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Friday, March 27, 2020 9:12am ET by  


Interview with Pauline McLynn about Pilgrimage: The Trip to Istanbul

Returns on 27th March

Why did you decide to join the pilgrimage?

I love walking and it seemed like an adventure waiting to happen for me - also I had not been to any of the places we visited before.

Have you ever taken part in anything like this before?


Did you have to prepare in advance for the pilgrimage? What did you do?

I got good walking boots and (crucially) REALLY GOOD socks. And I walked a fair bit.

Have you ever walked this far before?

No, not all at once anyhow.

Did you find it challenging? 

I found climbing a (very high) mountain in Bulgaria hard work - turns out I am slower and wheezier than I thought, and I am not programmed to climb anything steep…

Tell me about your experience on the series?

I like to meet new people (if only because they are late to the party when it comes to knowing my faults as a person, so there’s a nice grace time before they start to spot all of those!) and we had a really good mix on this. It was fascinating to learn about them and the places we passed through along our pilgrim’s trail.

What was your highlight?

Istanbul was breath-taking and we also got to attend a Sufi ceremony that was quite incredible.

What was the hardest part?

That very high mountain in Bulgaria… but also visiting a concentration camp from World War II times - I hadn’t expected that, and it was extremely moving and totally humbling

Are you affiliated to any religion? If so, which?  Do you practice?

I was baptised a Catholic, but it didn’t ‘take.’ The truth is I am an atheist.

If you don’t have any faith, what helps you explain the world? 

I don’t need organised religion. Embracing people and nature and trying to do as little harm within that as possible is enough for me.

Has the experience changed or increased your faith? 

I now have a hunger for travel and adventure. Also, my curiosity about other peoples’ religions has, if anything, increased thanks to the experience, though probably more in terms of the trappings than the beliefs. I love the iconography associated religions.

Did anything about this pilgrimage surprise you?

It brought home how much war still happens in the world… it just seems to shift base from decade to decade… grim.

How did you get on with the other pilgrims? Was it a bonding experience for you all?

I became particularly fond of Mr Adrian Chiles and Mr Dom Joly and we have continued to hang around together from time to time. I would gladly spend time with all of the others, too, at the drop of a hat.

Have you stayed in touch with the other pilgrims?

We have a little WhatsApp group and post greetings there for all when the need arises

Describe your feelings/emotions when you reached the end of the pilgrimage and arrived in Istanbul?

I was in tears at the first proper sight of Istanbul. Not only had we made it, but it was a breathtakingly beautiful day and we arrived at our vantage point just as a call to prayer rang out from the city’s mosques - magical.

Would you do it again? 

Yes! In a heartbeat.

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