After reading the last post one might think that I didn’t like Armenia, but that was certainly not the case. Maybe it was not the right time. The thing was that on the one hand Georgia was absolutely amazing and it’s hard to match that experience, on the other hand we we’re so eager to go to Iran.
After hearing and reading about the experiences of other travelers, we had so many expectations of this country and its people. It sounds silly, but it felt like the first exotic country on this trip (which is a stupid thing to say after everything I saw, but that is how it felt). And I would be lying if I’d say that all the warnings and “good” advice about not going to Iran, didn’t make it more interesting for me.
So let’s get this post started by saying that a lot of the things you hear about Iran in the media is true, BUUUUT the media is mostly reporting about the government of Iran and not it’s people. There are democratic elements in the Iranian constitution, but in the end Sharia (Islamic law) dominates the political processes and so the voice of the people is easily silenced by a few who live by the Quran. Countless people I met made it quite clear to me, that they are not happy with their leaders.
But enough of the wining for now, I promised myself not to get too political. So Chris and I crossed the border from Armenia into Iran. We didn’t have any problems, but we had to wait an hour until the border officials finished their breakfast (at 11 AM). We cycled West, along the Armenian and Azerbaijan border. We could have thrown a stone over the river and it would have landed in Azerbaijan (I’m still angry with Azerbaijan for their ridiculous visa costs and requirements), but we decided not to so, because the border guards in their towers already gave us the evil eye.
After just 30 minutes in Iran, we got stopped by a white Peugot (French cars are eeeeverywhere in Iran). The two Iranian passengers didn’t speak much English. They just asked us where we are going, we didn’t have a map and said we’re going to the capital, Tehran, because that would eventually be on our way. They made a couple of calls, went back to their car to get a paper and wrote down a couple of city names and phones numbers. They told us if we came to any of these cities we should call these numbers and we would be helped.
That’s what Iranian hospitality is all about and it’s not the only time it happened. Actually through these two guys I met many people all over the country and they indeed helped me a lot.
Our first big city was Tabriz. Looking back now, the city was not that special, but we were enchanted. The food, the people, the sound/noise, everything we thought it would be and more. We stayed in Tabriz for a week and met Roman, a German who’s riding his van through Asia (and beyond). Roman was a really cool and easy going guy. He managed to bring less equipment in his car than I did on my bike (except for clothes, he doesn’t like washing, so he brought boxes full of clothes) and so he had enough space to carry our stuff and bikes on his van. We went to a village build into sand stone that looked a lot like termite hills, climbed a 3400m peak and went to the 2nd saltiest lake in the world (which was amazingly unspectacular). After spending three days together our ways parted, but like most travelers know, the world can seem ridiculously small at times: Chris met Roman again two months later at Mumbai airport in India. And now it seems our paths will cross again in South East Asia.
I spend three months in Iran, so there is going to be one or two more posts in the (hopefully) near future.