In the evening I had an appointment with Zari and Saba in café in the ASP building. Roman wanted to meet a friend there as well, so we went together, but I was an hour late, so Iranian style…. Afterwards Saba and Zari cruised with me around Tehran a little but and listening to “The Show Must Go On” by Queen we acknowledged it should be the inofficial national anthem of Iran.
Day 33,22.2, Sunday
Roman, Tobias and I went to the carpet museum. In the metro it happened for the first time since my arrival that someone told me he liked Hitler. It was a guy from Baluchistan and he said he liked Hitler or he was his friend. I replied, Hitler was an idiot and I didn’t like him. It made him angry and when Tobias told him in German to shut up, the boy pretended starting a fight with us.
On the way to the museum, Tobias was nearly robbed by a moto-driver. He sat some time on his vehicle, not driving away, which I found weird. Then he accelerated and we thought he hit Tobias by accident, but he wanted to grab his bag.
On our room-mate Arne’s opinion the carpet museum was boring, but in our opinion wasn’t.
When we were on our way back to the metro we saw that two days later an inauguration of an exhibition of the German Otto Piene would be held. Tobias wanted to go and ask the next day for further details.
Day 35, 24.2, Tuesday
It was the day of the Otto Piene inauguration. We met at 5pm at the entrance of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts, but Roman was late. We hadn’t eaten something yet since we hope, there would be a buffet. Instead we had to listen to speeches of some art professor, a vice minister, the German ambassador and the manager of the New National Gallery Berlin. They all overpraised each other for two long hours.
At least at the end there were some music acts, which were nice.
The buffet consisted of free instant coffee, water bottles and biscuits – it was better than nothing.
A bit later while Tobias – suited up – had to talk to some woman about how super great the exhibition was and who for that reason thanked him a lot (he had nothing to do with it though), I was portrayed by an art student.
Not much happened in this week. On Monday (16.2) I went to the train station to search for train departures to Esfahan and Sari and for a possibility to buy tickets directly at the station, which is possible for rides of the same day. As I went off the metro I saw an Iranian ginger and could not let the opportunity of a photo pass. To get home I spent about two hours on the bus although it would have been only a 17km walk. But the traffic of Tehran is just insane.
On Tuesday (17.2) I accompanied Alexander, Anton (another Russian) and Anahit, who met in the Armenian Quarter with a friend of Anahit. The friend made a little tour around, but I didn’t understand nearly anything, since only Russian or Armenian was spoken.
On Thursday (19.2) I decided to go to an advertised music festival with Roman and Zhihui. Its name was Fajr (Northern Lights) Music Festival and took place in the centre. Since Roman didn’t feel well, I met with Zhihui alone. The concert, we didn’t know what it would be like, was at 8.30pm so we went for a kebab before. It was funny and because we laughed a lot everyone looked as us, mostly eating somehow sad themselves.
Then we walked to Vahdat Hall and tried unsuccessful how and where we could get tickets. The only thing we acknowledged was that there would be two concerts: One American Jazz band and an Iranian orchestra playing classical music. We decided to go, when possible, to the classical one.
Some minutes after eight we met some other students from our school and they told us we needn’t pay anything. But we went to the American Jazz band called Animation. Since 1977 it was the first being allowed to play in Iran, of course under the surveillance of Khomeini and Khamenei. However their style of Jazz wasn’t my taste and Zhihui went home after half an hour. We were not the only ones who thought that way, because many others pulled out their smartphone or started chatting, which was in my opinion very disrespectful towards the musicians.
Under applause they made the quite controversial statement, Iran would be the best country in the world. When the frontman said, they surely usually paid way more than local people, we foreigners were the only ones who laughed. But that the possibility of playing in Iran touched the band members deeply, was easy to recognize.
When the concert was over and we discussed it outside, we were quite strictly asked after 10 minutes to leave the ground. Our search for a taxi ended up in a little brawl. One offensive driver considered himself disadvantaged when we chose another one and slapped ours.
On Friday (20.2) I learnt for a little test the next day and only walked to Tochal cabin station to get some fresh air.
I did nothing and it rained nearly all day long. I only went outside once, to buy bread. It was a very productive day.
Day 24, 13.2, Friday
Since I didn’t have any idea what to do on the last day of the weekend, I decided to go on top of Tochal again. So I got up at 4.45am and chose the tour via Darband and not along the cabin.
This tour is steeper, so shorter on the map. That’s why it’s a bit more climbing than hiking and maybe more ambitious. Nevertheless the way is more beautiful than the first one. In addition it’s a really grand feeling to trudge all up through the snow and resisting strong winds (apparently 80km/h, 50mi/h), seeing the city below getting tinier and tinier and leaving other peaks below. I started to think that Norgay and Hillary may felt the same way when ascended Mount Everest. A little depressing could have been, that after each hilltop just another higher one is waiting.
The air pressure on the peak is at only 60% btw.
I didn’t stop anywhere for a long time. I arrived at the top at noon, after five hours. It’s one hour earlier than during the previous climb, whereas I started at 5.35am from the dorm, but began my initial hiking at 6.55am since I had to walk all the way to Darband via Tajrish, because there were no buses at this time.
I was shortly delayed by Mohammad, who absolutely wanted to talk to me, but was in a bad physical shape, so I was forced to stop all the time. But after some time I was alone again. Roman was away visiting a friend, that’s why he didn’t come.
I stopped at the peak to take some photos and then walked to the cabin station. It was not that easy because on the way the wind was really blowing strong and let me cool fast. The ride with the cabin was comfortable, although it was tiny. But I didn’t want to descend and the ride was only 6,50€. Having arrived at the bottom, I warmed my feet in the sun before going home to the dorm.
In the afternoon I didn’t relax but played football with my room-mate Arne and two other Germans (Thomas and Pascal). Of course soon after we started we were joined by Iranian students, so it became a fun match.
February 11th is the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. At 7am I got up and went with Anahit and another German student to Enghelab, to be part of the celebration/parade. The streets in Velenjak and Tajrish have never been this empty. Even the metro was quite empty. This changed when we reached the connecting station between the red (1) and yellow (4) line. The metros were fuller than during rush-hour in Moscow so I had to let the first metro go. It was impossible to get out at the two stations on the way to Enghelab. In Enghelab we waited for quite a time for Zhenya and a Dutch friend of the other German. While waiting at the entrance the first pictures of us were taken. When Anahit and Zhenya arrived and we joined the parade, the Dutch guy got cold feet and went home.
Last year three students were captured by police and everyone told us to be cautious, so I didn’t wear my yellow jacket. But how was the celebration like?
I would describe it a demonstration with the flair of a fair. Apparently the main fairground was the square around Azadi tower. I was there when everything was over after three hours. The students of last year were said to be there. From Azadi Avenue the people marched westbound towards the tower.
At the kerbside were many stands. They offered information, free food and drinks, choir sang, music was played or mullahs held speeches. You could get many different posters. Apart from the usual ones about USA and Israel, the slogans were “We resist forever”, “We stand to the end”, “Independence, Freedom – Islamic Republic”, “Dead or Khomeini – written with my own blood”, “I am the revolution”, “I love Mohammed. I hate terrorism, I condemn insulting the holy prophets” as well as pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei and of course the Iranian flag. Since it was a rainy day, the main function of the posters soon started being rain coverages. From time to time you could hear “Marg bar Amerika/Israel”, but more often “Allah u akbar” or something related with Khomeini; though surprisingly seldom. The people didn’t dress more conservative than usual, even some women’s hair could be seen. There were many families. In general it was a bizarre sight. Often in front of same stands offering food or drinks for fee tumults started. As if the great duo Khomeini/Khamenei couldn’t feed their people – like Kim Jong Un, but concerning this topic maybe later…
A few times photographers but especially youths took pictures of us.
And what should one think about all this? In my opinion this event has several aspects. First it should secure the power of the leader with the help of the public proclamation and reminder of their enemies USA, Israel and the West in general. They appeal for resistance, resisting, they call upon the power endurance of the people to overcome the temptations of the West. They, and only they, are able to lead safe and to their satisfaction through these hard times.
But the bait has already been taken: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Nestle, Danone, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, BMW, Mercedes and Porsche have won the hearts of many Iranians. For them, if they participate, the celebration is a possibility to “party”. They don’t care about slogans and posters, don’t give them any importance. Now the second aspects becomes visible: It’s like a football fanfest (I have always been on the ones in Berlin). The opponent is insulted badly as well, even without any reason:
“[country] is shitty, [country] is scum; it only needs one little bomb and they are gone.” and for sure there are more
Most of the people sing it, but no-one would honestly consider to wipe them out. Most important is team spirit, some teasing when the enemy is in the defence and having a huge party that of course involves the opponent fans. Apart from some idiots the party is peaceful (naturally as long as the German team is winning. Otherwise the number of idiots increases).
Just for a few times we were looked at oddly, the other times either ignored or smiled at. One situation was funny, when a man welcomes me in Iran, because the celebration doesn’t show the “real” Iran at all but critics are able to find enough arguments to demonize the country and its apparently fanatic people.
Although I want to mention, that I’m not agreeing with “Death to America/Israel” slogans even if it’s not meant to happen to the people. I mostly disagree with their foreign policy, too. Though as memory I couldn’t resist to take one poster home.
In the end I took the taxi home, since it still rained and I met Anahit by chance. It was only 13000 Rial (32 Euro cents) and may have change my picture of going by taxi can only be expensive.
Metro station Enghelab
This is what critics want to hear (I don’t know, what he’s saying, but it sounds menacing and hardline religious):
Mostly, we relaxed of the hiking and I spent much time updating my blog. In the afternoon, I had an appointment with Zari and Saba in Café of ASP building. Roman had an appointment there as well, so we both went together. But due to the heavy traffic, I arrived one hour late.
On the way home I talked on the phone with Karlsruhe, so though the late hour I didn’t take the bus to the connecting station. When I arrived there at 22.30, the last bus to Velenjak was already gone. I didn’t want to take a taxi so I went by foot. In total I took me two hours to get home. And I still had to do homework so at 1am I finally went to bed.
Day 18, 7.2, Saturday
I still feel the hiking. Roman and I went shopping on our way home and I finally managed to begin to digitse part of the Farsi vocab. In addition I finished work for Karlsruhe so I was up till 1am again.
Day 19, 8.2, Sunday
School, bazaar, homework, at 1am to bed
Day 20, 9.2, Monday
I didn’t do my reading homework, because digitising was more important to me. So at class I stammered like hell and had to repeat the homework.
Due to having changed money, I got a million Rial note.
After class I went to the American embassy again. I was 50 minutes early with some others so we went for a sandwich (I took falafel with cheese for 1,30€).
At the embassy we got a guide and a kind Danish with Iranian roots translated. The ground floor was used for and by normal embassy stuff and staff, but the first floor was the heart of espionage of the CIA. Pictures of people, that were meant to be killed by the US and its allys during the Iraq-Iran war asking for truth, were hanging in the corridor.
During the introduction the guide mentioned that the movie “Argo” would be nonsense approved by the Canadian ambassador and his wife. The truth is, the Canadian ambassador only criticized the downplaying of his effort, not the content itself. Although the success would have been 90% Canada’s labour and only 10% of the CIA, the movie would show the opposite. Only the wife of the ambassador mentioned it would have been better to declare the movie being based on a true case than declaring it completely true.
We were shown the rooms: soundproof meeting rooms, rooms with reinforced doors to communicate with the headquarters and receive orders, rooms to fake passports and other documents.
The time of the shah was over in February 1979. The Iranians didn’t want to be oppressed by a leader that would follow imperialists and especially in the end beat down the opposition (clerics) brutally. They didn’t want to live in a dictatorship. That the Islamic Repbulic with its Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Khamenei) can be considered a dictatorship as well, is not mentioned. The members of the parliament and the president himself can be voted by the Iranian people of a list that has been approved by the Guardian Council. The members of this council are appointed by the already selected members of the parliament and the Supreme Leader. He is appointed by the Assembly of Experts, that consists of mullahs, who are vetted by the Guardian Council and who are then “elected” by the people. To make a long story short: The Supreme Leader, his leadership circle and vassals can appoint what the parliament and the president do. They survey themselves, command the army, the constitutional court and in addition have a second army of followers that secures their power. In public, their decisions are rarely discussed.
In November 1979 the US embassy was bursted by Khomeini friendly students and hostages were held for 444 days. Coloured people and women were released soon, but high-ranked employees and CIA members were still captured. Though they would have been treated very well with e.g. high quality food from other embassies whereas the students only ate normal food. Even a Christmas celebration was held.
Of course we were told about the Iraq-Iran war ind the early 80s. The Iraqis under US implemented leadership of Saddam Hussein wanted to use the seeming weakness of the Islamic revolution to occupy oil-rich territory and coast. But thanks to Khomeini’s leadership and Allah, who for sure fought for the Iraqis as well…, the Iranians didn’t loose territory but strengthened mentally, but with many casualties, having made head against Iraq and western supporters. Apparently chemicals weapons came from Germany, mines from Belgium, jets from France and underground hangars were built by Italians. Nobody seemed to be on Iran’s side. But revange for crimes against Iranian civilians was forbidden by merciful Khomeini. Instead it is said he let children and teenagers clean mine field on foot and told them they’ll die as martyrs (these victims may be shown on the pictures in the corridor as well).
After all the hostilities and sanctions, now-a-days due to peaceful use of nuclear energy, although many countries including North Korea and Pakistan even have nuclear weapons, the shouting “Down/Death with/to America/Israel” is not against the people but an exaggerated desire for new politics and governments. The greetings at Iranian New Year of President Obama in 2014 (and surely in 2015 again) are worth nothing, considering the hardened sanctions and military threats.
Day 21, 10.2, Tuesday
Since on Wednesday the Islamic Revolution is celebrated it is the last day of the school for this week. I didn’t do anything.
In the evening I could get a preview of the things that may happen tomorrow: At 9pm Iranian students for their dorms just opposite were shouting in a chorus: “Allah u akbar”, “Marg bar amerika” and “Marg bar Israel”. (It’s often translated as “Down with USA/Israel” but “marg” means literally “death”) In the background fireworks were lighten the sky of Tehran. It has been quite an absurd picture, but didn’t lower my excitement for the next day’s parade. Although last year three students were captured by police.
#By the way: The normal public buses are separated. One part is for men only, the other for women only. In smaller buses, like the ones I go to school with, which are like the big Mercedes vans this separation doesn’t exist. In the metro there are two parts for women only: at the front and at the end. They can enter everywhere else though. This is an advantage for them in my opinion. During rush our, the mixed parts are always completely full. In the ones of the women there is always enough space.
Let’s stay at the metro. The stairs, as I already wrote, are hardly used and people look weirdly if you do so. Sometimes there are even queues in front of the escalators. Fun starts, when the escalators start working. The people seem to be in such bad physical shape, that even a difference of 5 metres height causes them to gasp heavily.
I learned my first swearword: “an”. It means shit and is also an abbreviation of AhmadiNejad.
Man with illuminated hair ribbon selling stuff
In the bus to class
Stairs to first floor
Looking down the corridor
Soundproof meeting room
Faking passports etc.
Our guide (right)
Encoding & communication room
“There is no time for imperialism in Iran any more”
Roman and I got up at five in the morning to go hiking again. This time we decided to do a “real” tour. We were about to conquer Tochal (3962m/13000 ft). Of course we could have used the cabin to the top – or close to the top, but where would have been the challenge and fun then?
At six we started from the dorm in Velenjak (~1700m/5555ft) and began the actual tour from the first cabin station (1904m/6250ft) at 6.30. That’s why we could witness the sunset over Tehran. Fortunately a strong wind was blowing over the town, so we had a clear view for the first time since our arrival in Tehran.
Even at that early hour surprisingly many people were around. They were mostly over 40 years old and some even came back from their tour.
Three hours later we arrived at the third cabin station, which seems to be the destination of most hikers. It lays at2500m (8200ft) altitude and was used by us to take a breakfast break.
The hiking community in Iran is sworn in, so we were greeted friendly and offered tea, scrambled eggs and soup. As they heard our food consists of water, bread, apples and bananas their looks showed disbelief and pityness.
When I gave our two friendly meal donators some Haribo saying it’s pork-free, they smiled mischievous telling me they are of course not moslems!
Before we rushed to the summit, we put on an additional layer of clothes. Soon I wore three trousers, one T-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a fleece jacket, a windproof jacket with hat and gumshield plus a scarf and two pairs of gloves. So we were ready. At the summit it was -13°C (8°F) and at the 3rd station already -4°C (25°F).
We assaulted upward, overtaking everyone, defying snow drifts and strong winds. Sometimes we had to open the jackets and put off the gloves since the sun and our motion.
It was only up, up and up. Always up along steep slopes and on narrowest ridges – ok maybe not that dangerous, but it wasn’t easy either.
Fortunately the thin air didn’t affect me much and after 6.5h we reached the last station of the cabin (3700m/12140ft) at 12.30. There is also the Tochal ski resort, but the slopes aren’t very steep.
The last part (1.7km) to the summit was the last challenge. Who would have thought so, it went up again and I started to feel the altitude. It was exhausting and I only did small steps and Roman had some problems as well.
But then we did it! After seven hours we were at 13000ft (nearly 4000m). It was unbelievably great. And the view was so clear. We could see Damavand (5604m/18385ft), the highest mountain in the whole Middle East. It will be climbed as well. After some pictures we went into a small metal igloo to limber up and eat. All the other people with their clothes let us look like bloody amateurs, but as everyone know Austrians and Germans are tough guys.
However we were invited for tea again and many photos were taken. After we changed our socks for dry ones, we started descending. Due to the snow and mud created by the sun it wasn’t easier as the ascent. We weren’t faster and didn’t make any break. For the last part Roman took the cabin, but I just couldn’t. I had to finish it the old-fashioned way. After 13 hours, approx. 32km walking distance and at least 5200m (17000ft) of difference of altitude I arrived at 7pm at the dorm.
It has been the longest hiking tour, I have ever made in one day. It was great but we were unfortunate that we couldn’t celebrate with a cold beer. Though our lungs were able to be cleaned after two weeks breathing polluted air and the silence was very nice as well. Of course I got a sunburn.
Before going totally exhausted to bed, we watched Tatort.
Together with Anahit, Zhihui and two other Russians (Zhenya and Alexander) I went to the former American embassy by metro to take some photos and visit the museum. It is open only one time a year: During a ten day period before revolution day (11th February). We were able to take photos, but the entrance fee of 7USD or 1 mio Rial (which is apparently 29USD) couldn’t be paid, since we didn’t have any dollars with us.
So we went eating and strolled around. First to a Zoroastrian temple, which was closed and then to an Armenian church. It was also closed due to renovation. So we continued, passed the Russian embassy which can be found on a gigantic park area.
Then we went to the Armenian Club, where alcohol can be consumed. Passing an art gallery, where a famous actress was present, too, we went to a shop where Zhihui bought a traditional Baluch (Baluchistan is the border region between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so a very safe area).
Day 14, 3.2, Tuesday
Tuesday was a boring day. I don’t know any more what I did. Everyday life stuff, I guess. Roman and I tried a new route to the dorm which led through a long park.
Day 15, 4.2, Wednesday
In the morning the smog dome that covers Tehran nearly daily was clearly visible.
After class I took the metro to the south east to an airport which I thought was unused. But I had to notice that on the contrary it is the base of the Iranian Airforce, so strolling around was not really possible.
In the evening I accepted being interviewed. I hadn’t had any information about it; it was supposed to be a project of Iranian students. The first question about us were masquerade and the main topic was Islam and violence. One of the questions was how our view of Islam changed, now being in Iran and how it has been beforehand. Me and a German female student were the only ones who participated.
In the end we should read A Letter 4 U of the religious Leader of the Islamic Republic Iran . I’m sure the film is used as propaganda material, but I cannot deny that I don’t totally disagree with the complete letter.
In addition we got a rose as thank you which is such a nice gift I would have said every propaganda sentence for. I’m really curious about the final documentary. Depending on the result, I’ll upload it.
Morning traffic on the way to the school; people sitting on a truck
It was the first weekend during the official classes. Roman, Nilufar and me went to Darakeh by bus and taxi. The quarter is barely 1km as the crow flies (what a great expression by the way), but separated by a valley and private properties.
We went along a simple hiking trail, which was lined with shops. I didn’t like that fact at all. Hiking in my opinion is walking through rough, wild nature. I could stand a paved trail, but the line of shops went on for kilometres, though of course there were not all one after another.
Anyway in the beginning was a man with an instrument being a mixture of a guitar and a violin playing. He had a little speaker and his position was wisely chosen since the surrounding mountains created a full sound supported by echo. Since Germany has a very good reputation he was effusively happy that a German listened to his music and naturally wanted a photo.
After three hours the shops almost vanished and we went into a tea house and then returned. In total we were hiking for six hours and came home in time before it began raining cats and dogs.
Day 10, 30.1, Friday
At four in the morning a heavy thunderstorm passed over Tehran.
Initially I wanted to improve my vocabulary but in the end I mostly ended watching movies and doing homework.
Day 11, 31.1, Saturday
Since my visa is only valid for 30 days, the language course is 42 days and I’m going to stay for about 50 days in Iran, my visa had to be extended.
I had to hand in my passport in the dormitory. Although it was already in their possession I was asked a couple of times to hand it in since I arrived. It mostly ended in a discussion after which they checked the safe and had to admit that I didn’t steal it in the meantime…It was strange.
When I wanted to get it for the visa extension they refused to give it back: It should be copied – again. I don’t know how many copies they already had, but apparently they were not enough.
I also used to new week to charge my mobile data plan, because the 1.5GB were finished quite fast. It costed 5 Euro.
After having done homework in the evening I ran my traditional running lap to Tochal cabin station.
Day 12, 1.2, Sunday
I could finally apply for my visa extension. It will take about three weeks. Apart from cooking, nothing else happened.