We are a world of many wonderful religions. Although I have not taken a "religious" tour exclusively, in every country I have visited, I felt the influence of one religion or another.
It was a strange and beautiful feeling to know that thousands of people passed through these sacred places before me and that many prayers were said, no matter what the belief. The following tours will cover just some of the world's great religious sites and destinations.
There are several biblical tours available throughout Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Greece. You will be able to follow the footsteps of Abraham and Moses to early Christianity; visit the house in Ephesus, Turkey, where the mother of Jesus was to have spent her last years; travel to Bethany, beyond the Jordan, to the wilderness home of John the Baptist and where Jesus was baptized; or explore the island of Patmos and the cave where Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation.
The early lands of Protestant Christianity bring you to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England and Scotland where you will learn about the many prominent Protestant reformers. You can experience All Saints Castle Church in Germany, where Martin Luther hung his 95 Theses and the Augustinian Monastery, where he served as a monk. Explore places where he was born, preached and is buried.
The early Presbyterian heritage can be found throughout Scotland. Visit Iona, the site of the first Christian settlement and home to Iona Abbey and the Cathedral. Find yourself inside St. John's Church and St. Giles Cathedral (considered the mother church of Presbyterianism), where John Knox preached Protestant Christianity. Visit many other sites related to his life, including Haddington, where he was born. Visit the historic, medieval John Knox House.
Early Methodist heritage can be explored throughout England. Your journey begins in London, where you will visit John Wesley's house and chapel, Bunhill Fields Cemetery and St. Paul's Cathedral. You will continue on to Lincoln College, where Wesley founded the Holy Club, nicknamed the Society of "Methodists." In Bristol, visit the John Wesley Chapel and The New Room, the oldest Methodist building in the world.
The ancient and not-so-ancient lands of the Roman Catholic faith will bring you to Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Canada, Mexico and California.
The Shrines of Italy are extremely popular among Catholics, in that the Vatican is the center of the Roman Catholic faith. You will visit the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica, marvel at the works of Michelangelo and walk the catacombs and colosseum of ancient times, located in the heart of Rome. You will note the Swiss guards in their colorful garb, still guarding the safety of the pope. Throughout Italy, there is a constant presence of the Roman Catholic faith, with its churches, cathedrals, basilicas and sculptures.
There are tours available that follow the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, a most revered pope who belonged to the world. Visit his birthplace in Poland, which will also include a trip to Auschwitz concentration camp. Continue to Budapest, Vienna and Prague for more exciting religious sites.
In Prague, I remember standing on the Charles Bridge, thinking how wonderful it was that this bridge, full of religious sculptures, survived the bombings of World War II.
There are tours of Irish heritage and history, tours to the shrines of French Canada and Mexico and mission tours up the coast of California.
The religious sites of the Jewish Heritage certainly go back to the early biblical times and across Central and Eastern Europe to Spain and Italy. The ancient civilization of Egypt and the Old Testament spring to life when visiting Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Spend time visiting the heart of the wilderness where Moses led the Israelites after the Exodus.
Jewish heritage tours to Central and Eastern Europe focus on many sites related to World War II. Visit many great Jewish sites in Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest and Prague. Journeys to the Warsaw Ghetto Heros Monument, Auschwitz (the most notorious Nazi concentration camp), Dohan Streey Synagogue, Raoul Wallenberg Monument and Weeping Willows Memorial in Budapest or to Prague for a visit to the Jewish Ghetto, Jewish Museum Complex, Jewish Cemetery and the Old New Synagogue are just a few attractions.
Tours to Jerusalem are not available on these particular tours; however, they are available upon request.
The intent of this column was to make you aware such tours are available for individuals to discover their religious heritage on their own or with a group. The tours are put together with your individual religious preferences and needs. The tour operators are well-versed and trained. Tours of this nature can be found for all religious denominations.
No matter where you travel throughout the world, you are bound to encounter religious sites of significant importance to the culture of the region. Passports are a must in most instances. Visas may be required in some destinations. It is always wise to check with the State Department and Health Department when traveling to these far-off destinations. Airfare may be included at additional costs. Prices depend on the time of year traveling.
Pat Kelley is owner of Port Orange Travel. She can be reached at (386) 788-3990 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.