Tag: Iran

Good Bye, Iran!

Good bye, Iran! It is hard to leave! All the birds are singing in the sky, the trees are nearly in blossom. Only two more weeks and all will be green! I have to go. My heart is breaking!

So many things I shall miss!! Not the traffic! That is for sure! I haven’t written about the birds who tell you your fortune! In Farsi of course! If you follow Allah, you will have riches, true love and fabulous health! Well, there you go! What else can a person want? I shall miss the people, first and foremost ! The architecture, the beauty and the magicical history of this amazing country! I shall miss the food, the sweets, the music, the smiles, the constant “welcome to Iran” , the genuine people, so pleased that you spend your money visiting the country they are so proud of!

So many things, lots of things I forgot to mention, how every little village, town and city honours  their martyrs from the war with Iraq. Each place has paintings of the martyrs who died. Some of them no more than children! I forgot to tell you that plastic surgery on noses is enormous here in Iran! Hmm! The mind boggles! 

The food, have I mentioned the amazing food?! I will miss it all. The selfies, I am not sure I will miss all the selfies! I wanted to thank each and every person in Iran who has made my holiday here so incredibly special!! Insta, I WILL miss all the requests for Instagram!!( well, may be!) good bye, beautiful Iran, hope to visit you again very soon!!

 

 

 

 

Yazd and beyond

The bus trip to Yazd was uneventful. I slept most of the way. I arrived late in the afternoon. The back packer hostel is clean, central and incredibly friendly staff. Dropped my gear, hot shower and change, and time to explore. Tonight at a quarter to eight is the beginning of NoRuz. I first went for a walk. A shame it went dark so fast. So not too much wandering around. The hostel is next to the amazing Amir Chakhmaq Mosque Complex. An absolute central location. All the places of interest are just in walking distance. Tonight is the night, the night of the beginning of spring. The Persian new year. At exactly 8.45 and 22 seconds, or at least something like that. Each year the date and the time changes.

I wandered around, met some nice people who spoke English. So I chatted away, listen to the blah, blah, blah of the imam at the mosque. A big television screen was set up and slowly, slowly the square filled up with people. The great moment came while I was in the middle of eating a delicious Yazd ice cream! On the screen fire works erupted. People cheered, and more blah, blah, blah, from the imam. And that was it! It was finished! No dancing, no music, just religious propaganda. My new friend, Milad, told me he was an atheist and didn’t believe in all this waffle. The more I speak to young people, the more I hear this! The big dream, would you believe, is to go to America! Of all places!

After a decent amount of time I went back to the hostel, where the NoRuz was celebrated with lots of tea and food, of course! By twelve o’ clock I had enough of it all, and went to bed! Tomorrow I have to try to get to Dasthekhak, a small village near Zarand, which is a bigger village near Kerman!

As it is the first day of the new year, there were no buses going, even though my host had assured me there would be buses! Sanjay, the lovely young owner of the backpackers hostel, made a plan! Go to Imam Ali square first, yes bus, no problem, no bus, go to terminal. At terminal, ask for bus to Zarand, yes bus, no problem! No bus, ask for the bus to Kerman! At Kerman ask for a bus to Zarand! Yes bus, no problem! No bus, BIG problem! Catch a taxi from Kerman to Dasthekhak, cost of the hundred kilometre journey? A$20 ! Expensive? For Iran, yes, for Australians? No!

I arrived at Dashekhak at six o’clock in the evening. The taxi driver told me this is Hamid’s house! Okay, I went into the courtyard, knocked on the door, said hello to every one, had a cup of tea, lots of delicious biscuits. The house was full of visitors. Finally I asked the man who spoke English, if he was Hamid! Eh, NO! I walked into the neighbours house! I was so incredibly embarrassed.although they all thought it was lovely! I had to ring Hamid, who send his wife, to come and collect me! “Why didn’t you ring”, he asked. Well, I thought the taxi driver knew Hamid! What do I know? Duh! At 8.30 pm a lovely dinner was served and I met Anna, from Amsterdam, and Sef, from Switzerland. An early night was necessary, tomorrow Sef and I are going to see some villages, and than lunch at Fahima, Hamid’s wife, family for lunch. Delicious food was put in front of us. Mainly chicken dishes, with a delicious pommy granite sauce. Hamid told a funny story, that the first French tourist he had was vegetarian! Hamid thought it was a place in France! He had to learn to adapt a few dishes to NO meat dishes.

The second day on the homestay I wanted to spend wandering the village! This was NOT possible as a lone woman was raped and assaulted very early on, and Hamid had much problems with the police. Anna told me this story. Hamid was very vague about this. Sef, the Swiss guy left early, rather upset or worried about his bus. To the extent that he refused to pay the taxi driver! Strange ways of dealing with stress! I had a lovely quiet day. Nurturing my knee, rubbing lots of my daughter’s wonder cream in it and putting the leg up on a pile of cushions. I have noticed it plays up more when I have climbed a lot, or taken too many stairs. My heart and mind are only eighteen, it is the body which is falling apart. I have decided that my three day stay in Dubai will be a major nurturing experience! Hot baths and resting for at least two days. One day sightseeing!

Saturday we, two new Dutch girls had arrived, went to a small village, that was damaged in the earthquake of 1968 of the five hundred people who lived there, two hundred and fifty died. Over fifty percent. Hamid took us to the source of the water. All very interesting, all involved a lot of climbing. In the afternoon Fatimah gave cooking lessons, I like eating, not that interested in cooking. The girls asked lots of deep questions, about the oppression of women in Iran. Since Fahima is in charge in the home she could not imagine what the girls were talking about! She works so hard, from early morning to late at night.

It was an interesting evening, but by ten o’ clock at night I am no longer hungry. I had to get up early as my bus from Zarand, which should only take three hours, was leaving at seven am. Of course it took four hours. Still after a hot shower at the hostel, change of clothes, I was ready to hit the town! Visited a few old houses, the famous mosque, in which I had to wear an impromptu nylon piece of cloth as a chador. Useless bloody thing, every time I looked up the thing would slip down. Many women were willing to help with the appropriate way to hold it. I gave up in the end. It was hot, slippery and I couldn’t deal with it. I did a lot of wandering through the bazar, and little side streets. I was amazed at the amount of Iranian tourists in town, still part of NoRuz. Not many foreigners though.

Last day in Yazd I needed a pharmacist as I am out of sleeping tablets and painkillers, while still in a lot of pain, especially at night. Nuisance! I also bought a lovely cool top to wear in Dubai where the temperature is in the mid thirties. This needed a matching scarf, so it left me just a tad short of money. Need to pay for the taxies to hotels, bus terminal and also a taxi to the airport! So needed to change a bit of money, last lot. Couldn’t find the money changer place, decided to wander the back streets and Lo and behold who would I bump into? The Australian I met in Shiraz! It is a small world after all! We had a coffee and Bob, knew a few places of interest. So wandering together in searched of this allusive money changer. Backwards and forwards we went. Finally we asked a man, who took money out of the bank for me to change over. Since I had no idea of the exchange rates for euros, which I haven’t changed before, I am sure the exchange was in his favour. Not that this matters.

I shouted Bob some lunch, at a lovely kebab place. Dirt cheap. I think a huge meal with three drinks came to five dollars! Then it was time to go back to the hostel, where I had hoped to shower and changed, which I didn’t have the energy to do. Feeling rather sad, only one night left! Then tomorrow Dubai and the next stage of my adventure. Still haven’t book any accommodation in Bishkek yet. Will do that in Dubai. I am planning to do two weeks of Russian studies. See how that goes. Will write down all the Farsi I know, and get a Lonely Planet Farsi phrase book. The people appreciate it so much if you attempt to speak their language. Okay, another six hours on the evening bus, back to Shiraz.

Ah, life is good!!

Wandering woman

Time is flying so fast! It is hard to keep up. It is my last day in Shiraz, and I still have so much to do! Firstly going through the small alley ways of the old city, just around the corner of my hotel, Niayesh, is a contemporary art gallery. I had a hard time finding the place, but what a gem! The Lonely Planet glosses over the extend of this contemporary art collection. The gallery was set up by Hassan Meshkinfam. Who studied under Kamal al-Molk, the famous Iranian painter. I was fortunate enough to meet Hassan, and having a good chat about art, Iran and the importance of preserving the history of art and artists. Altogether it was two hours later before I walked out.

There were no taxies parked at the hostel, so I caught one in the street, the driver asked for 80 , when will I learn to classify toman or rials? One lives and learns. It was about five kilometres to the tomb of Hafez. We chatted most of e way, although he didn’t speak very good English, it was still better than my Farsi. When we arrived he asked for 800 rials! That is about twenty Aussie dollars! ( the fare is about three bucks) sometimes in situations like this, all one can do is laugh. Did I laugh! I laughed so much that tears ran over my face! I had to hold my belly, it was cramping! A nearby policeman came over to check what was going on. He spoke a smithering of English, I told him that the taxi driver was the funniest man I had ever met. In the mean time the taxi drive laughed sheepishly with me.

When the policeman stuck his head in to ask what was going on, the driver quickly wrote down 300 rial to show the cop. I decided to solve the problem in typical Libyan fashion. I split the amount in the middle, told him the extra hundred I was giving him, was due to my generosity and it being No Ruz.( new year) I could still here him lament while walking away! This is the second time somebody has tried to rip me off, both taxi drivers! Mind you I have since heard that the taxi drivers are worse in Tehran, which was not my experience at all.

The tomb of Hafez, is a monument to the great poet Hafez. It was packed with people, due to the new year. I met a group of English students, chatted for a while, spend time taking the compulsory selfies, and went back into town. I had not yet visited the Parsi museum, nor the Valik hamman, both high on my list. The taxi tried to negotiate double the price, what is it with these drivers here in Shiraz? I gave him the right fare, wished him a happy new year and went to find the museum. On the way I met a family, with their eighteen year old son.who spoke five languages fluently. His English was just excellent. His parents wanted him to ” guide” me through the gardens,we walked around ( it was very small) I send him back to his parents and I entered the small but exquisite museum.

Next on the list was a visit to the hamman, this one is restored, filled with life sized figures, mainly men, in different stages of bathing. I just love it. Again the place was packed, again I met English students and again hundreds of boring selfies. I survived this ordeal as per usual, and my Instagram followers are climbing in numbers! To treat myself I had a delicious coffee with an even more delicious cheesecake. I sat in the square, just watching the world go by, when a young artist appeared and started to work on the tree cosies, again for the new year! After a long period of time, draining the last drops of my saffron tea, I went to the Bazar.

I love wandering, I love exploring unvisited places. I love bazaars most of all. Just looking at the range of goods to sell. Especially in an age old caravanserai. Knowing that hundreds of years ago people were already here selling their goods. I like the way people hustle and bustle , going on with their daily tasks. Here is me, timeless in a timeless place. Every where I look there is a still life, waiting to be painted. I love to sit somewhere, just watching, listening and smelling this wonderful world, which I am allowed to experience. Going to Yazd soon.

Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naqsh- e Rostam

Today I visited three major sites, of Persian history, about eighty or so kilometres out of Shiraz. Ali, my driver was here nice and early. The sun was shining and although cool to start of with, it looked like it was going to be a wonderful sunny day. Ali, who very limited English, and me with my twenty sentences in Farsi, had a lot of fun trying to understand each other. Persepolis, Pasargadaes and Naqsh-e Rostam,

I know I have been joking about the traffic being absolutely awful, well today on the 160 kilometres round trip, I can explain to you all, WHY! All the traffic hops lanes for no reason at all, you just go across two or three lanes, zigzagging is what most cars do, even when there is no reason for it. That wouldn’t be so bad, but indicators are not at all used. They seem to be a luxury item, not to be used to often in case they wear out. The government of Iran could safe themselves millions of dollars by just not painting line on the road at all. Most cars, and the enormous amounts of trucks I saw today ride on the white line. I have aged at least ten years in one day, when next to a truck the truck decides to change lane, so they swing these enormous beast into our direction, while there is no -where to go!

Ali kept telling me that he was a real good driver, I agreed with him, but I am not so sure about these others. We had so many near misses, that I realise that there are no atheists on the roads of Iran! Speed limits also seem to be optional. Ali was sitting on 100 km an hour, while the signs indicated that it would be nice if the traffic could go at 80 kilometres an hour, or 60 even. It is all optional. Sometimes, if the driver in front of you slows down, you are forced to do so until you can drive across the other lanes. The worst thing is that I am sitting in the drivers seat, well, my Australian driver seat, while all the while praying these gas tankers don’t go across while we are next to them, I want to take control, at least of the brakes! Distance between cars? What? Is a matchbox not sufficient distance?? The government could save on signs indicating how much distance drivers should keep, how fast they should drive and white lines!

Where was I? Oh, yeah on the way to Persepolis, while have lots of mini heart attacks, we finally arrived. The entree was dirt cheap A$6, if my calculations are correct! You enter and walk a long boulevard to the great entrance. In the oldern days these had carvings on them. Some people were walking around with THREE D things in front of their eyes, and I asked this boy what they were. Well, they were amazing, where ever you looked the place would build itself up again. Like right in front of your eyes these palaces would be rebuilt. Amazing. I still didn’t work out if you got them at the entrance of people brought there own! As per usual I watched the video of what it used to look like after I had been to the site. Ali, allowed me only one and a half hour to walk around and I should have told him it wasn’t enough. It never is! Most of the tourists were Irani, but I met one French tour group. So not real busy and over- run by tourist.

After the magical experience of wandering around admiring the stone carvings of so long ago, it was time to move on to Pasargadae, where the tomb of Cyrus- the Great is. Seventy kilometres of sheer petrification, mini heart attacks, and at least three close call. I decided to keep my eyes closed until we were there. Ali gave me twenty minutes! Eh? I went through all this life changing trauma, for just twenty minutes at the site? No way!! At Pasargadae is where the tomb of Cyrus the Great stands. After walking a bit further, there was a caravanserais totally destroyed. The other sites were further away and for eighty cents one could catch a little tourist train. This I did. There was not much left of it all, but I was taken lots of photos of what looked like ancient calligraphy on a big rock, when a man pointed out the the inscription of ” I AM CYRUS ” ! It was high up at the top of the stellae. I had been photographing the graffiti ! Well, I could easily be forgiven as the graffiti looked a lot like our Indigenous rock carvings!!

When I came back I noticed a change in Ali, I had taken over fourty five minutes, rather than the “allowed” twenty minutes! Mental note to self I must ask how much time I pay for as well! He kept asking me if I was hungry, but since my hostel has an enormously great and tasteful breakfast, I kept saying I wasn’t! It never occurred to me to ask him if he was! My only excuse for that was that he had brought Iranian stone bread in the morning. It is called stone bread, (because it is cooked on a hot flat stone).I made the assumption he had brought his own lunch!! The last stop was the tomb of Darius the great,his son Darius the second, Xerxes the great and Artaxerxes I. Magnificent rock carvings! Stunning stone carvings. Very beautiful!

On the way back to Shiraz, again Ali started about food, finally I clicked! So I offered to buy him lunch! We stopped at an expensive tourist restaurant, when we arrived there, he didn’t want lunch at all! He wanted an extra € 7, rather than the lunch , he wanted extra money!! I gave him a five American dollar tip! Which is quite extravagant for Iran. I figured it being No Ruz and all ( Iranian new year) he argued and argued! I don’t often loose my cool while travel, always being aware that I am a guest in a foreign country! This time however I lost it!! Basta!! Enough, in many languages! He got the drift! The next day I ignored his on the hour phone calls, you can cheat me, but often not more than once! Just such a shame as I had a fabulous day, magnificent history, and literally lived all day on the edge!

Superb Shiraz

It is harder and harder to decide which place I like the best! After a bus trip on a VIP bus, of course, I arrived at the Niayesh hotel. I had slept most of the bus trip but was still that exhausted, so a dinner and early night! The next day was Friday and since my back, knee and the rest of my body was ready to collapse, I asked the girls at the front desk if the knew where I could get a massage, and preferable a Hamman. Well, there is this five star hotel, very famous, except my taxi driver couldn’t find it! I had walked for about an hour, when I realised I was completely and totally lost! This is the norm by the way, just ask my children about my legendary sense of direction!!

The Hamman was beautiful the massage mediocre(I needed Jenny Edwardes!! )Anyway as I was quoted the price in euro I tried paying in that currency! Not possible! Okay, I went with my bill upstairs to the reception, gave him the bill and my twenty euro, I needed five change, so I got this pile of money. I thought I paid my bill! ( I had a splitting headache and felt very sleepy!) I asked if I could use their excellent wifi, so crawled into a corner to feed my Facebook addiction. This man comes up to me and asks if he can see my bill! Of course, sir here it is, I paid!! Well, eh, actually I did NOT pay! He just changed my money into rials and expected me to go down to pay at the Hamman desk! Oops!! Needless to tell you I felt, again, like a total dork!! I must have turned bright red of embarrassment, both men were profusely apologising to ME!

I returned to the hotel and again had an early night, slept like a babe, which was good because I had planned for a busy day!! I visited the pink mosque as it is known, Masjid-e Nasir-al- Molk. I doubted that the sun would come through after a night of rain! Iran is in the middle of a drought right now and the rivers are empty! I was fortunate, as per usual all the good luck was on my side! The clouds lifted, the sun shone through the blue and red window and lo and behold the magic light show was on! It was mesmerising! I stayed as long as I could, until the first tour bus with French tourists arrived. Then I wandered around the rest of the complex. I met Fatimah who spoke to me about Islam and their believes, she was a devoted Muslim and the photo I took showed her as a Madonna! I like to make a drawing or painting of her. She was so genuine, and so pure, that it was a delight to spend time in her presence.

After a delightful intermezzo at the coffee shop outside the mosque, when I asked this handsome green eyed man if the little ten year old was his son, in Farsi I may add, to which he acknowledge the boy as his ” pesar” and afterwards found out it was the son of the shop owner, afterwards I called the green eyed man , “Pinocchio”, which they all found delightful, I am sure there were double meanings going on, as they kept giggling like a pair of teenage school girls!

Bagh- e Naranjestan, which is named after the bitter oranges that line the central courtyard, the smell of the blossoms and hyacinths was divine.

It is Shiraz’s smallest, but without a doubt the most beautiful garden! It is enclosed by the Naranjesran-e Ghavam Pavillion. It was built for the wealthy and powerful Mohammed Ali Ghan Qavam al- Molk between 1879 and 1886 as the buruni,( public reception area) of his family home. The pavillion’s mirrored entrance hall opens onto rooms covered with intricate tiles, woodwork and stain glass windows. The ceilings of the upstairs rooms are painted with European style churches and busty women.

I had barely finished seeing the upstairs, when I bumped into an elderly woman, we both ” be- baksheed” ( excuse me) and the necessary ” mote asefam” ( I am sorry) she must have thought I spoke Farsi!! We yakker away like long lost friends. She told me that she had three sons, and three daughters, I told her that I have one daughter and a son, and no, so sorry, but no grand children! This is the extend I can communicate with people but after this exchange I have to tell them that no, I don’t speak Farsi!! ( mind you it is killing me not being able to speak it!) so see called out to her grand daughter, Yasimin, to translate.

This old woman after a five minute exchange, invited me to a traditional Shiraz lunch!! I managed to say yes ( no is not an accepted options in Iran, unless you are on your death bed!) but could I please just finish seeing this magical place first? They gave me fifteen minutes to run around and finish sight seeing. Loaded me in a taxi, grand Ma, grand daughter, daughter and daughter in law. We went somewhere in the heart of Shiraz, in the back streets, zigzag, criss crossing to this magnificent house cum restaurant! It had a small courtyard, with orange trees, heavy with fruit. It was magic, not a tourist in sight! Grand Ma set the placing, I had her on the left and Yasimin on the right, and they ordered enough food to feed two armies!

” Begor, Begor” was the first Farsi word I ever learned twenty five years ago in India! Eat, eat is the Iranians favourite word, Yasimin loaded my plate up, while I noticed that they all had very little on their plate, oops, they probably had a large breakfast just like me! I have all the names some where for these magnificent local Shiraz dishes. Each and every one more delicious than the next. After I felt I was going to blow up, things were put in take away containers, I was refused to participate in the payment, loaded into a taxi and taken to this magnificent house, recently restored. Apparently Yasimin and her family lived in the flat of the top floor, near the entrance of this place, and their kitchen overlooked the awesome gardens. We looked around, climbed all the stairs to the top floor and I was offered tea. You guessed it of course, the sweets came out and the by now famous ” Begor, Begor” started again! Only by really declaring defeat, no more, please!! Was I allowed to go back to my hotel. Grandma and I are now life long friends and we are proof that language is not necessary, the language of the heart is all that we need! I needed an early night as I had planned my trip to Persipolis for the day after!

Arty Farty in Isfahan

It was my last morning in Isfahan. My wonderful, chatty hotel owner, Sam, was surprised I didn’t see this wonderful palace, called Chetel Sofun.  So, as I had booked a half a day tour of the city, starting at midday, I raced out after breakfast, only to find that it didn’t open until nine o’ clock.

You wouldn’t believe it but next door was the contemporary art museum, where this kind and friendly man let me go in early, before they were officially open! There was a sculpture show on from Tony Cragg, an English man who happens to live in Germany. It was a magnificent building, rather small, but so intimate, it was just absolute magic!

These little gems keep coming up on a daily basis. Have I told you that I have fallen in love with this country? It is just amazing. After this magic show, I went to the palace, just before the tour buses came!  The palace  Kakh-e Chetel Sotun was  built as pleasure pavilion and reception hall. The name means the palace of the forty pillars! There are only twenty pillars, but normally, when there is water in the long pool, there are forty pillars reflected.  

It is richly decorated. And some amazing paintings! I was in awe, like I have been on a daily basis, over and over again!! I walked around the gardens, there was water at the back, which adds so much more to the beauty of the place. Most places are being cleaned up for NoRooz the up coming new year!

Before I knew it time was up! I had to rush back to the hotel, change and get ready for my last adventure in Isfahan! My half day tour, which was over eight hours long! And turned into the most amazing afternoon EVER!

Incredible Isfahan

What a city! What an incredible city. What an enormously interesting place! Such history. Hard to sum it all up in one page. I stayed at Hotel Iran, an amazing gathering place. Run by three brothers, a place of kindness and friendliness. Siyamak, Sam for short, is a story teller, who lived for over twenty years in Canada. The hotel is within walking distance of the main square.

Imam Khomeini square where most of the important buildings are situated. Less than fifteen minutes walking, one gets to the biggest square I have ever seen. At the top, instead of a cathedral , there is the big mosque, Jaame Abbasi mosque, with the most amazing acoustics ever. I was very fortunate that my new friend Hamid, sang parts of the Q’ran for me. It gave me goosebumps.

There is a big palace, with frescoes, and the whole square is surrounded by the Bazar. Shopping seems to be a major past time, until I found out it was about shopping for NoRuz, the Iranian New Year! One of the first things one notices in Iran is all the white plasters on women’s, and some men’ s noses! Plastic surgery is very big here. Nose jobs being number one! Had I known that I would have booked in to remove the bags under my eyes, than travel for six months and come back totally rejuvenated. Hm! This still can be done! People watching is one of my major hobbies and there is plenty opportunities in the square. Just sitting on a bench and watching the world go by.

There are so many buildings of interest here. I saw only a small part of it. Mainly because my knee is giving me a lot of grief and I need to pace myself, not easy to do when everything is fascinating and stunningly beautiful. The night life is interesting too. I only managed to have the energy to go out twice in the evening, and watch families shop. It is a little bit like Christmas, but people buy food and new clothing rather than presents and toys, it is all very exciting, it is springtime here in Isfahan, and during the day it can be rather warm. The trees are budding and the flowers are starting to bloom. What a great time of the year to celebrate a new beginning! There is a high energy in the air and the children and adults are all full of energy and expectations.

I spend most of my days walking, from one mosque to the next. Resting where ever possible and tasting the amazing ice creams! I had spaghetti ice cream twice now. It is a required taste. It has of course nothing to do with spaghetti. In Farsi it is called Falode, and it is really a speciality of Shiraz.

One of the highlights was the Armenian quarters. Isfahan has several really old bridges, which look fabulous at night, and one of the bridges leads to the Armenian quarters. The first thing I saw was a craft market, which I love. I wanted to buy a small, hand made little bag, and the girl gave it to me! This is how it goes all the time! Be careful what you say, people give it to you immediately! Just to make sure she wouldn’t miss out, I bought one also. The friendliness of the people is overwhelming, have I already written that?

 

Kool Kashan

The village of Nushabad, where my small apartment was, has underground cities. (which I never got to see!) The taxi driver Saleh, took me back to Kashan, early the next morning. He had been told by my host to spend the day with me, but since he spoke NO English I dismissed him as kindly as possible.

Kashan was impressive. So many really old houses which are slowly being restored. As soon as I entered the first museum house, I was asked for a selfie, I ” snarled” that they could take one and then leave me alone! Oops! This is very unusual for me, I am friendly most of the time, then I realised I had nothing to eat since lunch the day before. I needed a coffee and some food. By sheer luck I found “Mister Coffee”, a trained barista, who just opened his shop only ten days ago! Iranian omelette and two cups of wonderful coffee later I felt human!

I visited Khan-e-Boroujerdi, which was stunningly beautiful with its six sided, domed badgirs, and frescoes painted by the famous Iranian painter, Kamal al-Molk, of the VIP blob. khan-e-Tabatabaei, which is renowned for its intricate stone reliefs and lastly Khan-e- Abbassian which has many courtyards. Then I wandered into the Hammam Sultan Mir Ahmad, which was build over five hundred years ago!

I wandered around the ancient bazar, where trading has been going on for over eight hundred years! It was beautiful, and compared to the bazar in Tehran, very quiet. Shopping is a main past time, especially just before No Ruz, the Iranian New Year.
My host ignored all the messages and calls until seven at night. Again, no dinner, but luckily I had a fabulous cheese cake with my superb coffee, so I wasn’t really hungry. He did stop at a stand so I could buy some bananas, where I met a lovely young fellow, who had lived and worked in Germany. So a good time to practise my German!

The next morning, after a lot of hassle, I finally got the taxi driver to drop me of at the same place as yesterday, as I had booked a tour, which would take me to Isfahan, and drop me of in front of my hotel. This tour took me to the old picturesque village of Abyaneh. It is at the foot of Mt Karkas (3899) . It is a warren of steep, twisting little streets, red mud brick houses that are deteriorating rapidly. The houses have lattice windows and lovely little balconies. The men and women still dress in their traditional clothing. I was on a tour with a lovely young Dutch man, rather than the French couple, which I was told would come with me.

After about two hours of walking we visited the old mosque Masjed-e Jameh, built in the early 14 th century. Our taxi driver had to be taught, very early in the trip, NOT to use his mobile! And after several prompts, he got my drift! He would pull over to use his phone! Well, done, ineke!! I arrived at the Iran Hotel at four thirty, and thought I was in heaven!! Great room, friendly English speaking staff and a very, very hot shower to ease my aching bones! Welcome to Isfahan or Esfahan! The city of MAGIC!

Very VIP

Time is flying! This country is just so amazing! On Tuesday, my young friend Shabnam, came to pick me up. What an adventures we had! First we took the metro! Wow! I mean, I live in a town where we have three traffic lights and 15,000 people! The metro has special carriages for women, which was lovely. We went to this palace first, but the coffee shop and the palace were both closed. ( the palace for renovations)  but we were allowed to walk in the amazing garden! Which would be even more amazing in about two weeks time! Spring is in the air, it is lovely during the day. Very pleasant for walking.

Well what to do next? Ah, we are near the museum and library, let’s go there! Good plan! Except minor little detail, there had been an ISIS attack just a few weeks back, and now one has to apply TWO weeks before! The museum has the biggest collection of  Kamal Ol-Molk, one of the greatest Iranian painters. Well, having Shabnam with me proved really helpful, we were invited to have lunch in the staff canteen, where we had a fabulous home cooked lunch, dirt cheap.

Two hours later, we caught the bus! Shabnam had bought me the most delicious smoothie ever, with pistachio nuts on top! Oops! I had two back teeth removed this year, and l and behold I cannot eat nuts any more, bummer! So here I am standing on the bus, hanging on for dear life, hand on pole, other one on smoothie, Shabnam whispered that my scarf had fallen down! Okay, now what!? I only have two hands!! She was so incredibly sweet.  Gently she pulled my scarf up!

Finally we arrived at her beautiful where I met her gorgeous sister, Shiva, and her lovely mum. Shabnam is an incredibly gifted water colourist, and after a magnificent diner which could have fed an army, we looked through her works, before I was dropped off at my hostel again! What an amazing day! Overwhelmingly friendly people, the way three men put their job on the line to accommodate a complete stranger,  the hospitality of Shabnam’s family, I want you all to know that I appreciated every effort you all took today! It was just magic! A big heartfelt THANK YOU!

Persian birdsong

It was five am. The incredible birdsong woke me from some pleasant dream. I kept my eyes closed. The birds were singing in Persian! Slowly a smile crept over my face. I am in IRAN! I am HERE! I felt totally relaxed and rested! It took me from Friday night till Monday morning to get my body back to normal. I showered early, I love this quiet time in the hostel, before people start to wake up. I plan my day slowly afterwards.

There was a city walk, all the way down to the palace and the Grand Bazaar. After breakfast I set out on another adventure. The sun was shining, the birds kept singing in my heart. The smile stayed on my lips. As soon as I opened my Lonely Planet for guidance, people would stop, asking if I needed any help. Five people standing around me, how to get to Golestan Palace. Opinions were divided. Finally, an elderly man took control. Straight across the enormous roundabout, then right, then left. It sounded rather simple! This roundabout is HUGE! Traffic coming and going, what to do? This workman, holding his toolkit in one hand, was strolling across, I  skittered over to him, made sure I had him between me and the oncoming traffic, and got across. He was talking to me in Parsi. I have no idea about what. I just told him that the traffic was absolutely crazy, he smiled, obviously no idea what I was saying either. I have mentioned the traffic, haven’t I?

The palace was enormous! Entry fees were 500,000 rials. Before I got a heart attack I asked how much it was in U$ . Ten dollars? PHewww. Sounds so much better. It was beyond words to describe. I was speechless. My inner child loves anything that sparkles, glitters or mirrors. So I was in my prime playing time. Plastic booties over my sandals meant I could skate on the marble floors. School groups were plentiful, all wanting selfies with the blue-eyed foreigner and practice their English! My Instagram followers are increasing daily! I could have spent many more hours, but it was time to go shopping.

The Grand Bazaar was just around the corner, and oh boy, it was chocker block packed! Unbelievable! So many shoppers, never seen before. Hard to get in. I had planned to buy a manteau( overcoat)  but size 44 is the largest there was. This wouldn’t fit over my winter top! Fortunately, a lovely French back packer had given me her coat the day before. Too small as well, but as it is getting warmer daily, it will do for the time being. I took a taxi back to the hotel. Expensive! A whole A$5

At two pm. My dear old friend from twenty -five years ago was coming to pick me up. We were going into the mountains. Ah, this feeling, this incredible feeling, when you meet up with like-minded people after such a long time,  and you realise, that nothing has changed! It was as if we met yesterday. We gossiped about old friends, people who have since passed away. Reminisced about our adventures and stupid things we did, so many, many years ago in a country far, far away. We went to this magic place, high up near the mountains. Shame the rain started, and last weeks snow and rain damaged had not yet been cleared. I had an excellent fish kebab, and of course tea.

Tea is one of the main things in Iran. I had hoped to lose weight by not drinking alcohol, fat change, the tea comes with a stick of yellow sugar, I have forgotten the name, and it is just sooo delicious that I can’t resist! So far I have resisted the Iranian sweets. I remember from the good times had with my Iranian friends in Mysore, India, that they can be irresistible!

All art!

You may, or not, have noticed that my image problems have been solved! Hallelujah! Thank god for young people who know what they are doing! This morning I walked to the cathedral, yes, indeed, a cathedral! There was a Mass going on, so I sat quietly in the back until my phone rang! Now my new non i phone is as quiet as a mouse, but not during Mass! It was SO loud. Totally embarrassed I snuck out to answer! It was my dear friend, from twenty five years ago! I was not aware that people worked on Sundays! They only have Friday off! Bit of getting used to! 

I caught a taxi from the cathedral to the museum of modern art, which cost me 150.000rials! I nearly had kittens, until I realised it was just under $5 ! Oops! I gave the taxi driver too much money, but he gave it back, went through my wallet and explained in his language that I gave him the wrong money! As the entree to the gallery was the same and this man spoke English I could ask him how much it was in U$ indeed only three dollars!! Phewww! This money is not for the faint hearted, the good news is that I am a millionaire! In rials that is.

The Museum for modern art was an absolute gem. There was an exhibition on of  Ali Akbar Sadeghi, indeed it did not mean anything for me either. At the entrance I met a lovely woman who spoke excellent English and who explained a lot to me. Fascinating stuff! Amazing building as well. I felt inspired, and was ready to paint!! Instead Fara shouted me a drink! You wouldn’t believe it, but they had MOJITOS at the cafeteria! Okay, so it was Iranian , not Cuban! ( no alcohol) Still deliciously refreshing with lots of lemons, and yeah, sugar!!

This sums up how I feel about technology!! Good night to all!

 

Money matters

The hostel was found after an hour and a half ride from the airport. My taxi driver’s English was limited, but he starts at five in the morning till ten at night! This humbled me enormously, I complain after three hours of work! I didn’t realise the Khomeini airport is more than thirty kilometres from the city centre. The drive took forever. I was so incredibly tired couldn’t keep my eyes open, I also couldn’t shut them as I didn’t want to miss anything! ” I am in Iran” this mantra kept playing and playing. It is true , I AM in Iran! Traffic is mad, like rice, my taxi driver said, you must be quick! But it all flowed.

The hostel is situated in a small side street. It looks very humble from the outside. I received a lovely cup of coffee, which didn’t counter act the fact that I was, after 44 hours of being awake, dead on my feet! Check in, room keys. A lovely room two single beds, plain, but very clean. Toilet and shower next door. I thought I would have the energy to have a shower, I didn’t. Put gadget on charger, two prongs popped out which I didn’t need! Pushed them back in while converter was plugged in! Bad idea! Auch! A BIG shock! Okay, now I know for sure, without sleep I am stupid! Let gadget sort itself out I am going to sleep!

Breakfast is included. Lovely crispy sort of bread. Must ask what it is called. Feta cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes. With the tea, fill up your mug with hot water, very strong tea sits on the top, wonderful! Started to draw the lounge room. Spoke to the lovely Mahsa at the front desk, she is an artist too. She protested against women against wearing the scarf. I forgot to put mine in this morning! Oops! My mistake. On the eight of March there will be a BIG rally against the restrictions of women. Shame I won’t be here. Seems like something worthwhile to protest against!  Women wear mainly black, which is a tad depressing. I hope to buy a red manteau, a sort of long coat! To wear over everything. I had a big walk to the square where money changes hands. Long, long queues. Oops! May be the money gets given away here? Ah, these are Iranian people WANTING dollars or Euros. I was allowed in immediately, and without any proof of identity ( forgot to bring my passport) was allowed to change my money, or some of it, I am travelling with an enormous amount of  cash, as Visa card nor master cards are not accepted here. ( ban comes from visa and master NOT from Iran) on the way back to the hostel, I wandered into a lovely cultural centre where my face book page got solved. I needed an extra app to by pass the restrictions that the government has put on Facebook. I still can’t post photos or anything else on Facebook so bear with me on that one.  The same here on the blog, my media insert does not work at all! Today I woke up at 5 am, mind you I was in bed at 3 pm. The old bod is no longer what it used to be! I didn’t sleep all the way though, few hours in between I was awake. Dreaming about what I am going to do today! Hopefully visit the art gallery and the big bazaar. I will keep you updated. When stressed, carrot juice AND. Chocolate chipped ice cream!

Awesome combination for an upset stomach!

Terrific Tehran

I have arrived! In Tehran. As I left Sydney and checked in at the airport, there seemed to be an issue with my visa for Iran! Apparently three days AFTER my visa expired I had an ongoing flight from Dubai. The airline required proof of my ferry trip from Iran to Dubai. Well, duh, I haven’t booked my ferry as yet as there is NO visa payment possible, so NO on line booking possible! Well, according to the lovely lady from Lebanon, I would have to buy a new visa on arrival in Tehran! As my Iranian visa was the most expensive visa EVER, you can imagine my shock at the prospect that it was not going to be valid! Ah well, I’ll see what happens, I thought. If worse comes to the worst I will buy a new visa, it is only money.

The flight was long and exhausting. Met a lovely lady, Dianna from Lebanon. Well, from Sydney really. I watched quite a few movies and arrived in Abu Dhabi, were I was singled out, and put in the naughty corner, as there was something WRONG with my Iranian visa!! My first thought was that the woman in Sydney put a RED flag on my ticket! I had to wait for the manager to arrive, which he or she didn’t do. In the end, I was told I would have to buy an ongoing ticket from Iran to Dubai. I sagely nodded my head and agreed to everything they told me!! Just don’t send me back!!

On arrival in Muscat, my boarding pass was taken from me, and I was told to wait in the corner AGAIN! This time however, there was a big mob of Iranian people, who all asked me what was wrong! As my boarding pass was put through the machine all the red lights started flashing and bells started to ring! by now three young men, who all spoke perfect English all tried to re assure me that all would be well. In the end the man gave me my OWN boarding pass back and said nothing.

You can all imagine how I was by now very concerned about arriving in Tehran!! What if I was send back? All the Iranian people re assured me that I would be fine. On arrival in Tehran my by now two musketeers promised to wait for me to see what would happen at immigration. I was friendly and polite, he salaamed me, I salaamed back, he smiled, I smiled back, he stamped my passport and welcomed me into Iran! Problem? What problem? He didn’t even ASK if I had an ongoing ticket! So all this scare mongering was totally useless.

The first thing, after finding a toilet, was to exchange some money so I could catch a taxi to my hostel in Central Tehran. Well, said the man at the exchange boot, you get much, much better rates in the centre of Iran. I have very high exchange rates! Can you imagine a business in Oz saying, don’t buy from me I am too expensive?? Unbelievable. I also saw that I could buy a SIM card at the airport! My young rescuers bought me my SIM card, PAID for my taxi!! And apologised that they had family commitments and couldn’t drop me off at my hostel! Unbelievable!! We exchanged phone numbers, and they followed me on Instagram!! By the time I reached my hostel one and a half hour later, there was already a message to ask if I had arrived safely! Friendly? It is beyond friendly!! I felt incredibly humbled, by the whole experience. Can you imagine anybody doing this in Australia? Well, I can’t!

When I told the friendly young man at the hostel about my experience with the three musketeers , he nodded his head, as if this was a common experience, and said, welcome to Iran! Iran, I have already fallen in love with the people here! I am not so sure however about the traffic, nor the pollution! Pedestrian’s lives are very, very cheap, I think! I just stand with other people who want to cross the road, make sure those people stand between me and e oncoming traffic and pray that I won’t be run over today! There are no atheists on the streets of Tehran! ( I have difficulties posting photos, here and on Facebook, hope to get this sorted in the near future!)

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