My wife and I returned from vacation on Sunday. We had a wonderful time on a cruise in the Mediterranean. We spent ten days on a Holland American ship and visited Croatia, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
I learned many new things from each country we visited. These are some of the new things I learned:
In Croatia I learned that Dubrovnik was the only major European port that refused to recognize slavery or to allow slave ships to use its facilities. When Dubrovnik was an independent state, it was the first European nation to recognize the United States of America as an independent country. I also learned that the necktie originated in Croatia.
In Greece, we visited Kérkira, also known as Corfu, one of the Ionian islands. Here I learned that Homer called Kérkira, “The City of the Phaeacians,” a place visited by Odysseus. Kérkira was also believed to be the place where Prospero and Miranda went into exile in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
In Olympia, Greece, we visited the place where the Olympic games began. I learned that Olympia was the site of the great Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In Greece, we also visited Santorini. The city of Santorini is located on the walls of the caldera of the great volcano. The volcano of Santorini has been associated with the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. According to some scholars, the Santorini eruption in the 1500s B.C. was what caused the events associated with the ten plagues against the Egyptians.
In Turkey, we visited Miletus, a city visited by Paul on his last missionary journey. Acts 20:15 tells about Paul’s arrival in Miletus: “We sailed from [Mitylene], and on the following day we arrived opposite Chios. The next day we touched at Samos, and the day after that we came to Miletus.” In Paul’s day, Miletus was a port city. Today the site of Miletus is 8 kilometers from the sea because the harbor that existed in Paul’s day has been covered with silt. We also visited Didyma, the home of an oracle similar to Delphi and Priene, the site of the Temple of Athena.
When we came to Athens, instead of visiting the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, we decided to visit the city of Corinth, a city where Paul spent time ministering. The Temple of Aphrodite, located on the Acropolis, was the home of more than a thousand sacred prostitutes.
In Corinth Paul found much opposition by the Jews and as a result, Paul was brought “to the judgment seat” (Act 18:12) to be judged by the city officials. The place where the city officials met was called the bema and it was located in the agora, or the marketplace. The bema was an elevated platform used for public speaking and the administration of justice. The remains of the bema are still located in the center of the city. The Greek bema is derived from the Hebrew bamoth, a word that means “a high place.”
Over all, the cruise was fun and very instructive. This was something that I had been wanting to do for a long time. In a sense, it was part of my bucket list, and I am glad that my wife and I were able to go on this trip.
The only thing that made me sad was that in many places, merchants refused to accept dollars when selling their merchandise. The reason for rejecting the dollar was because the dollar is so weak that it loses value every day. As one of the guides said, if merchants accept dollars, then they would lose money because the next day the value of the dollar would be less than the day before.
Every day I watched the debate in Washington on the debt crisis. Nothing was decided while I was away. The decision on how to deal with the financial crisis came at the last moment, the day when I arrived home.
I still remember the day when people wanted to trade in dollars because it was a strong currency. In the past people kept dollars as a hedge against inflation because they knew that the dollar would always increase in value. No more!
I generally do not deal with political issues in my blog, but what is happening to our country is a shame. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, Americans must join forces and elect people who care about the economic conditions of our country and who want to restore the values and status this country enjoyed not too long ago.
While my wife and I were in Greece, every guide mentioned the economic crisis Greece faced. Greece is broke and its debt is so great that the nation is facing bankruptcy. Over and over again, they asked us to buy things, to spend our money so we could help the Greek economy.
The United States is almost becoming like Greece. Unless our politicians look at our debt and stop spending money we do not have, the United States will become like Greece. When merchants in Europe refuse to accept dollars, they are telling us that the Greeknization of America has already began.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary