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Published: March 8th 2016
KandovanDay 44 Wednesday 2nd March 2016
Another day in Iran, another town, another taxi. Heading off to Kashan today by bus, but as we got the taxi to the bus terminal the driver tried to talk us into letting him drive us to Kashan for US$88 including a bit of sightseeing but we opted for the much cheaper bus. We had not prebooked our tickets and were not sure of the timetable but the taxi driver recommend a bus company that runs regularly to Kashan. It was 9.00am when we arrived at the counter and the bus was leaving at 9.30am how lucky, the trip was uneventful but it did give me time to think about why all men want to have their photo taken with Scott. Is it because of his good looks or because he looks like George Clooney? No, I think it’s because of his grey/silver hair, the other day in the market I saw something called Black Magic shampoo and I think all the men use it here as there are very few grey haired men except the very old or perhaps the criminally insane. So the Silver Fox as I now
A rare open quiet area of the Kashan Bazaar
call him is a novelty and there are photos of him all over Iran.
Arrived in the Kashan bus terminal at 12.30pm and negotiated a taxi to the city centre and true to form it was a bomb with every panel dented so with our backpacks put in the small boot that would not close so two anxious little Aussie faces were peering out the rear window every time we went through a round-about or over a bump expecting a backpack or two to be bouncing down the road. Despite this, we and the backpacks made it to our destination, Khan-e Ehsan a traditional house. We had not booked ahead so initially thought we would have to settle for a room with shared bathroom, but thankfully we got a great room with an ensuite.
Had a walk and grabbed a quick lunch before taking it easy for the afternoon. The hotel has a restaurant so opted for an Iranian dinner instead of the usual fast food and it was served in the courtyard of the hotel and it was a good hearty lamb and vegetable stew and a meatball dish.
Kashan Day 45 Thursday 3rd March 2016 - Kashan
Trinkets for sale in the Bazaar
Haven’t had a breakfast in a hotel for a bit so was really looking forward to this morning. And what did we get? A boiled egg, flat bread, and a pot of tea, yum, yum. After that satisfying feed we hit the streets to see the sites of Kashan. The Lonely Planet banged on quite a bit about how great this town is and it was easy for us to slip it into the itinerary as it is half way between Esfahan and Tehran. Kashan has a population of 250,000 and is famous for its textiles and rose water, and has a large number of restored traditional homes. First on our agenda today was the Masjed-e Agha Borzog, which is a smallish mosque that was located a short distance from the hotel. Compared to the mosques of Esfahan this one comes up short, but it was interesting in that it had a sunken courtyard with working Madraseh (school).
Then next highlight in town was the Bazaar and we spent the next few hours wandering up and down the narrow laneways checking out all
Scott in the snow
the specials. As with most Bazaars, a lot of the stuff is your usual assortment of domestic goods and clothing, this one also had lots of rose water, and copper pots. Found some interesting alcoves along the way and areas that are under restoration. Beating a path through the crowds can be tiring but it is doubly tiring when you also have to jump out of the way of pushed carts and maniacs tearing along on their motor scooters. Cannot say that there was anything overly unique with this bazaar compared to any other but it is always good to get amongst it. This is another conservative town and most women are wearing the black chador, and we found it interesting how difficult it is to wear. The majority of women have to hold the head scarf closed under their chin with their hands or stick it in their mouth to hold it in place. Michele is a bit over the whole scarf thing after two weeks, but is thankful she doesn’t have to walk around with half of it stuffed in her mouth to keep it in place. As an alternative to half a metre of fabric we picked
Grinding spices in the Bazaar
up some local product to chew on, and got some great honey and coconut flavoured biscuits. We picked them up in the market and the guy ripped us off a bit but not as much as he would have liked as Shelley put him in his place.
Was really hanging for a coffee but couldn’t find anywhere to get one so we headed out of the bazaar and walked the streets. Was going to have a look at some of the restored traditional homes but as we are actually staying in one and we had to pay to enter the others, really couldn’t see the point. Returned to our room for some time relaxing in the courtyard reading before going out for some more of those great biscuits in the afternoon and a final look around. Not sure why but we, really don’t like this town, it doesn’t seem to have the usual friendly vibe of where we have been and we just cannot see why the Lonely Planet banged on about it. Didn’t see too many other options in town to eat so had dinner back at the hotel. <em style="mso-bidi-font-style:
Nice pair of knockers
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The hotel room has been one of the best we have stayed in, but the town has been a bit of a disappointment so we are glad to be moving on today, if you are looking for a place to lay back in a nice courtyard this is the right place for you. Tehran buses leave every 30 minutes from Kashan and we only had to sit on the bus for 10 minutes before we were underway. At the first roundabout the bus stopped to pick up more people and all of sudden the bus driver got off and jumped in a car that took off. We were left sitting there wondering if it was us and thinking how hard is it to drive a bus, but then after 5 minutes a new bus driver appeared and we were off. The journey to Tehran was a milk run stopping at every roundabout and corner to pick up more people and took over 3 hours and we once again travelled through arid dry terrain with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. We were dropped off at the Southern bus terminal of Tehran which
Masjed-e Agha Borzog with sunken courtyard
is located about 1 kilometre from the train station, and we did consider walking it but just knew that no walk is straight forward in Iran and it would probably end up being a 3 kilometre walk. As we got off the bus we were set upon by taxi drivers who wanted a ridiculous 400,000 Rials ($20) to take us to the station, walking away and indicating that we were going to walk it had the price drop to 200,000 and then finally to an acceptable 100,000 ($5). The guy we finally haggled down wasn’t actually a taxi driver but just a local after a quid (this is common here) he walked us out of the bus station to a really dodgy carpark where his car was. The carpark was down a lane behind a derelict building but still in view of the street and busy. As we walked through we spotted a guy with a small glass pipe smoking what we assumed was drugs, which came as a huge shock considering we are in Tehran Iran in the middle of the day. Got into the guys battered wreck of a car and of course it took him 10 minutes
Courtyard in our hotel
to get the thing going as he kept flooding the carby. The 1 kilometre journey as expected was closer to 3 and in Tehran traffic it took 20 minutes so the guy earned his money.
The Tehran Railway Station is not the easiest place for non-Iranians to negotiate. There is an information desk where a woman supplied us with the minimum of help accompanied with a sneer. Tried to get a lift to the 1st
floor where we could buy tickets, but people kept pushing in front of us so opted to hike up the 4 flights of stairs with backpacks. The guy at the ticket counter was extra helpful and we had sleeper tickets for the 5pm train to Tabriz. It was only 2pm at this stage so we sat around and read and watched the people of Tehran come and go till it got closer to the time. There must have been a school excursion as there were about 400 teenage schoolgirls waiting to get on the train, thankfully it was not ours as I think that would have been one very noisy train. Once again we had to get the police to sign our
Inside the Masjed-e Agha Borzog
tickets before getting to our platform.
Thankfully we can read numbers in Farsi so it wasn’t a problem finding our right carriage and compartment. Each compartment sits and then sleeps 4 people and we were a bit worried about who would be sharing the journey with us but thankfully no one did, and we had the place to ourselves. The compartment came stocked with a thermos, and teacups and we were given teabags and cake as we got underway, it just felt so civilized. Later on the conductor tried to speak to us about dinner and it was a difficult conversation but in the end we ordered one meal for 200,000 rials. The train stopped at 7.30 at a station so everyone could get off and pray and shortly afterwards we were given our meal, which although just a basic chicken kebab with rice was pretty good. The conductor also gave us clean sheets in a plastic bag, while a pillow and blanket was in a bag in the compartment already, and looked as if it hadn’t been washed since the Shah rode the rails. The compartment was very warm and stuffy but we could open a
Arches of the Masjed-e Agha Borzog
small window to let in the cool night air, but unfortunately it also let in a lot of diesel fumes from the train. Day 47 Saturday 5th March 2016 - Tabriz
The night went well and we even got some sleep and were woken up about 5.00am to prepare for disembarking at Tabriz. We arrived about 5.30am and it was still dark so we decided to sit in the terminal and read till about 8.40am, so it was light and easier to get into a hotel. As usual we got the best car in town with our backpacks hanging out the boot, but this driver was prepared and had rope to tie them down. Got into the Sina Hotel no problem may have even been able to turn up earlier but we would had missed all that people watching at the terminal.
Dropped the bags off and did our normal walk around the area to see what was near and get a banana shake for breakfast. Scott has damaged his ankle somehow and is in a bit of pain when he walks and so hobbles along at
Shelley relaxing in our room
a snail’s pace. On our walk we passed a pharmacy and the guy running the place obviously saw Scott’s impression of an invalid and took pity on him and called us into his shop. Spent half an hour with the guy and picked up some tablets, ointment and run down on all the things to see in Tabriz. The town looks to have lots of nice shops, which are well presented and easy to walk around. The footpaths are nice and wide and thankfully not too many motor scooters roaring down them. Due to Scott’s dodgy ankle and lack of sleep we had a nana nap in the afternoon and then headed back out for a walk/hobble. Went to a restaurant called The Modern Tabriz Restaurant and had a great meal that included soup, salad and main meal for more than we have been paying lately, but when you can get good food it is worth it. Day 48 Sunday 6th March 2016 - Kandovan
Had a great night’s sleep and my (Scott) ankle was a bit better in the morning so we didn’t need to go shopping for a
Shelley Relaxing with a tea in our Compartment
Zimmer frame or crutches. On the way to breakfast in the hotel a guy stopped us to ask us if we would like to do a tour today, I mean could you let us have our breakfast first before hounding us. Breakfast in the end, was hardly worth the walk, two fried eggs, a mountain of flat bread and weak tea, WHERES MY BLOODY COFFEE? Don’t mind doing without beer, but please, please stop depriving me of coffee. We thought that coming to Tabriz, close to the Turkish border would mean that we could get coffee, but oh no, nothing.
After our disappointing breakfast we decided to talk to the guy in the foyer about him driving us to the nearby town of Kandovan. He was pretty expensive but decided to go with him anyway, and rather than going tomorrow opted to do it now. It was an hour drive from Tabriz to Kandovan and we initially started out under beautiful blue skies but as we got closer the clouds closed in and it started to rain a bit. The road began to climb into the mountains and we started to spot small areas of snow on
the flanks of the hills, and just as we arrived at Kandovan it started to snow. Thankfully we had grabbed our coats before leaving as it was a little chilly but we weren’t exactly prepared for freezing snow.
Kandovan is a small settlement of troglodyte homes, which basically means that people have made homes in the hillside or in the cone shaped rock formations. Similar to Cappadocia in Turkey, except the Iranian version is a bit smaller, isn’t as touristy and people still live here and not just for the amusement of tourists. Because this is a working town the homes are not scrubbed clean and the paths that lead around them are a bit rough and ready, so it isn’t exactly picture perfect but it made for a great walk. Maybe it was the weather but walking around town, I seriously couldn’t think of a worse place to be living; no troglodyte life for us. As we went along the snow got heavier and heavier to the point that it was just plain miserable. The driver told us we could have 2 or 3 hours here but to be honest, even on a good day you
would be hard pressed to spend any longer than an hour walking the lanes. After an hour we were both frozen stiff and wet and so met our driver back at his friends shop and told him we were ready to go. 5 minutes down the road and the snow stopped, and we sort of got the feeling it just snows in that town all the time.
We had to battle through the shocking traffic and drivers of Tabriz to be dropped off at our hotel around midday. My ankle was slightly better again so we headed off to check out the sites of the town, but we first stopped and had a banana milkshake, as a poor substitute for a coffee. Had a good look over the Arg-e Tabriz, or as the locals call it “The Ark”. This is a huge 14th
Century brick Citadel that stands out like a sore thumb in town. Apparently criminals were thrown to their death from the top of it, and a local legend claims that a woman was once thrown from it but her chador acted like a parachute and she survived; sort of sounds like a story men
Shelley in the snow
tell their wives to make sure they keep wearing them. Next door to the Ark they are building a massive mosque which is causing a lot of cracks through it.
From here we decided to walk up to the Tabriz Bazaar to see what all the hype is about. Some parts of the covered bazaar of Tabriz were constructed 1000 years ago although most was about 500 years old and it covers 7 square kilometres, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets all around the Bazaar are awash with stalls, hawkers and of course thousands of shoppers, so it is pandemonium. Once inside the covered area it is endless alleys leading off in all sorts of directions, and it wouldn’t be too hard to get completely lost, but thankfully for us today we got in and out without any hassle. As with most Bazaars, sellers with similar goods tend to congregate in the same areas, so you will pass through, the spice area, the nuts and sweets, the fabric, the shoes, the gold, but with this one everywhere you will see carpets. There is a lot of finely made carpets depicting country scenes, or
Shelley outside her new home
old paintings in gold frames that to us was the purest form of bad taste, but each to their own. This is definitely a locals market with nothing much for a tourist other than the sites, smells and sounds and as far as that goes it is probably one of the best we have been to in Iran. However dealing with the locals on the walk would test the patience of Mother Teresa. We have walked many bazaars and markets in our life and well experienced in how it can get a bit pushy and shovey, but Tabriz bazaar is perhaps the worst experience for us. Contrary to the friendly nature of Iranians we have met so far, this bazaar looked as if it was the breeding ground of sour faces, who’s only wish was to push each other around.
After a couple of hours we both felt we had “experienced” enough of the bazaar and headed back to the hotel so Scott could rest his ankle and dream some more about coffee. Looked like it was going to pour rain in the afternoon so we didn’t head out again till dinner, and returned to the same
Snow covered laneways
restaurant. Once gain we were the only people there (and it is a big restaurant) but somehow after the meal was served we were ignored, I almost had to shoot a flare in the air to get the bill. Day 49 Monday 7th March 2016 - Tabriz
Had another rough night’s sleep with bad coughing fits that kept Shelley and probably half the hotel awake for most of the night. Just can’t seem to shake the last of this flu and am starting to think I might be allergic to Iran. Our morning once again started with fried eggs and flat bloody bread, and a walk down the street to get our banana milkshake. The guy running the Iranian Fruit/milkbar can only speak a couple of words of English but we have become good friends with him and exchanged addresses so we can keep in contact.
First on the agenda today was the Kabud (Blue) Mosque, which was constructed in 1465, managed to survive one of history’s worst earthquakes in 1727 (that killed 77,000 people in Tabriz), but then collapsed in another one in 1773. Everything except
the entry portal came down and the mountain of rubble sat there till 1951, when they decided to reconstruct it. When originally built this was regarded as one of the more beautiful mosques in the country, but we seriously doubt that they could have rebuilt it to any resemblance after 200 years of it being destroyed, so when once again there was a large entry fee we opted to give it a miss. Got some photos from the park next door where a morals/fun policeman was abusing some people for laughing too loud.
From here we decided to dive back into the bazaar for some more agro. Spent several hours wandering up and down being pushed from pillar to post taking in all the sights and smells. Managed to find some quiet areas with seats where we could take a breath and chill for a bit. Yesterday our opinion of Tabriz and its people wasn’t very good and we found them very stern, unsmiling and abrupt, but today we had a better experience, having lots of nice conversations, and found them a little more inviting. Still don’t think the people of Tabriz are
Snow covered stone peaks
as friendly as what we have encountered in Eastern and Southern Iran, but maybe it’s because of the cold weather. Tomorrow we will once again be on a long distance bus as we start our journey back towards Tehran.
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