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CK tour group: It’s not Greek to them

A recent tour group organized by Central Kitsap residents Cheri Brooks and Tom Wegeleben takes a break at the doric temple called the Parthenon in Athens, Greece which sits high atop the Acropolis. - Photo courtesy of Cheri Brooks
A recent tour group organized by Central Kitsap residents Cheri Brooks and Tom Wegeleben takes a break at the doric temple called the Parthenon in Athens, Greece which sits high atop the Acropolis.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Cheri Brooks

Walk in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, study the beauty of ancient architecture, immerse yourself in a foreign culture during a 16-day tour led by two Central Kitsap residents.

But there’s one thing you won’t do on the trip — feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Cheri Brooks and Tom Wegeleben, both elders with the Central Kitsap Presbyterian Church have been leading tours to the Middle East and Europe since 1991.

They started traveling together in 1990 and discovered an aspect of group tours that needed changing.

Usually on trips like this people meet each other as they go, Brooks explained. When she went on her first group tour she didn’t feel comfortable until a week into the trip and then it was time to go home she said.

But their tour, organized by Wilcox World Travel and Tourism, forges friendships before the journey begins.

“By the time we go, we’re getting to be very good friends,” Brooks said. The group of about 15-20 people, most from the Puget Sound and Kitsap region, meet for monthly dinners to discuss aspects of the trip and get to know each other.

“People don’t have to worry ... the decisions have already been made,” she said of the arrangements, which include top accommodations and most meals. The trip costs about $4,000. Each year new excursions are added and the itinerary is tweaked to include only the best of the best,” Brooks said.

The group will leave Seattle March 27, 2004 for a 16-day trip to Istanbul, Turkey and Greece. In recent years traveling has become more difficult and security conscious, and Israel visits have been scaled down.

Nonetheless, this year’s trip includes:

l Three nights in Istanbul “where Europe meets Asia.” It includes an historical tour of the Topkapi Palace, St. Sophia Church and Hippodrome Square. A private Bosphorous boat tour is also scheduled.

l Three nights in Athens, site of this summer’s Olympic Games, at the Parthenon Hotel.

l A three-day cruise through the Greek Isles with stops in the outer islands and cities of Mykonos, Rhodes, and Patmos.

l Two nights in Kalambaka with a visit to the monasteries of Meteora which are perched on stone.

l One night in Delphi with a visit to the “Oracle.”

l Two nights in Olympia — birthplace of the Olympic Games in 776 B.C..

Brooks, a special education teacher for the CK school district, “fell in love” with the area and is fascinated by the culture. Wegeleben, an IT and telecom manager for KPS is interested in the history and biblical aspects to the area.

“This isn’t all business,” Brooks said. “This is fun and a good time too.”

Although the trip has a Christian bent to it, it can be whatever the traveler wants to make it. The diverse group “broadens your appreciation for what ever it is you are seeing,” Wegeleben said.

Architecture, art, religion, history “If that is what their emphasis is we want to honor that,” he said.

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