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Published: August 12th 2007
George Bush clearly has never travelled Iran if he thinks the country evil... The people in this country are immensely friendly, hospitable and curious too... There are evil people here too of course as you have everywhere, taxi drivers as usual at the top of that chain (the sharks of the cities, the bane of mankind...). But by and large the ordinary man on the street will go out of his way to help you if you look lost. They will walk you to your destination even if it is not theirs or nowhere near theirs, they will help you at hotels, pay taxi rides and so on and so on... All the while questioning you about the west and our views of their country... Many want to go to the west to study their and live... Canada seems to be top of the list, despite the fact that both governments are at the moment not at good terms...
I entered Iran at Astara and the same day took several savaris (shared taxis, the usual configuration being two passengers on the one front seat and three in the back...) to get to Kaleybar. I visited this village to climb to
View from Babak
the spectacularly situated Babak Castle and admire the views... As I started my walk from Kaleybar to the castle, which is 6 km's away, the friendly Jagob Opera decided to give me a lift with his motorcycle. He joined me on the last stretch up to the castle, gave me food, and brought me back again on his bike and than even paid internet for me! Kheyli mamnum, Jagob!
The next day I went to Tabriz stayed in a very cheap dorm room and visited the bazaar which is the biggest in Iran, measuring a staggering 35 km's of covered passages and 7000 shops... Nassar the friendly man at tourist information took me and some other backpackers for breakfast at Elgoli Park the next day.
Than to Zanjan where I met a Japanese backpacker and we decided to go to Takht-e-Soleiman (the ruins of what was once the ancient world’s biggest Zoroastrian fire temple) on the cheap... Cheap it was and an experience too, with one local giving me a necklace and the Japanese a bracelet, at the sight itself we got invited for a picnic and we got a lift back to the nearest town with a
bus station by a friendly fellow working for UNESCO. The sight itself is not that impressive, but the surroundings are and the villages along the way very picturesque. But doing it cheap means that it takes a while to get there and back, with mostly just waiting... We left at 09:00 in the morning and I came back at 01:00 at night!
The next morning I went to Soltaniyeh, a Mongol build mausoleum, intended for the remains of Imam Ali the son in law of the Prophet Mohammed, but when the Mongol sultan who was sponsoring it converted to Sunni Islam, he abandoned that plan and made it into his own mausoleum...
In the afternoon I went to Qazvin a very nice town in its own rite, with lots of beautiful mosques and tombs but also a base for getting into the mountains and visiting the castles of the Assassins! Not much remains of the castles, but the nature is great and it is a nice and cool reprieve from the heat of Iran.
After this to Masuleh another mountain village, this time on the Caspian side of the mountains... The village is very touristy, with Iranian
tourists that is and it is very charming too... With the houses built on a steep slope so the roof of one serves as the road for the ones above...
And than it was time for Teheran, where I still am... It has been a week as I had to get my Afghani and Pakistani visa's... The Afghani was simple, the Pakistani I am still waiting on!
Teheran, what to say about it... It is big, polluted and lots of traffic... In fact the traffic is ludicrous, though not as bad as Lonely Planet makes it out to be... In fact it is just very Asian, with no rules abided by... Sidewalks are not only for pedestrians, but also terrorised by the uncounted number of motorcycles which plough the city... They are used as taxis and for carrying all kinds of freight... It is not unusual to see a small bike with on its back about 40 big tires or some ridiculously large, bulking mass of junk!
There are lots of museums, including the palaces of the former Shah, which shows him to be a man of very bad taste... And down south is the mausoleum being
built for the late Ayathola Khomeini... There is some rather interesting graffiti on the walls of the former U.S. embassy (now called the former U.S. den of espionage), the Statue of Liberty with her face rendered as a skull being the most memorable...
As I am still waiting on the sluggish Pakistani embassy personnel, I might be here some time yet...
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