So we finally made it to Iran! Our travel in this country started slow, a little bit disappointing, but our adventures progressed quickly, so that we have a big bag with great stories from the Middle East for you. We have experienced so much, that we consider ourselves in a position to give you – with the following articles – not only an impression about our personal adventures, but also about politics, culture, daily life and especially traffic in Iran. But first of all we`ll start in this first article with our travels.
After we became millionaires by changing some Euros at the border into Iranian Rial (the rate is approx. 1 to 15500), we headed east and got an amazing reward for the border-stress. The sunset at the saltlake named Urmia-Lake gave us a first idea of the beautiful landscape of Persia.
The next recompense of the unjoyful border experience was already waiting for us in Tabriz, one of the bigest cities in Iran. There we met Masoud, an Iranian student, who invited us into his appartment for the next couple of nights. Glad about this warm and comfortable place to stay we prepared a nice dinner (green beans with rice – ‘Lubia polo’ as far as we remember) together with Masoud and his cousin, learned some card-games and finally fell asleep.
The next day we made a trip alltogehter in the bus to see Kandovan, a very ancient, 3000 year old village that is located directly in the mountains. People built their houses right into the sand stone and have been living here for hundreds and thousands of years untouched by major modernisation. But of course nowadays a lot of tourism has found its way into here, what we were a little bit annoyed of, although I know we are just visitors ourselves. On the way to Kandovan me (Stefan) and Masoud’s cousin were trying to play chess in the back of the car. Due to the numerous speed bumps on the Iranian roads, it was quite a tough job for the driver Simon to ensure us good playing conditions and once, by going to quickly over one of these damn obstacles, he messed up our whole game.
After this we didn’t want to deny Masoud and his cousin the opportunity to have a game on our table soccer. Actually, Simon and me, we were really keen about having our first match versus Iranians. So we went from Kandovan into a nice park in Tabriz and built up the table right there.
When it got darker, we were invited to a skatepark of a friend of Masoud. When we arrived there, we felt transported back into our teens. Techno music sounding like ‘Blümchen’ or ‘DJ Bobo’ was all over the place and everybody was going crazy about inline-skating and skateboarding, a thing that started similarly in Germany 15 years ago. Out of a sudden even a Kia Pride came along with music on board, which encouraged some people to dance and improvising breakdance-moves in front of the car – seeing this and knowing this just happens in Iran, I was pretty amused about the scenery.
At the same time, inspired by his own skating experiences many years ago, Simon tried some skating and immediately got many new friends. But when the Iranian skater-hipsters got little to pushy, wanting to have a race with him, we left and had something to eat in the ‘Godfahter’ restaurant. Simon and me actually wanted to have something traditionally Persian to eat, but it finally ended up with the conclusion, that this ‘Godfather’ was pretty much the same bullshit as McDonalds, just with the pictures of Ayatolla Khomeini and his successor Khamenei hanging at the wall instead of Ronald Mcdonald After eating we bought some snacks in a small shop and looked out for something to drink. Since Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran and gets officially punished with 139 lashes, we watched out for something similar and – believe it or not – we got some nonalcoholic Oettinger in a little shop.
After one more day together with Masoud in Tabriz, we left the city into northern direction to hit the Caspian Sea, which we were very curious to see. Beach, swimming, fresh air, delicious oriental food – some kind of these thoughts were circling in our heads. After a damn long drive over the Elburs mountains and partly on the motorway called (no kidding): „Martyrhighway“, we made it to the coast, but we were mostly disappointed of its appearance. The hole 750 km of Irans coastline was completely overcrowded and overloaded with buildings or remainings of those. The few „beaches“ that remain are completely wasted, because people living here – as in the whole Iran – do not really care about their environment and are just throwing all their stuff in the nature (see picture below to get an impression). Another thing which really started to annoy us, was the traffic and the crazyness, Iranians use to „what they call it“ drive. More to this topic in an extra article coming soon.
Summarising for this day, the experiences had left us with a taste of disappointment. Cause we didn`t find a place to park the car at the seaside, we spent the night in a very poor looking area with little houses, watched a movie and dreamed about upcoming adventures. The next morning we were pretty surprised, when an Iranian lady came by to our Bus knocking at the door. First of all, we were annoyed by her waking us up, but we soon realized that she was holding a breakfast on a plate (Cay-tea, biscuits, fruits etc.) right in front of her. Of course, we kindly opened up and the woman warmly invited us into her house for lunch. By trying to use our picturebook, which is supposed to make an understanding without knowing a foreign language easier, the lady unfortunately misunderstood the situation and thought this book is a gift from us to her. So she just took it very thankfully and being polite, as we are, we continued our travels having one piece of luggage less.
After another night at the Caspian Sea we headed back south, again through the Elburs mountains, to make it to Tehran. When we arrived, it was an iranian celebration day, called Natureday (for us little ironically, since we didn`t see untouched nature so far). Tehran, a city of approx. 15 Million people, was like dead, as all the people went out into the nearby mountains for vacation and all shops were closed. Being pretty lost in this big and noisy city with no internet available, we were glad that Patricia and Greg from the U.S., the former host family of Simon’s girlfriend Anna, had offered us a contact in Tehran – Macih or Mac, as we call him. So after giving Mac a call in the same evening, we could not have been happier to meet him at his flat in the center of the city next noon. The next days turned out to be very exciting, entertaining and eye-opening to us. Mac was reading out of the Koran to us, to teach us about Islam (see below), showing us around Tehran (and the political situation), taking us out to some traditional Persian restaurant and he was even cleaning our car for us (without permission). Dear Mac, thank you for hosting us for so many days in your quiet and restful flat! We are so glad having met you more or less by coincidence – we will miss the nice discussions about Iran, religion, life in general, your pilot stories and of course your swearing like a trooper while in Iranian traffic !!!
Next and last stop for us in Teheran was the olympic-town, a huge sport-area, situated in the middle of the city. Every sport you can imagine, you`ll find it here, from rock-climbing, bowling, any fitnessstuff, swimming to even paintball. And the very best, unlike the rest of Tehran, here you can smell a lot of green nature and fresh, non-polluted air. Ok, so far so good, but you probably wonder, how and especially for what reason we got to this place. The answer is named Mr. Mohammad Chamani. He is the coach of the Iranian national team in table-soccer and a very very kind person. We got this enjoyable contact through Volker Gröschl, an German table-soccer-player, who supports us permanently on our trip. Thanks a lot Volker! So we got the opportunity to play against the Iranian nationl team and even had the honor, to challenge Abdulla, Irans most successful player and one of the best players on our planet. We didn`t look too good, but at least we shot a few goals, which satisfied us a lot. During our gaming we were also asked to give an interview for the iranian sports TV, so Simon and me answered the reporter`s questions, while Mac, who joined us for this happening, translated for us. Actually Mac couldn’t have made a better job looking like a real officia person – so thanks again for doing this for us! A few days later they broadcasted it and hopefully we`ll get a copy of our TV-perfomence sended to Germany. Our last night in Tehran we spent in a nice hotel in the olympic-sports-area, sponsored by Mohammad. Before our departure he invited us to take a swim and hang out in the whirl-pool, while having a great view at the Iranian mountainside. We even got 3 original Iranian-National-Team-Table-Soccer-Jackets as a gift (one is actually for you, Volker!).
So, that was our stay in Tehran – awesome!!! The things we gonna experience after Tehran will be even more crazy - promise - and for the upcoming article we won`t have you wait to long. And Mohammad, we really have to thank you sooo much, it felt, like you took care of us as of your own children. We appreciate this a lot. Hopefully, we will see you again, maybe in Germany for a match