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Last Weeks 33-34 – Baluchestan & Good bye, Tehran


Weeks 33-34, 21.11 – 7.12

My last weeks in Iran were about to start. In the one when I had to write the final exam, I went directly to the airport after the exam. I wanted to fly to Zahedan, in Sistan va Baluchestan. I planned to travel around for nine or ten days and visit a friend on Qeshm Island in the end (Route).
So on Wednesday (25th Nov) my IranAir plane took off with only 30 min delay from the city airport Mehrabad to the regional capital of super dangerous Sistan-Baluchestan. What most westerners think of Iran, Iranians think of Sistan-Baluchestan. The first step, flying to Zahedan with as unsafe regarded IranAir of which an airplane crashed over Tehran in summer, was mastered without problems.Right to the photos

“U.S. citizens […] should exercise caution […] especially in the southeastern region where Westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. Terrorist explosions have killed a number of people in Iran in past years. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to areas within 100 kilometers of the border with Afghanistan, within 10 kilometers of the border with Iraq, and generally anywhere east of the line from Bam and Bandar Abbas toward the Pakistan border. [US State Department]
Border areas are particularly sensitive. The FCO advise against all travel to: areas within 100km of the Iran/Afghanistan border; […] the province of Sistan-Baluchistan; and the area to the east of Bam and Jask, including Bam. This area is notorious for banditry and is the main route for drug-traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The towns of Zahedan, Zabol and Mirjaveh are particularly insecure.
Some Iranian officials and media reports have falsely alleged a UK connection to separatist groups in Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchestan.” [British FCO]

Like in other cases, I can hardly agree with the description of the “ministries” of Foreign Affairs, but just terrify people. Later more to how cool this region actually is.
When I arrived in Zahedan at late afternoon, I met with A. and we went to the bazaar because I wanted to have the traditional Baluch clothes. The first merchant offered me the typical trousers and the shirt for 0,79Mio Rial (20$), a second one wanted said he’d charge me 470’000 Rial (15$) for a tailored combination. I was able to pick it up the next day.
Next day, I got it, but didn’t wear it yet. I didn’t walk through town a lot, but I did and was noticed by police. But they didn’t care. In the evening I met with friends of L., at whose place I slept. We went a bit outside of town to a place that is super crowded in summer and beautiful. But since it was quite cold, we rather went into on of the heated tents with some tea.
The next morning A. and a friend of hers invited me for a little hiking tour south of Zahedan. When we came back, we ate breakfast and then I hitchhiked to Saravan, which is about 430km south-east.
In Sistan-Baluchestan there are no gas pipes like in Tehran or in most other regions in Iran. People have to buy gas in tanks. In general the government in Tehran does ignore this province. One reason is that Baluchi people are Sunnis and on the other hand people are organized in tribes. That’s why officials from Tehran only have a bit influence. Former president Ahmadinejad identified that problem and now the Tehran officials talk to the tribe leaders and they to their tribe.
The unemployment rate is huge in Baluchestan. Most of the people smuggle Diesel to Pakistan for a living. They buy pick-ups to get a Diesel contingent, put it in tanks which they put on the loading space and Pakistan, here they come. The second part from Zahedan to Saravan I was sitting in a car that smelled like Diesel and on the front passenger seat was a full 50L tank. I was packed and very happy that my legs didn’t die off.
Of course there were some police checkpoints on the road. I mean “some” means on every main road at the entrance and exit of a big town. But they just didn’t care that a foreigner was sitting next to the driver. And when they wanted to see my passport, I just showed them a copy – and never had problems.
In Saravan I couchsurfed at cool people again, but roamed around alone. But honestly there was not much to see. Though in the whole five hours that I spent outside only school children approached me curiously. When it got dark, at around 6.30pm, I went out again for half an hour, but there was even less going on.
Continue reading


To the photos of part 2
Next day, it was Sunday (29th Nov), I wanted to get to Pasabandar, which was 460km from Saravan and with ~1900km the most distant town from Tehran. I wore my Baluch clothes, but hitchhiking was difficult that day. But difficulties just lead to new experiences so I hitched a motor bike for the first time – until a police checkpoint. But the police men there were relaxed – I didn’t even need to show my passport or a copy. We chatted a little bit, I told them that I don’t like to go by bus, because I want to practise my Persian while talking to the drivers and then they stopped a car for me. It took me half of the way, to Sarbaz.
There I wanted to continue near Pasabandar by bus, but it didn’t come for a long time. That’s why I started waling. Then it arrived, but didn’t stop for me. It got later and later and I looked forward to spending the night in my tent and was already searching for a quiet and abandoned place, when a Baluch guy stopped persuaded me to come to his village and to sleep at his house. The man’s name was Jaseme, was 27yo and had a son.
The stars were very bright, the toilet on the yard and literally the whole village came for dinner to Jaseme’s house. We ate with our bare hands, and never saw the wife who most certainly cooked that delicious food. It was a interesting and curious gathering in that conservative community. It was very hard not to forget to only use the “clean” right hand for eating.
One guy was employee at the small medical centre in the next village. Although Sistan-Baluchestan is neglected in many things by the central government, medical supply is important and guaranteed. For example the number of Malaria infections was reduced to 5 per year, where as on the Pakistani side of Baluchestan it’s way higher and a serious problem.
The next morning after breakfast I was taken to the main road again, but the stopped bus didn’t want to take me for unknown reasons. To make things short, the next 200km I was take by taxi for cheap 100’000 Rial (3$). Then I hitchhiked to Pasabandar, which is only 5 minutes by car from the Pakistani border. I arrived during sundown, took some photos, walked around and then got lucky to catch the same drivers who took me to Pasabandar and were now heading to Chabahar. At its bus terminal I wanted to take the night bus to Bandar Abbas, but again I had bad luck. I was told that night was no bus, I should come back the next morning. That’s why I talked to a truck driver who was standing outside, but he said, no truck would go to Bandar Abbas at night. I accepted the offer to sleep in his truck’s trailer.
On Tuesday (1.11) I could finally start going to Bandar. But I was kind of forced to hitchhike again, because I was told again, that there were suddenly no buses. However since between Chabahar and Bandar Abbas there’s basically only one road and no big towns, I could be sure that there will be trucks going directly all the 700km. And after some waiting, it happened. The two drivers were Kurds and fortunately only the old one drove (for 10 hours straight), because other wise I would have missed the last ferry onto Qeshm for sure.
On the island I visited Annelie, a friend that I met in Dehkhoda. She has a very good restaurant with her Iranian husband called Shabhaye Talai – Golden Nights and it was a pleasure to see her again.
On Thursday (3.12) when I went back to Tehran by train I wore my comfortable Baluch clothes again. The farewell photo shooting with Annelie made the watching Iranians totally confused, because they are not used to people with red hair, wearing clothes, that are also worn by Afghans. At the train station I had to rise my voice a bit, because a police officer that checked my bags and me, touched me where no man is allowed to.

Back in Tehran, I was surprise by all the police with machine guns. ISIS/IS/Daesh had threatened Iran while I was travelling so was needed to pretend subjective security with these people at every metro station. And of course I was checked nearly every time. But now I know at least how the Muslims in Europe have to feel after an attack.
Else I met with friend, went shopping, enjoy the snow and went back to Berlin a little sad.
Thank you very much!

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Weeks 28-32 – Autumn Impressions

Weeks 28 to 32 (25.10-30.10, 31.10-6.11, 7.11-13.11, 14.11-20.11)

On Oct 26th I met with M. for the last time, before she went to Germany. And from than on, not much happened, apart from going to school and learning. From time to time I met with friends, that I haven’t seen for a long time. On Friday, 13th Nov I prepared some nice pumpkin soup for friends. It was enough for two pots but unfortunately one bad orange made the taste of one pot quite bitter. But with some strong spices it’s possible to use it as pasta sauce.

One Friday when I went to church we were only five people and Friday November, 20th, was the last service that I’d go to. It was outside on the Tehran Protestant Cemetery, the weather really nice and I enjoyed it a lot. After we went on a little tour around Shahr-e Reyr.

Since there’s nothing else, some photos of autumn in Tehran. On Nov, 25th, my course will finish and I’ll for a little journey in Iran before, kind of sadly, returning back to Germany….

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Weeks 26-27 – Ashura


Week 26, 10.10 – 16.10

So on Saturday morning I went with my parents to the bus terminal and hoped that I could get a ticket for the same bus, too. There was a free seat left and so 6h ride to Esfahan could start.
Having arrived we went to Imam square and went to Jolfa quarter to eat.
After we walked back to the hotel along the drive river bank and famous Si-o-se Pol (33 columns bridge).
Sunday we had breakfast like kings and until the afternoon my parents visited a lot of sights whereas I sat outside and read. I knew most of the places already and the travel guide can explain more about the history than I. Once I was sitting around, I could finally use my knowledge of Farsi to react to a stupid comment (“Hahaha, look! That guy is still sitting there”) and caused an awkward silence, which was a great feeling.
During sundown I took my parents to Ateshkadeh (a fire temple) lying on a hill at the edge of Esfahan where we had a nice view of the town that was greeting night-time. Initially I wanted to go back to Tehran that night by train, it just goes every two days and of course not on a Sunday evening. Hence I had to go by bus again.
Tuesday (13.10) M. and I went to Semnan to visit E. and A. for a few days. In addition we ate at a super delicious, traditional and original small kebab restaurant in a mountain village. In addition we went to Sharud and hitch-hiked from there to Bastam where we visited the Bayazid Historical complex, dedicated to Bayazid Bistami, a Persian mystic of the 9th century, and the old Fridaz mosque. Also we hitch-hiked further to the village Ghale-Nokharaghan. It lies at the foot of a more or less well-known cloud forest with the same name (Cloud Forest). Unfortunately we were too late to even go inside a little bit, because it started to get dark which was why we returned.
On Thursday (15.10) we just hang around Semnan and helped A. organizing things for her move to Munich. In the afternoon I went playing tennis with E., which I never did before and on Friday the holidays were unfortunately over and M. and I went back to Tehran.

Week 27, 17.10-24.10

A new course (the last one for me until now) started and our teacher seems to be a really religious woman, of whom we can only see the shape of her face and hands which are uncovered.
The second and third day I didn’t attend classes because I spent my time with my parents in Tehran who had finished her tour. As I noticed on Tuesday, I didn’t miss anything important.
In general I considered for quite a time to continue studying at Dehkhoda. Since the result of my last exam was the second best although it was not how I would have rated myself. Furthermore I think that I have enough general knowledge to teach Farsi to myself and that better than at the institute. On the other side I’m only allowed to stay in Iran, when I attend the language course, so I didn’t have any other possibility than to continue to December.

Saturday was the national holiday of Ashura. Shia moslems mourn the death of her third Imam Husayn who died as martyr in the battle of Kerbala. The day is celebrated on the 10th day of “Forbidden” month Muharram. The days before are used to celebrate mourning and even after black flags hang all over the city and officially it is kind of forbidden to listen loudly to music, wear make-up, bright clothes, etc. – all that is fun. But like Ramazan, only a few Iranians care. In the streets mourning processions and plays about Husayn’s journey and battle are held.
To see them, I went to the south of Tehran, to Nazi Abad. The quarter’s name has really a connection with the Nazi regime and Third Reich, since they supported a local railway company. Nevertheless there is no Hitler Boulevard of Goebbels Alley. Every hundred meters of so I was able to see a procession and it was really interesting to see all the marches and rituals being shown. Coming with the celebration it is custom to give away so called Nazri. It is free food or tea as symbol of gratefulness for Husayn’s suffer and not only for Moslems (although once a guy asked another one to give me some, but I was refused). When I went back home and waited at the bus stop, one man came towards me with a delicious lamb liver and kidney kebab and even gave me a short ride.

Ashura in moved pictures:

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Weeks 24-25 – Tabriz And Visitors From Home


Week 24, 26.9 – 2.10

Tuesday afternoon (29.9) I spontaneously decided take a day off for a longer weekend. Together with M. we went to Tabriz although the week after final exams would take place. However we took the night bus, so I with a huge lack of sleep I arrived.
After having slept till late morning, M.’s friend Azad showed us the city. In the evening we went out eating, smoked narghile (water pipe) and walked a little bit around. Since it gets dark very soon and Tabriz is in the north near mountains, it was kind of chilly so we went to bed early.
The next day Azad drove with us to Kandovan, the Iranian Cappadocia. But in comparison with the famous Turkish cliff dwellings, the Iranian ones are still inhabited. Of course every house has electricity, water and gas, but unfortunately the Iranians don’t seem to care about preserving the old architecture style when building new houses. Therefore of the old charm, that is still present in Cappadocia – mainly because it’s inhabitant -, decreased.
When we came back to Tabriz in the evening, we walked along the street that the youths of Tabriz use for “dordor”. It means something like “to cruise”. The Iranians mostly together with some friends, drive up and down a certain street in their cars – the more expensive the better. When they see interesting Iranians of the opposite sex they drive slower, exchange number through the open window or wait at the side. Sometimes they just change the passenger seats after a few seconds and drive home. While we were promenading there were only a few women, the majority were men, so many of them most certainly drove home alone, sad and disappointed. We on the other side didn’t return home in that mood.
Friday noon we went back to Tehran.

Week 25, 3.10 – 9.10

It was the week of the exam so I learned a bit more than usual. But even three hours after having finished on Wednesday (7.10), we didn’t get the final result. The others had it maximum after 90 minutes.
On Friday (9.10) my parents came to Iran for a 10 day journey, so I didn’t start travelling right now. Anyway I didn’t even know where to go, because I wanted to travel with M. who didn’t have a big time frame since she was always on the go for her German visa. So I bought my parents some SIM and metro cards and meet M. in the evening.
My parents arrived a bit tired and I went with them in the nearby park. I also decided to come with them the next day to their first city which was Esfahan.

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Week 23 – Two Weddings in One Week


Week 23, 19.9 – 25.9

Finally a great week!!! I was invited to two weddings parties. The first one was right on the first day of the week, on Saturday (19.9). So after school I took a little nap, then put my suit jacket on and went by metro near Karaj. There E. picked me up, the husband of A., at whom I stayed during my desert trip and with whom I met several times afterwards. I have to admit I was quite excited and a little shy, since I think it was only my second wedding in total and I already heard many people rhapsodising about Iranian wedding parties. On Saturday the sister of A. was getting married.
I arrived and the celebration room was parted: One part for the women where I could not enter and one part for the the men. Till dinner the men danced a little bit and I have to admit that the Persian are great dancers. Still I didn’t shy and just jumped about.
It’s tradition to throw money at the groom (or bride). Fortunately the paper money in Iran is worth not much. So 10,000 (25 Euro Cent), 20,000 and rarely 50,000 Rial-bills were thrown in the air (see video). In Germany or other western countries people either would get poor quickly or hurt themselves since they needed to throw with coins. Who catches the money is said to marry next, but mostly little children collected the bills.
After the delicious dinner, men and women started dancing together and the wedding cake was cut. But somehow it ended shortly after midnight, but it was still a very nice experience.
The next wedding party was supposed to happen on Tuesday. In the meantime a little exhibition due to Iran-Iraq war was built up at Vali-e Asr square where I use to get off the bus coming from school. You can see weapons like AKs, mortars or clothes of soldiers or posters showing “facts” and statistics.
The party on Tuesday (22.9) was also in Karaj. This time I didn’t go with E. and A. but with M., with whom I already visited the exhibition at the Museum for Contemporary Arts the week before. A work colleague got married and since it seems to be a costum in Iran not to go alone to a wedding – no matter if being male or female – she just asked me. This time the party was mixed from the beginning and everything seemed to be more formal and richer. E.g. mostly 50,000 Rials bills were thrown – I caught two. Before dinner some snacks were served and together with M.’s friends we went outside to – as Iranians always do – take photos of each other and smoke water pipe.
Like the first wedding the dinner was delicious and then we rocked the dance floor. This wedding party fortunately finished a bit later than the first one, so we could dance more. In the end every one wanted to take photos with the bride and groom. It took at least an hour since we got ours and bridal couple looked really exhausted.
The weekend was a little quieter. I met again with M. and Mahsa, who works for a travel agency and offered me to translate some texts from English into proper German (meanwhile I accepted so have my first little job here in Iran).
I didn’t get much sleep though, mostly did after school on the rooftop, but the week has just been awesome.

Week 21-22 – No problem? – Yes problem!


Weeks 21-22, 5.9 – 18.9

During the week not much happened again. I wanted to use the weekend to finally sent out some applications. On Wednesday (9.9) I went to the birthday celebration of a friend.
At 10.30pm I took the bus home. It was extremely crowed and that is special even for Tehran. Though I got inside. Before I received a message but I would answer it after having got off the bus. So I got off and wanted to answer the message, but there was no phone any more. And my wallet was nearly out of my pocket, so someone seemed to be greedy. So I ran after the bus, but of course didn’t catch it. Police officers, that I passed and told my problem didn’t do anything but smiling stupidly and asking for my nationality. Of course it was naive to think they would e.g. follow the bus, stop it and check everyone’s phone (only vibration was on) only because a foreigner said his mobile would have been stolen – possible in no country. So I went to the last station to check the buses because maybe my phone just fell out of my pocket. But it wasn’t in any bus. The police there didn’t help me much, I had to ask some traffic police officers to help me. They told me I had to go to the police district where my phone had been stolen – so back to Enghelab square. It was already 11.30pm. In the little police, you can call it booth, was one young soldier who called his boss. He came after another like 45 minutes, gave me a piece of paper stating my story and told me to go to the main police building of the district the next day. I was happy, that the door of my dorm was open otherwise I would have been really upset.
So the next day (Thursday) I went there, had to sign another paper and should come back with the bill of the mobile phone some day. I was happy being able to speak Farsi, since nobody was able to speak good English…
The rest of the day I spent in Zari’s apartment and when I returned in the evening I bought a new phone. I had enough SIM cards left and saved the contacts before my summer holidays, so basically I really only lost money and time. For around 62$ I got a used HTC Desire 310 with 16GB memory card – which was not a bad deal in my opinion.
On Friday (11.9) I configured the phone again, meet with Zhihui and went with my room-mates and some others to a café in the evening.
The pursuit of the bus combined with heavy breathing caused some breathing problems the following week.

On Saturday I bought new internet and calling credit. Unfortunately I changed a phone configuration that failed so my phone was like in a coma. Everything really went great! So Sunday I went to Zari until dawn again and at 2.30am I had a working phone again.
It was good so on Tuesday evening (15.9) I could meet for an art inauguration in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.
Finally the following weekend (17. and 18.9) was a quiet one. Thursday I went to friends of a a friend and on Friday I learnt for the midterm exam.


In the end I want to give some information about the public transportation in Tehran at night. There are five metro lines and six fast bus lines (BRT – Bus Rapid Transport). Whereas the metro is only running from about 5.30am to 10.30pm the BRT thanks God 24/7. The BRT covers a great area in Tehran so one can easily move without taking a taxi. Another awesome advantage is how regular the buses are going all night. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes!

BRT network map (as of September 2015)
Metro network map

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Week 20 – Hi again, Tehran


“Week” 20, 24.8 – 4.9

After my trip in Caucasus (A Journey Through The Mountains) and two weeks in Germany, I’m in Tehran again and decided just to write down little everyday-life stories and anecdots; since honestly anything else is boring.
Monday evening (Aug, 24th) my direct flight to Tehran should depart. But there was a delay and even the departure airport was changed to Dresden. I got two vouchers to the amount of seven euros, meaning I was able to buy two 0.5 litre bottles of Cola and two pieces of chocolate, that I was given for free!
AT 9pm we were put in buses and driven to Dresden airport. The problem was the following: In Berlin-Schönefeld there’s a night fligh ban from 11pm on. The plane would have been able to land, but not to depart again. Since in Dresden the ban starts from midnight, we needed to go there – with a departure time of 3 minutes past midnight. The inflight service on this 4.5h flight was non-existent. The only thing that the airline (Germania) served as “meal” was one pathetic bread roll and juice. Fortunately I had some bread and grapes, but arriving 3.5h late in Tehran, I was quite hungry. So I went to my friend at whose place I had stored my other stuff. Since they don’t speak English, I got happy noticing that my Farsi wasn’t so bad after all.
On Friday (Aug 28th) I went to church at 6pm and afterwards socialised with the pastor’s couple and two other nice folks.
Since next weekend, nothing much was going on. I moved in the same apartment, which seemed last time having been cleaned by me in July. Now-a-days a nice Turkish and Pakistani guy are living there.
After three months I met Zhihui again and Tuesday evening (Sep 2nd) with Jooyang (Southkorea) and Mayuko (Japan). Before I went suited-up to the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce to get a list with companies I’ll apply for a job soon.
The evening with Jooyang and Mayuko was nice, again very delicious and long. At 3.15am Mayuko and me went home and one hour later I arrived at the dorm. I’m really thankful that, in opposite to huge cities like Istanbul, public transport (night buses) is running in Tehran even at night every 15 to 20 minutes on the main avenues.
I was glad the main door of the dorm was open, since I only have a key for the apartment right now, which will be a trouble later… I could grant myself 3.5h before going to school. After school I got some sleep again, but at 6.30pm I had to be at Tajrish to go with Jooyang, Mayuko and her friend Yasuki at party of her friend.
It was funny, the apartment was equipped with black light and the atmosphere shindig.
On Thursday at 8pm I was invited to a traditional classical Iranian concert of Shahram Nazeri and his son Hafez Nazeri. The concert was great. They were accompanied by classical and Iranian stringed instruments as well as drums.
At 1am my friends gave me a lift to the dorm and when they were gone I stood in front of the door…that was closed. Nobody in the whole building seemed to be awake, although it was theoretically Saturday. So what next? Well after 20 minutes I went to Laleh Park. Due to other night walks I knew that people were just sleeping on benches or the ground. So I got myself a sheltered and dark place on the ground. I wasn’t discovered, but without blanket, just with my concert outfit, I couldn’t sleep. It was too chilly and me not tired enough.
At six I got up, shook earth from my clothes and went to the dorm, that was, of course, closed. So I walked around for one hour but when I came back the connection between door and house was literally still close. Because I didn’t want to sit on the stairs in front, I went to Laleh Park again. And what a surprise, I saw Iranians working out to to music. It came from a radio broadcast van of the radio station Radio Javan (Youth radio), although most participants seemed over 50. Though around there were many young people playing especially badminton. On lawn nearby, families ate breakfast – I was really surprised and very happy, that the dorm’s door had been closed this night.
After I watched for about 5 minutes, a journalist approached and a spontaneous interview with me, the Austrian, was broadcast. I even got a little present: a world receiver.
Shortly before 9am I returned, because that Friday was an English worship were a Dutch guy would go. Hence finally I got in the apartment!

Live interview with Radio Javan (original link Radio Javan – Interview)

Week 16-18

June 6th till 24th
The last three weeks not much happened. I went with Yang, my Taiwanese room-mate, and his Japanese friends to the residence of the Algerian ambassador since there was a little Algerian culture exhibition showing clothes, paintings and offering some food. The daughter of the ambassador is in Yang’s class, that’s how we heard of this exhibition.
One day Yang and I tried to go on a second hand car market, but we didn’t even find that place.

The weekend of week 17 (June 18th to 20th) I went by train to Sari for visiting my friends there. In addition Thursday was the first day of the month of Ramadan, where people should not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. But actually it is mostly done in public. I don’t know anyone who would fast in the own house or in the office.
Still on Thursday we went to a BBQ birthday party, that didn’t differ from others: delicious salads, delicious meat and the normal choice of drinks.
On Friday we stayed at home until late afternoon, because it was really hot and humid outside, so it was the perfect opportunity to finish my book. Before sunset we went to the Caspian Sea and watched it there. At the beach nobody cared that it wasn’t gone yet but already started to eat and drink.
Saturday I took a day off from school and went in the morning by bus back to Tehran again.

In general not much is happening right now. I meet every now and then with some friends and looking forward to July, when I’ll start travelling again. The necessary equipment arrived on Monday by post, so now I’m just waiting…

But actually something happened. I went to Laleh Park two night now, because from about 9.30pm there are different performances going on. There are always some singers. One day there were some artists and sportsmen showed their skills in the traditional Iranian sports called Zurkhaneh.
Another day the highlight was a voice imitator.

Now-a-days it’s about 40°C (105°F) during day but it doesn’t get much cooler at night. So if you are outside for five hours, walking around and talking without, since it’s Ramadan, return to someone’s home, the mouth is drying out and you just want to have a glass of fresh cold water.

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Week 15 – Iran’s Green Side


30.5-5.6, Saturday-Friday

The previous week (23.5-29.5) was quite uneventful.

Wednesday (3.6) was a holiday in Iran, so the weekend was one day longer. Of course I had to take advantage of it and decided, as a friend recommended me, to go to the mountains around Soobatan, Gilan Province, in the north-west of Iran, near Azerbaijan.
I wanted to cross the mountains westbound from the coast north of Talesh to Neor lake, make a stop in Soobatan and then pitch my tent somewhere outside. The whole trail would have been around 38 kilometres (26mi, high differences already regarded).
Neor-Soobatan-Coast
But I didn’t want to go alone so I asked around a bit. And I really got an answer. A friend of Frisco’s firends, whom I had met before, wanted to join me. She didn’t hike or camped before, but the eveluation profile and experiences of other hikers suggested it not to be difficult and the 38km were divided on two days. Though the whole project (hiking and camping without a tour guide) seemed extremely crazy for Iranian standards, I wasn’t sure at all, that she would join me.
When I bought the bus tickets Tuesday (2.6) afternoon for the same evening, I had to notice that we would need to hike eastbound, since only tickets to Ardebil but not to Astara were available.
The bus should have left the terminal at 10pm and at 9.15pm I really met with A. The bus left with one hour delay and of course I couldn’t really sleep on it.
I told the man who stored my backpack that we wanted to get off at Budalalu and he agreed with a nod. I wasn’t sure that he understood especially since the guy who checked the tickets said it won’t be possible.
Anyway on Wednesday (3.6) morning at 7am the bus stopped and we go out. Now we just needed to get to the lake to start our tour. A. talked to a hiking group and luckily on their bus were exactly two free seats lefts.
At 9am we started from the lake but only two hours later A. was exhausted and wanted to take a car. It was possible since the there are (bad) roads to the village, to bring lazy tourists and food. I didn’t want to go by car so I gave A. some stuff for my backpack being a bit lighter. I estimated to arrive 3 or 4 hours later in Soobatan.
I arrived shortly after 2pm, but found A. 2 hours later. Then we discussed, if we should agree to the hospitality of some inhabitants or to start hiking and reduce the distance for the next day and sleep in the tent.
I could convince A. of the last, but it was already quite late that’s why a thunderstorm was about to hit us and shortly before it started we crashed into a big family and they didn’t let us continue. Of course I didn’t wanted A. to be afraid, so we went back to Soobatan with them.
After the thunderstorm was over, we drove around a bit and later we ate dinner. But I didn’t eat much, so the family saw it as an insult. Thus I couldn’t be 100% appreciate their help. A. and I then went sleeping on the terrace, since we needed to get up very early. I was surprised that the night was not cold at all as I was afraid of.
At 5am we got up and packed our stuff. The trail we took towards the coast couldn’t be done by car. So we regularly met shepherds or nomads, wrangling their animals along.
The distance was only 15km (10mi), but it became a challenge. Right at the beginning I took A.’s backpack and soon her inexperience was shown, because we could only go very slow. We needed nearly 10 hours till we reached the street to Tehran. I never hiked that long with such amount of luggage and my shoulder started to make problems.
The nature on the other hand was stunning beautiful and it rightly called “Iranian Alps”. The landscape reminded of of the one in middle and northern Europe as well as the Balkans.
As we reached the street, we took advantage of the fact, that the buses just stop at the roadside. That was shortly after 3pm and the driver told us it would have been 5.5h or 6h to Tehran. Unfortunately we didn’t arrive before until 11pm…

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Week 13 – In the Desert

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Day 90, 16.5, Saturday

After the weekend was used for my relaxation, I started excitedly my desert tour on Saturday morning (Route: ).
The idea was significantly influenced by Frisco who would fly back to Sardinia after this week of holidays. I wanted to meet with him in Garmeh, a little oasis village. My plan was to hitchhike on Saturday to Naein and to spend the night there.
From Tehran I did auto-stop till Qom and then Ali Reza and his son gave me a lift in their truck till Naein and invited me to participate at their lunch picnic.
I arrived in Naein before sunset, that’s why I decided trying to continue to Garmeh respectively Khoor. While waling through Naein I bought some bread and was taken to Anarak. Meanwhile it became dark, but as I was walking along the road a truck driver stopped and took me till Khoor, where I arrived at 11.30pm. First I walked for a while in direction to Garmeh under the breathtaking starry sky and eventually I got a ride with some students to Garmeh. They couldn’t believe or understand that I wanted to camp outside the village: Someone would come and kill me, camels would trample me to death or what would I do when a snake came? So they told me I had to sleep in a little praying room. After they went away of course I went out of the village and pitched my tent behind a little hill, hidden from the road.

Days 91-92, 17.5-18.5, Sunday-Monday

The next morning I met Frisco and we strolled through and around the village. We went to a water spring, that supplies the field around with water and maybe even Garmeh. In the spring were many Cleaner fishes, that soon were occupied with my feet.
For lunch I joined Frisco in his hostel although it was quite expensive, but ok. Then we went for a walk to another village in the vicinity. This village was kind of hard to find and not very beautiful. But in contrary the way to there and the landscape was amazing. During dusk we were back to Garmeh. While Frisco ate dinner, I built up my tent at the water spring and lit a bonfire. Initially we and some other guests of the hostel wanted to go to a café in, but it was closed. So we went to my place and sat around the fire talking until midnight. Two times shady people came near, but when I went sleeping they didn’t return any more – or at least I didn’t notice.
The next day started in a relaxed way. I got up late and at noon Frisco and I hitchhiked to Khoor. There we ate lunch and at 4pm I started alone towards Tabas. Again, the first vehicle, of course a truck, gave me a ride. This road is acutally the main connection between Esfahan and Mashhad that’s why there are always vehicles passing by – at every time of the day.
In Tabas I wanted to see the Shah Abbasi Dam. It was 20km from the place where I was dropped off and it started to get dark. Thus I found an old cistern a bit offside the town to be a nice place for the night.

Day 93, 19.5, Tuesday

I got up quite early and a teacher drove me to the starting point of the way to the dam. There I saw a German Volkswagen car, but it’s passengers were still asleep. To get to the dam, I had to walk for about 40 minutes along a little creek through some stunning canyons.
The water was (unfortunately) surprisingly warm and the creek not really deep. After 20 minutes I decided to get rid of my backpack – since it was Tuesday morning 8.30am, who should steal it. Later the water got deeper and I couldn’t walk around it, so I turned my trousers into shorts and hence violated the dress code of the Islamic Republic.
Then suddenly the dam appeared behind a 2 meter kind of stone wall and it was an impressive construction.
When I returned I obviously met the two Germans. They went to India and were on their way back again. They gave me a lift to Tabas, from where I wanted to go northbound and then westbound again, taking a the little road 36 along the desert and through a national park.
Unfortunately at the cross roads there was a police check point. It wouldn’t have been bad, if the few cars going in my direction had given me a ride. But maybe they were intimidated by the police presence, anyway the only thing they did was staring.
The check point was just a little area with a small building directly on the street, another in the middle of the area and a caravan. In the building on the street a young police officer and a soldier were sitting. After about one hour they whistled in my direction as I was a dog, so I waited until they came to me. They were very bored, I could see it and the police officer asked for my passport. I wanted to know why, but he just pointed his shirt with a sticker saying “POLICE”. I didn’t have any other chance than handing him my passport in, but from that time on I refused to speak Farsi, but only English.
Two and a half hours later I got it back. In the meantime he called his boss, another traffic police arrived and they randomly checked trucks confronting them with fake violations just to get bribe. The officer in charge was a disgusting dickhead, sorry but it’s the truth. In general the officers acted very arrogant and rude. At same time a Danish couple passed the crossroads and of course they were stopped and asked for their passport, too. After their passports were checked, I got mine back and could continue; but it was already very late. I needn’t pay any bribe by the way but wouldn’t have done it in any case.
I had to change my planned route and instead of the small road I had to take the highway further north. A trucked stopped by the police had to take me to the next town (Bardaskan). There the driver stopped for gas and I decided to spend the night next to the mosque of the resting area – which is allowed – and before sleeping read a bit.

Day 94, 20.5, Wednesday

I wanted to hithchike to Semnan, where I wanted to couchsurf. Initially I planed to arrive the day before, but obviously that was history. From Bardaskan I went to Sabzevar, where I was picked up by a truck driver who thought I was Turkish. At first he drove really fast, but later only 40 km/h. That’s why having a guilty conscience I told him I had to leave when I made his lunch break at 3pm. I didn’t want to arrive at the end of the day again, kind of wasting another day – of course this is hitchhiking and it happens, but I wanted at least to try to get there faster. And it was the right decision, since 2.5h later I arrived in Semnan. But 25km before I thought it would be later, since a rear wheel exploded. Fortunately the car had a spare tire, so we could continue after 15 minutes.
My couchsurfing hosts were a young Iranian couple, who was of course very nice. The husband, E., picked me up but didn’t speak English, so I spoke Farsi with him. His wife, A., spoke English and both attended some German classes. It was nice to speak English again after a few days.
Since the drivers only spoke Farsi, I didn’t have another option, but adapt. I hope it helped, because the topics were always the same.

Days 95-96, 21.5-22.5, Thursday-Friday

On Thursday E. and A. went to Tehran and took me with them. The rest of the weekend I relaxed and did nothing.