Visiting The Cretan Countryside
In Acts 27, we read that Paul was being sent to Rome after appealing to Caesar for a final verdict. On a ship with other prisoners, we learn that the voyage was not easy, and ended in shipwreck. Coming from Jerusalem, they sailed around the southern edge of Crete, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, with the Cretan Sea to the north and the Libyan Sea to the south. (This region doesn’t call anything “ocean;” it’s a group of seas.)
It was late in the travel year, though, so Paul – the prisoner – advised them to winter in Fair Havens, Crete. Because the ship owner had grain to deliver, he decided to press on to Phoenix harbor. Instead, a storm pushed them waaaayyyy across the sea to eventual shipwreck at the island of Malta. You can read the drama in Acts 27-28.
If Paul had landed at Crete, he might have visited one of many wineries. They would have been social gatherings, and Paul never missed a chance to share the Good News to a crowd. I was there, high in the Cretan countryside, immersed in a show of ancient dancing and flowing wine. We were shown the technique of wine-making by letting grapes ferment in amphora for many months. As time goes on, the skins separate from the pulp and juice, and it sweetens. By hand, wine-makers squeeze the liquid out of handfuls of skins.
Inside the home/tavern, we were treated to Raki (see Welcome to Turkey), wine and a snack of tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and bread, with a light yogurt-type spread. Dancers in period costume performed traditional dances. Some of us joined in!
(If the link doesn’t work, find me on f/b)
Back in the town of Phourni, we walked about, amazed at the size of the bougainvillea plants! At the local museum, I was fascinated by the remains found at a Minoan Cemetery from 2400-1300 BC. Folks, that’s 2,000 years BEFORE Christ! Soon we were back on the ship, bound for Santorini.
So why, you might ask, is this important to those walking in the footsteps of Paul? I don’t know that it is! Perhaps it is just an interesting port of call on a Mediterranean cruise. But consider this: Paul passed by this island several times on his voyages. The view we saw from the deck of the ship is much the same as what Paul saw. It’s a part of his life in this region. So, in effect, we did follow in his footsteps.
Picture the differences in the places where Paul visited. Jerusalem – everything the color of stone, little vegetation, the walled city, the hills, walking distance to the whole region. And Greece – the vibrant colors of turquoise, deep blue, light blue, white clouds, green trees, water everywhere. The arid beauty of his homeland vs. the lush beauty of the Gentile region. In spite of shipwrecks, beatings and being run out of town – often – Paul may have been glad that God sent him to bring the Good News to this wonderful place!
Photo 1: The view from the winery.
Photo 2: Take note of the vibrant bougainvillea!
Video: Dancers at the winery.