Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, South America

Mary’s month of May

And I have good reason to honour Our Lady and honour Mary’s month of May.

Like much with the Catholic church the early leaders gleaned from existing culture.

And that meant transferring the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility, to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary, of course, is venerated for her matriarchy and May is the month when Spring is in its fullest bloom.

Now we all have much to be grateful for or reflect on after these past two years.

And what better way than visiting any one of her Marian sites?

Marian sites

Bandanaman and Bernadette: In Lourdes

Now growing up an Irish-Scot in Glasgow the focus was always on the most famous of them all Lourdes, and Knock in Ireland.

And little did I know that Mary has shrines from A-Z around the world.

We probably shouldn’t be surprised because as the old saying goes… when you want something done ask a busy woman.

And so I made the pilgrimage to Knock in the West of Ireland as a child, where Our Lady appeared with St Joseph and St John.

Lourdes above

Our Ladies: She’s everywhere in Lourdes

I don’t know what the sell-by date is on prayers but 40 years later I was back for more favours this time, the mothership.

Lourdes is the Holywood of Marian sites.

And yes it has more candles than on a Meatloaf video (ask your parents).

Waxing lyrical: About the candles

But there is something ethereal about grasping a candle with a cardboard square holder so as the wind doesn’t blow it out.

At the vigil mass at the grotto.

While the huge candles with inscriptions carved out by small Italian and Irish villages reminds us that Lourdes was once just that.

Each Marian site clearly has Mary at its heart but each has its own USP.

Fatima faith

On a podium: Our Lady

My own Dear Old Mum was moved by her own experiences in Guadeloupe in Mexico.

Where she recalled a worshipper climbing the steps of a church on her knees.

And I saw it too at Fatima, though the pilgrim was saved the incline as the altar is situated in a square.

Magic Medge

Mother of God: In Medjugorje

Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina in the Balkans holds ambitions to be endorsed by the Vatican as a Marian site.

Without getting too liturgical the Papacy accepts organised pilgrimages to Medge are OK by them.

Although it does fall short of their authentication of Marian sites. Very Jesuitical.

This year promises to be a special one with suggestions of a Big Reveal.

And pilgrims who crowd around the Blue Cross to hear Our Lady talk through one of the original visionaries are agog with expectancy.

Prayers from Brazil

Whether the Brazilian I broke bread with at breakfast who had made his way to Ilsa will be there to hear it who knows.

But as with all pilgrims he planted a seed for the next Marian traveller (me) to visit the next shrine, Aparecida.

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Easter Monday all the John Muir Way

And today’s the day when you walk it off which is why it’s Easter Monday all the John Muir Way.

The John Muir is a 134-mile walking route across Scotland from Helensburgh in the West…

To the Great Conservationist’s home town of Dunbar in the East.

And a 15-mile hike from my back yard of North Berwick, or six-hour saunter up hill and down vale.

A walk with a pal

Get ready: Before a Wicklow walk

All in the company of my old pal Wee Jon who has become one of life’s great Outdoorsmen in his old age.

Although he showed little indication that he had a Kilimanjaro ascent or London to Brighton cycle ride in him…

When he was jumping around barefoot like a flea on the burning sands of Manchester, New Hampshire back in the day.

And our post-University summer in Boston, Massachusetts.

Particularly with New England on my radar.

Memory Lane

Bray to go: The Scary One in Greystones with Bray Head in the background

A good brisk walk is, of course, for all ages and physicalities.

And it allows you the time and space to talk and reflect on shared experiences and your younger selves.

And so the seven-and-a-half miles, three-and-a-half hour trek, to the village of East Linton became a trip down Memory Lane.

We could just as well have been in our old stomping ground of Aberdeen where Wee Jon was known to spend a night on the grass island Mounthooly Roundabout.

Or London and Brighton where we variously enjoyed the bright lights of Leicester Square and Chinatown or hosted Spanish students down the pier.

Or on the Wicklow Way or Bray Head walk in Ireland’s Garden County.

And picked up by car by The Scary One. And today too.

Life’s journey

A different world: Tenerife

Whichever walk your taking today, and be sure you do one, take the time to think positively on your life’s journey until now.

It may be the twists and turns of a Camino, Via Francigena, Tenerife coastal walk.

Or across the mountains from the Austrian Tirol to Bavaria in Germany.

Or your favourite route from your home, either around your town or city or countryside.

But whichever it is putting one foot in front of the other is the first step in life’s great adventure.

And so for me it’s Easter Monday all the John Muir Way.

 

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

Wunderbar Germany is open again

Ja beauty Wunderbar Germany is open again. Neujahr!

In the best booster of all, the UK has been recategorised as a ‘high-risk area by Germany’.

It sounds scary but it is in fact one down from ‘an area of Covid concern’ which meant temporary banned entry.

A high risk worth taking

A holy place: Oberammergau

Over to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office who gave us all a late-night pep.

They said: ‘From 23:00 GMT on 3 January 2022 the UK is designated a high-risk area.

‘You may enter Germany from the UK for any travel purpose if you are fully vaccinated.’

Right, if you’re not why not (and I need a note signed by a parent)?

And you rightly won’t be treated like the rest of the staff.

Jab, jab, jab

Our prayers are answered: The Bavarian town

They go on: ‘This means that travellers arriving from the UK, who are not fully vaccinated, are subject to 10-day quarantine, and test and release is available after 5 days.

“Fully vaccinated and recovered individuals are exempt from this requirement, once they have uploaded their proof of status on the pre-departure digital registration portal.

Yes, it’s not untrammelled entry but der baby steps.

And we’ll need a negative PCR test result that is no more than 48 hours old at the point of departure, if travelling to Germany via plane, train, bus or ferry.

Our prayers are answered

Der Jesus: A German Jesus

It sounds as if our Christmas prayers have been answered.

And I think I know who has been behind this.

Yes, the most connected man in Travel only got in touch with Jesus himself last year.

And I asked him if he would get the show back on.

Jesus prophecy

Auditioning: For Oberammergau

By Jesus, of course, I mean Frederik Mayet who I interviewed last year ahead of the renewal of the Oberammergau Passionsspiele this year.

I had, of course, done my prep work in the Bavarian town on my Top Flight For Schools trip to Ehrwald in the Austrian Tyrol.

And Frederik assured me that he has been growing his beard assiduously since the lockdown in preparation for his big part.

All of which I recognise as the mark of a holy man as I’d done.

By growing a beardie on the same on the Camino to Santiago.

Oberammergau

Slice of Bavaria: Town life

And so you can plan for your Oberammergau either independently.

Or as we discovered on a quick browse through agents McCabe Pilgrimages.

They are offering a one-week, two-centre holiday combining a choice of Austrian resort hotels with the 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play.

With prices starting at £1,670.

Germany, here we come

Plague history: Oberammergau

Jesus won’t be the only Second Coming to Germany in 2022.

We aim to be back too having kept in touch right through 2021 with our German friends.

While Daddy’s Little Girl aims to fulfil her trip to Berlin (we might just follow on).

Ja, it’s a beauty, and Ja Wunderbar Germany is open again.

And we’re open to clink steins, look into our pals’ eyes and bark Prost.

Just like I’ve been doing since I first fell in love with Germany 37 years ago.

And yes, if it’s good enough for our Teuton pals, then what’s keeping notre amis en France?

 

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

2022 the year of the Big Medjugorje Reveal

We’re regularly bombarded with building suspense for all manner of political, showbiz or sporting announcements but what about 2022 the year of the Big Medjugorje Reveal?

All eyes are on Father Petar Ljubicic who has been bestowed the honour by one of the six visionaries Mirjana to announce the News (it might not be all good though) to the world.

Marian (followers of Mary) pilgrims got all excitable last year…

When Fr Petar, who runs a church in Vitina, not far from the Bosnia & Herzegovina town, gave an interview to Radio Maria.

Petar’s preachings

Do you want to know a secret: Fr Petar

An old confidante of Mirjana, he told the station: ‘When this will happen we have not yet known.

‘But we have the present that with each passing day, we are getting closer and closer to that moment.’

Franciscan friar Fr Peter won’t though just blurt it out (where’s the drama in that?).

And yes we see too that he has given himself some wriggle room.

Because closer and closer in Bosnia & Herzegovina can be pushed out further and further.

The Big Reveal

The story: Of the visionaries

What will happen for the Big Reveal is something that all the top agents might want to take on board for their particular big news.

Of course the priest warmed us all up with a retelling of the story which is helpful if you don’t know it.

He recalled: ‘When the apparitions began I was in the parish of Tihaljina, located just 33 km from Medjugorje.

‘When I heard about the apparitions of Our Lady, I immediately believed that they were true.

‘I was sure the young visionaries  from Bosnia and Herzegovina would never joke about such things.’

Mother of God

A beardie man: And one of the visionaries

The holy man, by now in full flow, went on to share what he had been told…

About how The Mother of God looked which was well for being over 2,,000 years old.

He said: ‘She is an incredibly beautiful woman, about 20 years old, one metre and 65 centimetres tall, fair complexion and pink cheeks.

‘She exudes unspeakable goodness, sweetness and joy. Her eyes are beautiful, deep blue, she has black eyebrows and hair.

‘She wears a blue-grey dress that covers her whole body.

“And she is lost in a white cloud that hides her feet and on which she floats.

‘She wears a white veil that covers her head, shoulders and back and comes down to her hips.

‘She wears no jewels, but has a crown with twelve golden stars on her head.

‘It is impossible to invent this description.’

I’ve got a secret

The pilgrims: On their way to Apparition Mountain

And, of course, you don’t have to be a journo or broadcaster to know what the next question was…

To which Fr Petar unsurprisingly talked around like any of the best politicians: ‘It can be said that they concern particular events that will happen at a certain time and place.

‘When this will happen we have not yet known.

‘But we have the present that with each passing day, we are getting closer and closer to that moment .

‘The message of every secret will contain this teaching: the life that God has given us, the time we live are gifts from God for us.’

And here’s a secret (on travel blogs they are for sharing surely) I gleaned from a relative of one of the Little Shepherds from Fatima.

This is what it will look like

How’s that Franciscan beard coming along? Along the Pilgrim Trail

And so how will the Big Reveal look?

Fr Petar excitedly goes on: ‘Mirjana will deliver me ten days before something similar to a letter-sized parchment that Our Lady gave her.

‘To remember when every secret would happen.

‘All the secrets are written on it.

‘But I will only be able to read and reveal the first secret (drumroll please).

‘In that moment, I will be able to see only that secret and not the others.

‘This will happen for each secret.

Charity in action: Mary’s Meals

‘Later I will have to fast and prepare for seven consecutive days.

‘And then, three days before, I will be able to reveal exactly what and where it will happen.

‘At what precise hour and minute and how long what is contained in that given secret will last.’

‘Mirjana said that the first two secrets are linked to Medjugorje and will be warnings and recommendations.

‘The third secret will be the visible sign on the apparition hill at Podbrdo and will be a great joy and consolation for all.’

Messenger from above

Marian Pilgrimages: And put yourself in the hands of the experts

Franciscans are the ones with the big beards… though I don’t know where Father Petar’s is (I’m sure there’s an explanation).

One Franciscan related to me on my pilgrimage there that he burnt his with a candle on one occasion) is a messenger par excellence for Our Lady.

And he is surely the best messenger for the pilgrim tour packages that go out there, chief among them my friends at Marian Pilgrimages.

And a word here too about the real spirit of giving as enounced by Mary’s Meals, on the ground in Medjugorje and around the world.

He leaves us religious tourists with a holy call to arms.

‘We are witnesses of how every year a multitude of pilgrims come here to Medjugorje.

“To pray to the Queen of Peace and their number will surely increase when the secrets are revealed.’

It’s all a matter of faith but would you want to miss 2022 the year of the Big Medjugorje Reveal?

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Let there be light today Saturnalia and Apollo

On this day of days let there be light today Saturnalia and Apollo.

And as we share best wishes to all our friends and family around the world to Pope Gregory and my Greek buddy Evi from Athens and Kythera expeditions.

For it was Greg who set this date (kinda) as Christmas Day.

And Evi who reminded us, like everything in Western civilisation, that its roots are Greek.

All Greek to me

Greeks are the word: With Evi in Kythera

Dies Natalis Invicti Solis as astrophysicist Dionysis P. Simopoulou probably says today.

Dionysi who? Well, only that Dionysius, the honorary director of Evgenidius Planitarios, which is the Athens Planetarium.

Take it away Dionysius who tells us in The Sky of Greece…

The sky is the limit

High V: That’s V in Classic.

‘December as one may see it, is inseparable linked to celebrating Christmas on the 25th.

‘The gentleman, in fact, reason that made the Church to identify the celebration of Christmas on December 25 is the attempt of the Fathers, as Pope Gregory, states…

‘To gradually convert the festivities of Nationals into Christians.

‘Since December 25th was for Rome the central celebration of the Saturnalian and the birth of the “Sunlightless”, known as Dies Natalis Invicti Solis.

‘At the same time, the ancient Greeks celebrated the Chronos (dedicated to the Chronos) and the Dionysia.

‘As well as theophants or surface of the solar god Phoivos – Apollo.’

Now you don’t have to be a Latin and Ancient Greek scholar to follow where he’s going with theophants or Phoivos.

Heaven help us

Apollo was here: Probably

Only to say that just like the Maji 2,000 odd years ago we look to the heavens at this time of year.

Or for Santa and his sleigh.

OK, it’s not The Nativity Story or Elf but Dionysius is onto something here.

Whatever is up there has brought us here in the first place.

And isn’t it exciting and poignant that today is the day the James Webb telescope is launched from the European Space Centre?

In French Guiana (no, me neither!)

But we should look to the skies, as I did in Tenerife, and who needs a reason, but it’s calming and humbling.

Happy Evi after

Where the Greeks pray: Happy Christmas

And Evi’s words here… ‘In nature, these days, light always begins to record its first small victories, minute by minute, on the every power of the night..

‘I hope so true light enters our lives, expelling the darkness of the false.

‘Even when it is combined with the most loved sheep.

‘Let there be light! Many years to come, Health and Prosperity!’

And mine’s too… Let there be light today Saturnalia and Apollo.

Asia, Countries, Pilgrimage

There’s something about Mary Magdalene

There’s always something old to be found in the Holy Land and this year there’s something about Mary Magdalene.

And as always we have the archaeologists to thank.

Those who ply their trowels 24/7 and 365 days a year have only uncovered Jesus’s pal’s birthplace.

And it’s a sacred place, a 2,000-year-old synagogue from the Second Temple period in Migdal.

Synagogue-a-go-go

And we’ve found some vessels: Drink up

So where are we? Migd-where you say.

Well, Migdal served as the main base for Yosef Ben Matityahu (Flavius Josephus).

And what the Bible didn’t tell us was that he was waging a war against the Romans in the Galilee during the Great Revolt.

This site is also mentioned in Christian texts as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

Digging for secrets: The Promised Land

And now we’ve got your attention…

And we can tell you that the newly-excavated synagogue is a broad, square-shaped building constructed from basalt and limestone.

While in a small room on the south side of the hall, a plaster-coated stone shelf was found.

And we’re told the room may have been used to store scrolls…

And maybe (and I’m going straight to hell here) some love letters to J of Nazareth.

Building on history

Big hugs: Jesus and Mary Magdalene

So bringing us up to date, Magdalene’s birthplace comes hard on the heels of the building uncovered in the 2009 excavations.

That was the first synagogue from the Second Temple period found in the Galilee.

Professor Adi Erlich, head of the Zinman Institute of archaeology at the University of Haifa put it all in context.

He said: ‘The stone bearing a relief of the Menorah from the other synagogue at Migdal, suggests that the local Jews saw Jerusalem as their religious centre.’

We dig what you say

Holiest of holies: Jerusalem

While excavator Dina Avshalom-Gorni built on that.

She added: ‘We can imagine Mary Magdalene and her family coming to the synagogue here.

‘Along with other residents of Migdal, to participate in religious and communal events.

‘The exposure of a second synagogue casts new light on Jewish communal life in the Galilee, the area where, according to the New Testament, Jesus performed his miracles.’

At this time of the year we’re all focusing on birth, and a new beginning.

And Israel, which led the way in vaccination roll-out, is born again (they’ve a history for this too) for visitors.

Old and new

Star power: Israel

The Land of Milk and Honey‘s latest campaign, Two Cities, One Break, encourages us to visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

They serve as diverse destinations that boast the country’s mineral beaches, Bauhaus architecture, 3,000-year-old history and biblical background.

And you’ll know too that Israel is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Old City of Jerusalem, Acre and Masada.

Some of which they even share with their neighbours such as the Baptismal Site of John the Baptist along the River Jordan.

And you can take in both on a G Adventures Israel and Jordan trip… they’re pals, you know.

Yes, there’s something about Joseph, Jesus and there’s something about Mary Magdalene.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Food, Pilgrimage, UK

World Porridge Day

Someone’s been eating my porridge but I’m no grumpy bear… after all it is World Porridge Day.

The idea is the brainchild of Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane-Barrow.

And it is designed to shine light and raise money for Mary’s Meals.

Mary’s Meals is a real Scottish success as it has helped to raise money for starving children in developing countries.

It has its origins in Argyll on the West Coast of Scotland.

And in Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina where pilgrims pay homage to Our Lady.

Medge to shout home about

On pilgrimage: Medjugorje

The Mother of God having interrupted a group of children, some of whom had been watching the big basketball game on TV.

The MacFarlane-Barrows were so inspired by Medjugorje and the spirit engendered by Our Lady and the devotees as to take action.

That and the travails of the Balkans people through their renewed conflict turned the brothers’ minds to charitable deeds.

Visitors to Medge will find the Mary’s Meals hut as a centre-point of the village, just up the main street from the church.

What the Butler saw

Answering the call: For Mary’s Meals

You’ll hear the history of the movement, watch Gerard Butler endorse the efforts of the Mary’s Meals helpers and get a feed.

Now my old friends at Mary’s Meals have been in touch this week to flag up who else they have got on board to promote them.

Mother’s Pride: Ferne and Sunday

TOWIE’s Ferne McCann is a star of ITV programme First Time Mum.

And she has taken part in a cooking challenge ahead of today and also brought out a recipe.

Salt of the earth

You put sugar in mine… when it should be salt

Porridge, of course, has been a hearty favourite in these parts and around the world for ever.

Traditionalists (guilty) swear by making your oats with water.

And then serving it with milk and salt.

Although the more sweet-toothed modern diner will add almost anything.

Sweet enough: But if you want to sweeten up your porridge

All of which blinded my eyes as I eyed the blackboard in my cafe when out for my Sunday breakfast.

Of course the best place to have your porridge is Medjugorje.

And, of course, I raised a spoon to World Porridge Day and my pals in Medge from my pilgrimage there with Marian Pilgrimages.

 

 

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

Growing your beardie for Obeardammergau

So I HAVE been using my time productively in the last year… growing my beardie for the rescheduled Oberammergau, or Obeardammergau, for next year!

In a world of imitations and accessories the ten-yearly Oberammergau Passion Play keeps it real.

The main man

And they require of their participants to grow their hair and beards from a year out of the Passion Play.

Our friends at Der Passionspiele have been updating us on their preparations for next year’s renewal of the world-famous spectacle.

The Spanish Flu

Giddy up: Always a showpiece in Oberammergau

And our Bavarian friends have experience and precedence in these matters having been down this route 100 years ago.

When the Spanish Flu ravaged the world in 1920 the organisers gave themselves another two years before putting on the Passion Play.

That should fir me

Such prescience should come as little surprise to us.

Because as we all know the Passion Play itself was born out of The Black Death.

The Lord is a listening Lord

Giddie up: Always an occasion in Oberammergau

The villagers had promised to put on a tribute to Our Lord in their village if they were rid of the plague.

And God being a listening God, it worked.

Fast forward to today and Passion Play Oberammergau 2020 was in full flight when an all too familiar intruder knocked.

And only eight weeks out of Jesus taking his first steps they had to rearrange their plans.

All of which means that Oberammergau 2022 will be even better for the organisers having had two more years to plan.

Der youth

Medieval man: When in Oberammergau

Oberammergau 2022 will be putting the emphasis on the youth of today and tomorrow.

And they have special offers for tickets for the spectacle.

Oberammergau truly is a spectacle, in and out of Passion Play.

I saw for myself on my Top Flight trip out there on how it wears its history on the side of its buildings.

While the locals like nothing better than dressing up.

Whether it be in the fashions of Palestine 2,000 years ago or in liederhosen.

Written on the walls: In Oberammergau

And, of course, it’ll put a smile on your face to be sat opposite historical figures and be able to clink steins and say Prost, at the end of the day.

We’ll be keeping you up to date on all that’s going on as the year progresses.

But now that I’ve no place to go thanks to our politicians…

I just think I’ll sit here and watch my hair grow and dream of Germany.

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Easter in Israel

Easter in Jerusalem would normally be a throng of pilgrims.

But it has been reassuring, if a little surreal, to see masked worshippers following the Path of the Cross.

But it does give us a sense, both metaphorical, and real, of revival, of resurrection.

Israel, and Britain for that matter, have been the great success stories of the vaccine roll-out.

The Promised Land has vaccinated half of their population

While 1 in 12 Britons have had both jabs, although there  are more than six times as many of us.

Common cause

But let’s celebrate both our countries and talk up the preliminary discussions of the UK-Israel route opening up from August.

Yes, May 17, has been mooted for a Travel review but late summer remains more realistic.

A British Government source was quoted in the Sunday Times.

They said: ‘There will be a system of travel corridors to green-list countries with good vaccination rates. Israel, here we come!’

So where are we with our Israeli friends who we touched base with at the digital World Travel Market at the end of last year.

Well, several airlines have added limited routes and slowly increased flights in June and July.

Easy does it

That would then be in line with an August return for Britons so keep an eye on all our old favourites.

EasyJet offers two nights room only at the American Colony Jerusalem on July 2.

Leaving from Luton (hint to our Government to get a move on) £396pp, which means £792 for two.

While Virgin Holidays has tempted us of a Scottish persuasion, and now living up here in Braveheartland.

With seven nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem from £3381pp (well, you deserve it) for October 26.

Kayak is many a traveller’s second point of contact (after jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com obviously). And what about the Queen of Sheba for my Queen of Sheba?

The Dead Sea

Three nights and flight at the Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel three nights and flight for £1,079

And, of course, our friends at G Adventures who have been trying to get me out to Israel these past few years (you have, you have, you have).

G whizz

They have 15 days from £999 Jordan and Israel Adventure from £1954, valid on December 10 (plenty of time to be super-vaccinated). And this was £2299!

Mt Nebo, Jordan

Now teasingly, as you’ll all know by now, I’ve been taken right to within 50 metres of Israel from the Jordan side at the site of John’s baptism of Jesus.

And so I’ve seen the Promised Land… only the Israeli soldiers on the banks were looking suspiciously at us from the other side.

I’ll just have to leave it to our holiday providers to look after us as always.

MEET YOU BY THE WAILING WALL

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Go on, go on, go on to Istanbul

You’d expect Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, to either snub the Turkish tea.

Or lay into it on Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul.

Mrs Doyle, aka Pauline McLynn, is yet to reveal her true self on the BBC2 show, next on on Friday, March 26 and available on Catch Up.

She, in fact, comes across as a bit ditzy and not at all religious.

Here come the girls: Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread and Pauline McLynn

I can vouch for that.

With Pauline effing and blinding like a true modern-day daughter of Ireland when I met her.

She was the speaker at an Australian Irish Chamber of Commerce lunch in Dublin.

My cup of tea

I was as a guest of the-then newly opened Flight Centre store in Dawson Street.

Pauline is joined on the Sultans Trail by six other celebrities, only four others who I recognise.

That’ll be javelin queen Fatima Whitbread, sports presenter Adrian Chiles, ex-politician Edwina Currie and comedian (and I use that term loosely) Dom Joly.

Here come the boys: Dom Joly, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif and Adrian Chiles

The Sultans Trail is new to me.

But not the pilgrims who have been walking sections of the 2,200km stretch from Vienna to Istanbul.

Our super seven set out from Belgrade, and I am surprised that they didn’t check out its hidden palace.

What’s in a name?

And they make their way through Serbia and a little bit of Greece.

On their 1,000km two-week trip to the great city on the Bosphorus.

Our Lady in Medjugorje

In the first episode we see them walk through forests, pick lemons, climb castles (and one pilgrim, Amar Latif is blind).

And partake in a Serbian celebration to Our Lady. She’s big in the Balkans.

Before in a few episodes’ time we reach Istanbul and the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world.

And it has at various times been known also as Byzantium and Constantinople.

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It’s still the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church and is still known as Constantinople across the border in Hellas.

A bit like Derry and Londonderry… know your audience.

I’d recommend that when our pilgrims do get to Istanbul they have a blow-out then on a boat trip on the Bosphorus.

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Now you all know I love a good oul’ pilgrimage and unbeknownst to me there have been two previous series.

Where’s my invite?

Eight celebs have already been out to Santiago de Compostella and Rome following, I guess, in my footsteps.

With Onur in Istanbul

I was, of course, with my friends at CaminoWays and FrancigenaWays.

And I know the question you’re asking… why wasn’t I one of the celebs chosen to go to Istanbul to complete the set?

Yes, you’d be right… the BBC Director General has already had his knuckles rapped for that oversight.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD