Sedat Çakir – Founder of The Sultans Trail
Words Max Smits – Trail Coordinator at the Sultans Trail
He was not the first Muslim to walk on the Camino to Santiago, and probably not the first Turk either. Living in the Netherlands, Sedat – born on 1960 – received his pilgrimage blessing from Bishop Punt in Haarlem, before he set off to walk the Camino Frances in 2007, in what he considered a pilgrimage of reconciliation.
Sedat had read in an article on long-distance hiking trails that the road to Santiago had spiritual power. That inspired him. Family and friends reacted positively to his intention, but were very sceptic about his ability to succeed, him not being a trained hiker. For Turkish standards, 800km is an absurdly long distance for a hike. But on his return they were of course very proud and he received many hard warming reactions. The entire trip had been very fulfilling and rewarding.
Along the way, on top of a mountain, he got the inspiration to walk all the way to Turkey one day, the land of his birth. Two years later, after careful planning and preparation, he started out from Vienna to Istanbul, on a 2.200km long adventure and got to discover the fascinating history of the region, once under Turkish-Ottoman rule, as well as the stunning landscapes. He experienced the freedom and clarity of mind that such a hike apparently provides, while the hospitality and friendliness he received along the way convinced him that here was an opportunity for an alternative to the Camino providing a similar experience, yet in a different setting. The idea for the Sultans Trail was born.
The BBC has recognized the Sultans Trail as third long-distance destination hiking trail following the tradition of the Camino and the Road to Rome, and devoted a three piece mini-series on it titled “Pilgrimage: the Road to Istanbul”.
Since 2009, the route has been improved and promoted through the Sultans Trail website. A navigation App was developed and many hikers followed.
In 2018 he shifted his attention to cycling, under the influence of his partner Iris Bezuijen and together they developed the Sultans Trail Cycling Route, now published in two cycling Guides.