Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace Paperback – Jan 1 2008
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?A vivid and eye-opening blend of history, adventure, religion, mysticism and modern conflict. It is simply one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time, and one that proves that with the right combination of character and determination great things can be done, and the eyes of the world can be opened.?
From the Inside Flap
One simple message would change his life forever: ‘Was he interested in joining his friend, an older affable Frenchman, on a walk to Jerusalem?’
It was an exhilarating dream, but were they prepared to face the physical, mental or spiritual challenges?
Motivated by a steadfast belief that each of us can make a difference, two ordinary men embark on one extraordinary quest — to carry a message of peace across two continents weary of war.
Their way is fraught with endless difficulties. Walking several thousand miles is only the beginning. Temperatures soar, and then Israel and Hezbollah trade missiles. Each man is forced to tap his inner reserves while surrendering to the benevolence of “angels.” Even still, will that be enough to allow them to complete their mission?
Along the Templar Trail is a powerful testimony to the courage of the human spirit, as well as an inspiring affirmation of the goodness and dream of peace still very much alive in the world today. These simple “pilgrims” remind us that peace, the ultimate solution, must be discovered one person at a time — before it’s too late. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Brandon Wilson's journey 'along the Templar Trail' from Dijon, France to Jerusalem is, in many ways, something we can all identify with. I would even go as far as to say that his experiences can actually resonate with us deeply, although initially we might not realize it. That in part, is the nature of this fascinating book, and this unique travel adventure.
Brandon's journey was a pilgrimage for peace on a trail that historians generally recognize was not about peace, but was in fact about power and religious and cultural hegemony. However Brandon's pilgrimage was intended to right those wrongs.
A pilgrimage is a long, often difficult, and even perilous journey. Pilgrimages usually suggest a journey to a sacred place. They are also symbolic acts and gestures that confirm a particular belief or belief system. In a very deep sense, a pilgrimage is also a quest ' for a greater truth ' or to pay homage to that truth.
But for Brandon, it was also a very long and very real journey on foot across Europe to the Middle East.
After reading Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace, I came to a greater understanding of the quest that Brandon pursued, and then I had the opportunity to find out more about the man and the impact that quest had on his life.
To read more and to listen to a podcast with Brandon, visit The Philosophical Traveller [...].
Wilson's detailed and often tongue-in-cheek chronicles of the 5 month trek read almost like a diary and draw the reader into each scene and episode, from charming descriptions of bucolic landscapes and unforgettable characters, to tales of comical escapades and even frightening accounts of dangers lurking along the way. We are swept up as the travelers dodge murderous traffic and hostile encounters, adapt to hosts of local customs and struggle with language barriers, and we are truly uplifted by the countless poignant miracles of the "angels" the pilgrims meet all along the way,
Along the Templar Trail is written from the soul and in thoughtful, clever, and humorous style. In Wilson's own words, this is about a "...fellowship shared between pilgrims--those who travel with their feet--and those who join us with their hearts." This is the heartwarming story of an incredible pilgrimage, and it is impossible not to be touched by the vision of peace and humanitarianism at the heart of this journey.
by Zsuzsana Summer
--Michael Buckley, author of Shangri-La, the Bradt guide
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Truth be told, Wilson doesn't call the three books a trilogy. That's just how I see the series so far, and you can certainly read the books in any order. Still, if you read one of these nonfiction, trek-adventure thrillers, I'm sure you'll go on to read them all.
The earlier books took us from Lhasa to Katmandu, over the Himalayas on foot, then across "the dark continent" from the Mediterranean to the tip of South Africa by every close-to-the-ground transport, including the ol' feet. Along the Templar Trail is more overtly spiritual, an all-walking, 2,600-mile pilgrimage from France to Jerusalem following in the long-ago footsteps of the Knights Templar.
Take a moment to think about this. What would cause you to undertake a 2,600 mile walk--aches, blisters, blazing sun and all, always hoping to find food and water when you need them--even though perfectly good airplanes are willing to carry you to your destination? Wilson's answer is both simple and profound: He walked for peace.
In the beginning, as Wilson and his friend meet in France to set off on their pilgrimage for peace, it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know the funny Frenchman is not attuned to the purpose, not prepared for the hardships, not "into it." Without overdoing any comparison of the author's trek to Jerusalem and Christ's walk to his crucifixion, the companion became "Brandon's cross to bear," for me as I read. The story enthralls, its high ideals are impressive, but I thought a Higher Power must have decided the experienced trekker-author needed a burden greater than weather and distance--and "blessed" him with a partner who could make crossing Europe appropriately difficult. Sooner or later, you know that "Émile" will turn back... or worse.
For the sake of the peace-purpose of the pilgrimage, the walk had to attract attention, and it did. Starting in Sombor, Serbia, television and newspaper reporters take notice.
The message was possibly endangered by the fact that Wilson was from the U.S.
"Peace" and "U.S." don't fit together in the thinking of much of the world, particularly the parts of the world from Serbia to Israel. So, Wilson tried letting his French pal answer the inevitable question, "Where are you from?" When "France" didn't work, he'd say, "I'm from Hawai`i." That didn't always work either. People knew that Hawai`i is in the U.S. However, over and over, those who listened to the message, overlooked the trekker's nationality.
"What do you hope to accomplish by this trip?" a reporter asked.
"First, we're taking this journey as a personal pilgrimage," Wilson answered. "But more than that, it is a journey for peace. Countries and especially the common people have suffered too much. There have been too many tears shed by mothers for their sons, wives for their husbands and children for their fathers. Yes, it takes courage to face an enemy, but it requires just as much bravery to say `No' and refuse to capitulate to war. The time has come. This is now a global imperative."
Later, speaking to someone else, Wilson said, "...envisioning peace is half the battle. As the world's consciousness changes, the rest is sure to follow." He sticks to his message, demonstrating repeatedly that it is truly what keeps him walking, even when he is confronted with the scars and memorials of war, even when he speaks to warriors.
No doubt, Wilson was on the right path. Even when he was lost for a while or took a detour, the result was totally central to both the personal growth expected from the pilgrimage and to the peace purpose. "Maybe," he mused, "there never was a `wrong' path--just one awaiting a new reason for being."
Christian, Jewish or Islamic; male or female, old or young; Kurdish, Serbian, German or Israeli, everyone who crossed Wilson's path was welcomed and, although he doesn't say so, loved. Learning to walk through our own lives with that same grace would be reason enough to read Along the Templar Trail, even if the reading itself were not a joy. It is.
"Along the Templar Trail" describes the effort of two men to begin the finding of this common ground, through walking "seven million steps for peace." I wish I could have been there. But, at least I have the book to tell me what happened. Brandon tells us what happened at many different levels. He describes "a gentle unravelling of life" as the layers of the limitations of our own personal insecurities, our "walls," are stripped away as we confront the unpredictable succession of present moments that the journey brings.
For example, in Bulgaria, Brandon and his co-walker Emile (in his sixties!), came upon "two pitiful, brown eyes staring back at us." A newborn bull calf was stuck around a group of saplings, slowly strangling itself as it struggled to pull away from danger when really it needed to go in the opposite direction to unwind its chain. I like the symbolism of this scene. It seems to me that unwinding the struggles and pain, the losses, both past and present, that are encompassed in this seven million step France-to-Jerusalem slice of our world, is a fundamental reason why Brandon and Emile took this journey.
Brandon poured water from his canteen onto the young bull's head, while Emile sought its owner. A woman came running in tears. The young bull was freed from its choking snare, but it laid down motionless. The woman ran back to her farm and returned, dousing the bull with a full bucket of crisp, cold water, and the youngster sprang to life!
It's the kind of scene I've become accustomed to reading in Brandon Wilson's books. Full of life, adventure, and meaning. "Along the Templar Trail" is a great read for those of us who wish we could be world travellers -- not of the casual sightseer sort, but travellers who want to rediscover history and obtain a vision of how that history resonates with today.
Brandon Wilson and his 68-year-old companion, Emile, start out on a five-month walking pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the manner of the 11th century Christians. This is conceived as a walk for peace, but it is obvious that hiking through the canyons of the world holds the same thrill for some as climbing mountains does for others. The reader certainly gets a sense of what a journey on foot entails. Each day's walk must cover a certain amount of territory and the companions trudge through rain, sleet and broiling sun. Wilson's legs and feet swell up and Emile seems to get weaker as they approach the longer stretches. In Istanbul, the Frenchman must part ways with the American. Wilson continues through Turkey, Cyprus and finally Israel when the original trek through Syria and Lebanon is derailed by the 2006 flare-up of hostilities.
There are bits of history strewn throughout the book like breadcrumbs thrown along the trail. Although there are references to the Crusades, the Knights Templar who guarded the Christian pilgrims, the Arabs and the Ottoman Turks, it is the Roman Empire that really fascinated me. There are so many roads and traces of that once far-flung empire that managed to control such a polyglot group of tribes. France, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, all fragmented now by different religions and national loyalties were once part of a single empire.
There aren't many descriptions of the castles, museums, cathedrals and mosques the travelers pass; although once the author gets to Jerusalem he does go into details of the holy places. What you do get is minute descriptions of small villages, small rooms in hotels, inns and monasteries, local people and local food. There are breakfast rolls of every kind in each country and coffee that becomes blacker and thicker as they move eastward. Sweet tea and watermelons, beef stew and lamb kabobs and an incredible variety of beer--the menu changes as the men trudge on as does the language and the friendliness of the natives. Local people are moved to help these men and often give them free food and drink just because of their quest.
As a walker, the author is highly aware of the various roads he must traverse. There are forest trails and dirt roads, asphalt sections that melt into tar in the broiling sun, and highways with no shoulders where the trucks whiz by the pilgrims. Small towns offer sidewalks and in one place there is even a section of the old Roman stone road built hundreds of years before. When Wilson hits Asia Minor the walking becomes more difficult. In Turkey, "I trudged across the desert landscape like a snail across a block of salt," he says.
Personally, I found the few political discussions to be interesting. The Greek Cypriot who refuses to visit the Turkish section of the island once the barriers are removed because she won't touch foot on occupied soil. The views of the Israelis and Palestinians Brian encounters once he crosses to Haifa are more realistic about the politics of the world although they all hold out the hope that politicians will listen to the people.
This is an idealistic journey. But it is the colorful details of the trek, the little rooms in small hotels, the roadside stands in war-torn landscapes, the various Hungarians and Turks and tourists and policemen that make this book a worthwhile read.
Wilson explains to one reporter along the way that, while the route was once followed by Templars and soldiers marching to Jerusalem, he "would like to see it developed as an international trail of peace for all nationalities and religions." Indeed, he seems to find a receptive audience along the new and old roads as he walks, but always among the common people who share food and drink and share his frustration that "it is the politicians who want war, not the people."
Along his journey Wilson talks with people of all leanings and faiths, learning that simple things like water and a gift of food are the universal language they have always been for centuries. With each week, he finds greater recognition and encouragement. A young Muslim sits with him and, as they share commonalities of religions, the youth remarks, "We need to work together to survive."
There is excitement and wonder in the sites visited along the path, but none so moving as when Wilson reaches the Holy Land. He speaks with deep, stirring passion of the cathedrals and shrines, the revered temples of Christians, Jews and Muslims. And, as he concludes his journey, he reflects on how deep his lessons have been on the five month road to Jerusalem--his suffering and hunger making him ever mindful of the suffering and hunger in a world that would rather build weapons to destroy than care for its own people.
Take your time with this book--it should take you weeks. Savor every step. Brandon is at his best ever in Templar Trail, a truly heartwarming story of dedication, hope and love.
by Andy O'Hara, author of The Swan: Tales of the Sacramento Valley
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