This morning we left Bursa and headed out to Iznik, is a town in northwestern Turkey on the eastern shore of the Iznik Lake, and is surrounded by ancient walls with four gates. The town used to be called Nicaea in ancient times. Nicaea is the site of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. This gathering of bishops gave rise to the Nicene Creed — or declaration of faith — which is used today by Roman Catholics. In the center of town, the 4th century church of Aya Sofya (not the same one as its much more famous namesake in Istanbul), now converted to a mosque, still stands.
After visiting this church we had lunch overlooking the beautiful lake. Afterwards Father Tom and all of us walked closer to the lake and together recited the Nicene Creed. That was a very memorable moment for all of us. To recite the profession of faith in the location where it had all begun more than 1,600 years ago!
Soon we were on the road to another city called Sapanca. This town located about an hour from Istanbul is a very beautiful city. We arrived in Sapanca and were invited by our tour guide Aydin to meet his wife and youngest daughter. This is where Aydin’s has a summer home overlooking the Sapanca River. What a beautiful day we had visiting with his wife daughter. His wife had made homemade chocolate tea cake and we were served traditional Turkish tea. It was so beautiful sitting in their front yard and looking out to the Sapanca Lake.
We then ventured out to the Asian side of Istanbul to where our hotel is located. On the way we had the pleasure of meeting Aydin’s oldest daughter and his Nanny who has been with his family for more than 80 years. It was such a beautiful site to see her running towards Aydin to greet him. Tears of joy and happiness were felt among all of us pilgrims. It really made today’s final arrival into Istanbul very special for everyone and especially Aydin. He has made our pilgrimage so very meaningful and has truly taught us so much about the country of Turkey, the people, and their religion.
After saying our goodbyes our next stop was our hotel in the heart of Istanbul. After traveling on the highway we were so lucky to be traveling towards the European side of turkey. The reason being that persons leaving work from the European side and heading home over the bridge, which crosses over the Bosphorous River, towards the Asian side would be sitting in traffic like I have never seen before in California. The traffic jam was almost 8 miles back! So for anyone single day of the week!
Our pilgrimage is now surely coming to an end. After traveling almost 3,182 ½ miles in 17 days, I definitely will be taking back home with me so much from this beautiful country. Sadly, in 3 days several pilgrims will be departing back to California. I will definitely miss them very much. The rest of the pilgrims will remain here in Istanbul including Mrs. Ladou and myself. I am looking forward to learning much more about this wonderful and busy city.