WHAT IS THE TEMPLAR TRAIL?

Templar Trail Route Map

As described in the book Along the Templar Trail by Brandon Wilson (2008), the Templar Trail is similar to the route followed during the First Crusades in 1096 by Godfrey de Bouillon and his 40,000 troops from France to liberate the city of Jerusalem. It stretches across eleven countries and two continents.

It took those troops four years to reach the Holy City. From those soldiers, nine were selected to become the first Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Solomon—or the first Knights Templar. These warrior monks were honored with the duty of protecting Jerusalem, future pilgrims, and the Temple of Solomon. Legend has it that they also guarded the Holy Grail.

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Where does today's Templar Trail begin?
In eastern France. Hoping to re-blaze this trail, in April 2006, Brandon Wilson, an American, and "Émile," a 68-year-old Frenchman, set off on a quest of peace and discovery. They followed canal paths from Dijon, France thru Switzerland to Donaueschingen in southern Germany, the source of the Danube River. Traveling simply, they counted on staying in monasteries, pensions, or bed and breakfasts. Wilson, an ultra-light trekker, carried only a seven-kilo (15 pound) pack.

Why walk the Templar Trail?
Wilson hoped to make a pilgrimage as he had done on the legendary Camino Santiago across Spain, the St. Olav’s Way across Norway, and Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome.

Next, he was determined to walk for peace and remind people of the necessity to choose non-violent paths to settle our differences.

Finally, he wanted to transform this way of war into a path of peace for future pilgrims to Jerusalem. He had seen how these paths could be personally transformative. An inner peace is attained. That peace is then shared with pilgrim's families, colleagues, and communities.

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In southern Germany the modern pilgrims connected with the Donau radweg, or bicycle path, that led them through Bavaria into Austria, then Bratislava, Slovakia and into Hungary. Depending on the availability of lodgings, they averaged 31 kilometers (20 miles) a day—spending just $30 a day per person.

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After reaching Budapest, they headed south still following the Danube Valley on smaller bicycle paths and roads to Serbia.

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Upon their arrival in Belgrade, the Middle East erupted in war. Israel and Hezbollah traded missiles, Haifa was attacked, Beirut Airport was bombed, and southern Lebanon was evacuated. The world press speculated that this might become the start of World War III. Even still, the men decided to continue walking to Istanbul where they would decide if, how and where to continue. Disaster became the mother of improvisation.

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They connected with the ancient Roman Via Militaris through Bulgaria to Istanbul. As word of their mission spread, major media, including national television networks and newspapers in cities such as Belgrade, Sofia, Plovdiv, Nis, Alanya and others interviewed them, spreading their message of peace to millions.

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As they walked across the arid Turkish steppes, there was an attempted attack on the US Embassy in Damascus and an Ebola-like virus erupted in eastern Turkey. It was far from your typical trip. Some drastic choices had to be made.

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The border between northern and southern Cyprus had just recently opened after thirty years. In order to avoid walking through war zones, Wilson made the short passage from the Turkish coast to Cyprus, then trekked across that country to the port at Limassol, home to a Templar fortress and steeped in the history of Richard the Lionhearted.

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After a short Med crossing, Wilson connected with the Israel National Trail, a new, well-marked footpath that led from outside Haifa nearly all the way to Jerusalem. Along the way, as in the ten other countries, he was aided by "angels" who shared their generous hospitality regardless of nationality, culture or religion.

How long did it take to reach Jerusalem?
160 days total; 137 of those were walking days. The trail they re-blazed was 4223 kilometers(2620 miles) or the equivalent of walking from New York to LA.
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Wilson believes that each of us can make a difference in the world. After a thousand years of conflict and destruction, the world is ready for peace—and peace begins within. As he says, “We are all pilgrims, each on their own path, each with their own story to tell. Walking is only a first step, but one we each can take to discover the peace within. In that way, eventually, war will become unconscionable. Darkness will be dispelled with light—one person, one step at a time.”

Along the Templar Trail contains stages, distances, rough maps, photos, and a packing list for others who follow in their footsteps.

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© 2008, maps from Along the Templar Trail by Brandon Wilson, Pilgrim's Tales, Inc.
Maps may be copied and shared with attribution to their source, however all publication rights are reserved.