volcano had formed the island. 

We then drove to the port, returned our rental car, and camped out for a while, as our ferry was running late.  We had a yummy lunch, and caught up on our church's sermon we had missed while we waited.

Boarding our last ferry was just as crazy as the first two!  Headed to Crete!

We got into Heraklion Port, Crete, later than expected, because our ferry ran behind, but we did have time to explore a little before the sun set, and enjoy a really fun dinner!

Wednesday, July 7: Crete History Day

We spent the majority of our time in Heraklion as a history day.  We started by driving to Knossos, and exploring the ancient Manoan palace there.  

underground water system!

Then we drove back to Heraklion to the Heraklion Archaelogical Museum, which was my favorite of all the museums we visited for several reasons.  First, in was well air-conditioned!  Haha!  Many of the museums were only slightly cooler than outdoors, yet the air was still, and we were required to wear masks, which made it feel very thick.  This one was nice and cool!  It was also PACKED with many things found around the area in archeaological excavaction, and because so much of the history of this area was close to Israel and Egypt, as well as was occupied by Rome, it had a lot of overlap in artifacts that would have been around from Abraham's day to the Apostle Paul's day.  See old pots, kitchenware, idols, swords, tombs/coffins/coins, and so much more (to me) made the stories of the bible come alive as I saw signet rings/stamps like might have been used by the Persion kings in the Bible, or coins that would have been around at the time of Jesus and Paul, etc.  This place was pretty cool!  And everything was SO OLD!

After the museum, we had lunch nearby, then headed to explore the Koules Fortress, and old castle structure that served many purposes throughout the history of Crete.

Then we walked the long, several mile, breakwater wall from the castle to the entrance of the port.  

We also explored the old side of Heraklion too, which had lots of historical fountains, churches, structures, etc.  One highlight was Agiotitos Church (Church of Titus) which houses the skull of Titus, who worked with the Apostle Paul.  

We ended the afternoon by walking the waterfront stroll, from the breakwater to the west.  We found the soccer stadium (though we couldn't go in), explored some other areas of town, and enjoyed a long relaxed dinner with great conversation.

Thursday, July 8: Crete Hiking Day

We woke up bright and early today to get our COVID test done, which was needed a certain number of hours before entering back into the US.  Navigating a Greek hospital was an adventure and we found Google Translate quite helpful!  We then drove to the Samaria Gorge, which is an absolutely gorgeous one-way hike down into the gorge and out towards the Agean Sea.  It is best done as a day tour, where pickup and drop off and transportation from the two ends of the hike are arranged, but we didn't have a full day to do the whole hike, so we hiked tour hours down and two hours back up to where was started.  It was totally worth it (although the hike back up was no joke!).  Really fun hike with crossing water, boulders, switchbacks, and more!

After our hike, we drove to Chania, where we would stay that night.  After cleaning up, we explored Old Town, which has a lot of remnants of Venetian occupation and reminded us a lot of Venice!  We at a cute restaurant on the water, explored the area, and settled in to watch the sunset from the breakwater.

Friday, July 9: Crete Beach Day

We spent our last morning in Crete driving to Belos Beach, an amazing beach that requires an hour drive from Chania, then another 20-30 minutes of gravel road cliff driving, and finally a 20 minute hike down....but it was worth it!

The afternoon was spent with flight #1 of 4, flying from Crete back to Athens.  We stayed in a hotel right by the airport as we rested up to begin our 20+ hour travel day!

Saturday, July 10: Travel Home

3 flights later, and an hour drive home......we were back in Apple Valley!  It was a dream trip with a dreamy guy, and it couldn't have been more amazing!  So thankful!

****Coming up next.....the kiddos' adventures with Grandma and Grandpa while we were gone.....****


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