Tag Archives: travel

In the Footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi

Today, June 5, Father John Peck and I will fly to Rome and then take the train to Rieti. From that little town in Umbria we will begin our walk to Assisi. We will cover about 15 miles a day on foot from little town to little town associated with Saint Francis of Assisi. We will be heading north from Rieti to Assisi and enjoying the countryside and various sites that Saint Francis visited during his lifetime.

The towns we plan to visit are marked on this Google map.

Join Me for a Holy Land Tour, Fall 2016

From November 11th to the 21st, 2016 I will be conducting a tour to the Holy Land. I was very blessed in that during the time I was doing advanced studies in the Scriptures at the Biblicum in Rome I was able to spend almost a year in Jerusalem at the École Biblique. If you are interested in being a part of the tour you may contact me at jfkauffmann13 @ gmail . com and also click here to see the itinerary. This promises to be a wonderful opportunity to grow in appreciation of the Scriptures in relationship to the land where our Lord exercised his ministry.

Holy Land Tour, Fall 2016

From November 11th to the 21st, 2016 I will be conducting a tour to the Holy Land. I was very blessed in that during the time I was doing advanced studies in the Scriptures at the Biblicum in Rome I was able to spend almost a year in Jerusalem at the École Biblique. If you are interested in being a part of the tour you may contact me at jfkauffmann13 @ gmail . com and also click here to see the itinerary. This promises to be a wonderful opportunity to grow in appreciation of the Scriptures in relationship to the land where our Lord exercised his ministry.

Ancient Illyria, Modern Albania

Flag of Albania

Flag of Albania

Wednesday, August 26. Today was our first full day of the trip. After breakfast today began the Tirana city tour. Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania (1 million pop.). The city has gone through a tremendous redevelopment in the last decade following suppression under a strict Communist regime. Today it is made up of streets of tightly packed small shops and restaurants. Still, there are many parts of the city needing redevelopment.

Albania is largely Muslim (60%) followed by Orthodox, then Catholic. One of our first visits was the Et’hem Bey Mosque. In 1991, 10,000 surrounded the mosque in defiance of the Communist regime. This was the beginning of the fall of communism in Albania. Under Communist rule all religions had to go underground. There is a history of the religions living in harmony. The mosque is located on the main square. The interior is covered with frescoes, which is rarely seen in mosques. It is small so a much larger one is being constructed.

The women’s gallery.

The Islamic pulpit.

Mosaic of Albania History, National Historical Museum, Tirana.

Next we visited the National Historical Museum which had an incredible mosaic on the facade which recounted Albanian history.

This was called Illyria or Illyricum, which is mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 15:19). It was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century despite the heroic leadership of Albanian hero Skanderbeg. Their independence from the Ottomans came in 1912, followed by a monarchy until the Communists came following WWII. The Socialists followed the Communists until it became democratic in 1990.

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A Roman mosaic.

A Roman mosaic.

We were even more interested in the religious pieces representing its Christian history.

Epitaphion of Christ, National Historical Museum, Tirana

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Iconostasis, National Historical Museum, Tirana

Tribute to Mother Teresa in national museum.

Tribute to Mother Teresa in national museum.

In the afternoon we went to the mountain city of Kruje, named after the water springs. This was the hometown of Albanian hero Skanderbeg, who had resisted Ottoman occupation.

Skanderbeg, National Historical Museum, Tirana

Ruins of his castle mark his memory.

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There is a large bazaar which sells both inexpensive souvenirs next to antiques and textiles.

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We toured the Ethnographic Museum giving us a view of family life 250 years ago.

 Following the museum we had a typical dinner at a local restaurant with an incredible view.

Kruje Castle and Watchtower, built on ruins of Skanderbeg Castle.

The weather was stifling today. We decided to end the day by sharing the local beer.  A good way to conclude a day that has been hot and uncomfortable.

Tomorrow we travel to Montenegro.

The Sistine of the Balkans

The Church of the Nativity in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, was built in the 15th century and repainted in the 17th century. It is also called the Sistine Chapel of the Balkans due to its many frescoes.

The icon screen.

The Pantocrator.

The Pantocrator.

All the doors would be low in order to make sure the Muslims would not ride their horses in the church as they did in Constantinople.

The church has a two hall configuration.

In 1538, the sultan approved the construction of a church only on the condition that is be low and not look like a church to demonstrate the superiority of Islam.

The church is dedicated to the Nativity so notice how the Pantocrator looks like a child: Emmanuel.

The Dormition, on the west wall.

The Virgin Mother in the apse dominates the nave.

The Annunciation.

When you approach the church, it does not appear to be a church at all. It has a low roof and looks like a barn. This is a 17th century church that blends into the agricultural landscape and for a reason.


 

This is the church of the Assumption that was established in 1600 however the current church was built in 1830, hence it does not look like a church on the outside.

While the exterior does not look like a church, the interior does!

The church houses the three-handed miraculous icon of the Holy Mother however pictures are not allowed.

What a blessing that I witnessed the baptism of Victoria! And after the sacrament she came forward to venerate the icons. This was so moving.

Followed by a celebration to which I was invited.

Mapping the Silk Road Journey

Follow along on the Silk Road with this Google map. Markers will be added where I travel. Zoom in or out, pan around, and click on the markers for links to related blog posts. This post will remain at the top of the blog for a couple of weeks, and the newest blog posts will appear below it, so keep checking back and scrolling down, to see the latest.

To see the map separately (not embedded in this post), here’s the link:
https://thewonderoftruth.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/introduction-to-turkmenistan-modern-and-ancient/

Onto the Silk Road

When I boarded the plane in Istanbul, that is, Constantinople, to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, my thoughts turned to a book I read in grade school about the adventures of Marco Polo who embarked from Constantinople on the beginning on his journey through Central Asia on what is now the so-called Silk Road. Of course a flight from Constantinople would prove far less strenuous than the long and dangerous overland journey he undertook to travel east. Marco Polo would have first set out from Venice to Constantinople and then through the Levant, Iran and on to Merv in present day Turkmenistan. From there he would have continued his journey through Bukhara and Samarkand, Kokand in present day Uzbekistan.

He continued east to Fergana Valley whose horses were well sought, then beyond the mountains to what is today the border of China and Kyrgystan. Through a series of passes into and over the Pamirs to Kashgar where a decision had to be made: whether to go north or south of the severe Taklamakan desert to the Jade Gate which then leads to Xian, China.

There were so many trade routes crisscrossing Central Asia connecting east to west. As my plane was landing in Ashgabat, I was eager to embrace the adventure of exploring modern day Central Asia, a land totally foreign to me while at the  same time reconstructing in my mind the rise and fall of ancient civilizations whose interactions enriched the culture in which I live today. This rich encounter was truly exceptional and a gift to our shared humanity.

Traveling in Romania

  

On this journey I have travelled many miles, in fact, almost 2000 kilometers, to see many beautiful monasteries and castles. The journey in the country has afforded the opportunity to stay in small hotels that have charm. For example, Bella Musica.

 The service is wonderful and the staff is so eager to make you feel welcomed and the food is unbelievably great.

The breakfast room

The hotel in Sighisoare which is housed in a 16th century building

The rooms are small however they are charming.

The dining room

The dining room

    

Not only have I experienced great food and hospitality but also I have been able to be hosted in private homes. This has been such a treat for me.

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