Day 5: Pilgrims Again

In Istanbul, we had made the first leg of our “mini-pilgrimage,” backtracking in Bahá’í history from the pilgrimage in the Holy Land described in a previous post. After the Holy Family was banished from their homeland of Iran to Baghdad, they were once again banished first to Constantinople then Adrianople before final exile to Akka. While Bahá’u’lláh’s original residence in Istanbul (Constantinople) no longer exists, a house was rebuilt on the spot, located in a strange quarter where women clad in black chadors walk past endless shops selling poofy wedding dresses. We were welcomed by the custodian and visited the upstairs quarters, where some artifacts are displayed. While visiting this house, we met a group of Bahá’ís from Beijing who were stopping briefly in Turkey to visit this house and Edirne before going to Israel. They described their working lives: 12 hours per day for 6 days a week year-round. They were using their scant vacation days to make this journey. The next day, we hopped on a bus that took us on the three-hour trip from Istanbul north to Edirne (Adrianople). I passed the time by working on reading Five Quarters of an Orange, a novel set in the French countryside, which in my mind blended with the damp flatlands we were driving through.

Snowdrops and raindrops in Edirne.

Snowdrops and raindrops in Edirne.

Edirne, Land of Mysteries, was cold and rainy. We beelined to the visitors’ center for the Holy Places, where once again we were met by the custodian and a guide who took us to the House of Bahá’u’lláh across the street, one of three places the Holy Family lived in this city. This was where Bahá’u’lláh’s family moved after He was poisoned at the hands of His jealous half-brother.

The backyard and rear wall of the House of Bahá'u'lláh.

We are standing in the backyard of the House of Bahá’u’lláh.

After our visit, our guide walked us to the nearby ruins of another house, reduced to foundation stones in a grassy meadow. The elderly custodian gave us some aromatic leaves as a keepsake—and I found my own keepsake, a snail shell.

The remains of another House of Bahá'u'lláh in Edirne.

The remains of another House of Bahá’u’lláh in Edirne.

With our remaining time, we visited the famed Selimiye Mosque, designed by the architect Sinan, who also designed the Suleimaniye Mosque that we had visited the day before. First, we surveyed the small, attached bazaar, which was built to support the mosque financially. Then we walked up some steps to the mosque, which won our Prettiest Mosque Award with its airy, bright interior and elegant decorations.

Part of the gorgeous courtyard of the Selimiye Mosque.

Soon enough, we had to leave the Land of Mysteries and catch our bus back to Istanbul. Our last day was nigh upon us.