IRAN: 25.04. - 30.05.2001

Distance: 2375 Km          Ascent (in total): 10965 m

Preface: Salam (peace) is the way to say "hello" in Iran! Desert, desert and more desert,  that's what most people in Europe imagine, if they think about the Iran, but this is of course just one part of the realaty. The North of Iran and especially the region around the Caspian Sea is completely green; even a bit like Ireland! Thanks to a good irrigation system there are also big beautiful parks in the dessert cities. The hospitalety and friendliness of the Iranians is unbelievable and you have to experience it on your own!!!!!

 

Women in Iran: Despite, or because the woman are forced below the scarf (the Tschador is not a part of the culture in Iran. It is normally found in Afghanistan), the women in Iran are the most open minded women we found so far in the moslem world! Normally the moslem women were very reserved, but here in Iran they always started to talk to us, they gave us cookies or they even invited us! To show, that they are not willing to wear the scarf, most of the women in the bigger cities wear it in the middle of their head, so that most of their hair can be seen and sometimes it is a wonder, that the scarf does not fall off. Women are also supposed to wear a dark coat, but nowadays many just wear a colourful, well fitted version of the oldfashioned black one. And now the best: Woman who join a shared taxi with four unknown men are completely normal!

 
Arriving in Iran: As soon as we arrived in Iran, the winter was over! Although we're still on an altitude of 1300m above sealevel it was already spring. The trees had already many leafes and there were flowers on every meadow. On our second day we met an Iranian cyclist on his racing bike straight behind a truck. He slowed immediately down, and together with us he cycled up a steep hill. On top of the hill a friend on him had a small shop and so we're invited for a tea ad for our first lessons in Persian ("Khoda Havis" means "hello").
 
A cycleshop in Tabriz: In the mountains in Turkey we met two cyclists from New Zealand, and they recommended us a bicycle shop in Tabriz. There was no real need for us to visit a bicycle shop, but we promised the Kiwis to greed Saheed Mahhoud, the chief mechanic of the Iranian Cycle Team and the ower of the show, from them. When we arrived at the shop, we had just enough time to take off all the paniers from Nadines bike, when one of the mechanics already started to check her bike. In the meanwhile we got something to drink and somme cookies. Faster than the wind the mechanic cleaned the suspension, the break cables and the chain (with petrol). As soon as Nadine bike was fixed, they were already eager to check my bike. After everything was fixed, the problems started: we tried to pay! We tried very hard, but all our attempts to pay were refused. At least Saheed accepted a signed photo from us (the one from our homepage) for his shop. Then we're invited from the mechanic for lunch. Together with him and a member of the Karate national team we went to eat a Pizza.
 
Iran or Ireland? From Tabriz we cycled to the Caspian Sea. After the last minor pass we cycled through a tunnel when we suddenly arrived in an absolutely amazing green and beautiful valley. It looked moe like Ireland than Iran; meadows and green forests as far as the eye could see! The 45 Km ride from 1300m down to sealevel was indeed  a great downhill :-)))) 
 
Yaser: We just had cycled 20 Km along the coastlaine of the CaspianSea (the biggest saltlake in the world), when we stopped in a small village to stock up our cookies supplies. We got everything and were already back on the way to our bikes, when a young man came towards us and invited us for lunch. It was still a bit too early for lunch and so we agreed to have a cup of tea. At home Yaser told us proudly, that after some cyclists from Norway and from the Netherlands we're already the third cyclists he's able to welcome in his house. We became immediately friends and after about one hour we finally agreed to stay overnight (normally we had to cycle 50 Km more, because our Visa was only valid for 4 weeks and we had to cycle a total about 2000Km in Iran). In the afternoon we strolled along the beach and visited some of his friends. Then Yaser asked us, if we could cook some  German dinner and so we started to create a small menue. We cooked a potatosoup, spagetthi with a tomatoesauce (from fresh tomatoes) and for dessert some German pudding. The cooking itself was quite a disaster! First the gas cooker had not enough power and it took nearly half an hour  until the milk for the pudding was boiling. Then so much starch went from the spagetthi into the water during cooking, that everything became a thick slime! Fortunately Yasers mother came to rescue us with a big pot and so we managed to save the spagetthi! The potatosoup was quite good, but the spagetthi were by far to hot (spicy) for our hosts (exept of Yasers cousin who loved it). They're not used to chilly at all, and even the tiny amount we used was much to hot for them (I think they would die immediately if they go to a restaurant in India :-) ). Fortunately we still had our pudding, and although we had made 2 portions everything was eaten within a couple of seconds. Yasers cousin  had brought his videocamera, and so I think they are still laughing about the 2 Germans running around their kitchen trying to cook something. After dinner Yaser became alive and started a great dancing performance together with his aunt (of course also on the video!). On the next morning, the hardest part: we had to say "good bye" toYaser and his mother. But thanks to internet and email, we're still in contact.
 
Back into the mountains: After a couple of flat days along ricepaddies, at the Caspian Sea, we cycled back into the mountains. We had to cycle about 1600m uphill and from kilometre to kilometre it became drier and the traffic heavier. Especially the trucks blew extremely much exhaust fumes into the air. Quite dangerous were also all the tunnels because there was no illumination and many truckdrivers refused to turn on their lights. Due to fact that there was also no ventilation in the tunnels, breathing was quite a problem and it took us always some minutes to recover when we had arrived back in the fresh air.
 
Traffic in Teheran: Already our guidebook had warned us from the traffic in Teheran and suggested not to visit the capital of Iran! A friend of us had deposited some equipment for us with a family in Teheran and so we had no choice but to cycle into the mess.  The guidebook was absolutely right: it was a nightmare!!!!! Alrerady many kilometres before the city, the road became a motorway with 6 lines! Everybody was speeding towards the city center. On the most junctions were neither traffic lights nor policemen to coordinate the mess and so the courageous ones had the right of way! The golden rule to cross a road was to just start to cross it and to hope, that the crossing traffic would stop! The use of the indicator was also not known in Teheran. Worst off all were the shared taxis, because as soon as the driver saw a potential customer, he immediately pulled to the side without further notice and stopped. Quite often it was mere luck that we were not killed from a shared taxi.
 

Accomodation in Teheran: Finding an accomodation was also quite difficult, because the guesthouses were either not allowed to acoomodate foreign tourists, or their managers didn' want to give us a room or they tried to make a big deal with us and the prices suddenly skyrocketed. I spare you the details , but after 3 hours we finally managed to finde a guesthouse! Nadine was taking shower in the communal womens bathroom, when suddenly someone shouted: "Misses, Misses, open the door". After Nadine did't open the door a men pulled the plasticbag out of the keyhole and tried to look into the bathroom! I went to the reception and reported the situation to the manager, a very friendly men, but  he couln't find out anything. Normaly we would have left the guesthouse immediately, but this was the only guesthouse where we were able to find a room! While I was shaving myself in the mens toilet, the porter of the hotel (a young boy) came, talked a couple of sentences to me and dissappeared. When I came back to our room I found the porter standing in our room talking to Nadine. I asked about the reason for his visit and was told, that he just wanted to say us, that there is a restaurant within the hotel (why didn't he tell me this in the bathroom?). The woman of a man is completely tabu for other men (death penalty for adultery) in Iran. I went back to the manager, told him again what has happend, and that I'm quite sure, that it must have been the porter who was looking into Nadines bathroom. The manager appologized again, but the porter told the manager that he was working somewhere else (a straight lie). In the evening, Nadine was doing our laundry, the porter came again and told her, that he is loving her! I went again to the manager, but he was already at home and soI told our problem the night duty on the reception. Next morning, we're about to leave, the manager came to me, told me that he had already heard about the problems we had and apologized for our troubles. Then he told me, that he'd already thrown out the porter early in the morning....  For us a sad and happy story. Sad, because the way many moslem men behave is not really nice for Nadine. Sad, because the porter lost his job. But happy, because the manager showed, that the moslem communety is not willing to tolerate inpropper behavior against women.

 
Fam. Mohammadi: Sandra, a friend of us and a flightattendant, depositet some equipment and spare parts for us with a family in Teherean. We arrived in the afternoon, and immediately after saying hello, we're sitting in front of a delicious watermelon. So far we met many people on our trip, but very seldom we felt so welcome and nearly a part of the family and so we agreed to the invitation to stay for the night. The family had four daughters, and each of them spoke pretty good english (One of them even German, although she was too shy to speak it. Without any reason, because her grammar and pronaunciation was very good). The mother was a bit dissapointed when she found out, that we're vegetarians, because in Iran many people eat hardlymore than meat. But now she became very ambitious and created an awsome dinner!!!!!! Later in the evening the husband of Elham (the second eldest daughter) came and we had quite an audience to show our pictures from the journey. Usually we planned to leave after breakfast in the next morning, but we didn't manage, because while I  did some maintainance work on our bikes together with the father, the mother was again very busy in the kitchen preparing lunch. Instead of sitting on our bikes we again enjoyed a delicious meal. Elhams husband left work a bit earlier and together with him and the 3 younger daughters we went to visit the museum. Usually women are supposed to wear a scarf and a black coat, but now we learned, that there are many options to vary colour and shape. Finally the girls we're dressed in very colourful and fitting coats, quite different from the normal dress, but still within the law. Nadine would have been the only one with the old fashoned dress, but she got borrowed a more beautiful version. We're a bit late and so we nearly had to run through the museum. Especially the very beautiful made copies of the Coran (Qur'an) we're very impressive! They looked more like beautiful paintings to us.On our way back home Elham felt sick again and so, she went again (like on the day before) to see a doctor. We're quite shocked when she returned with a infusion still connected to her arm. At least Nadine, as a nurse, could take a bit care of Elham. Normally we'd planned to bake some German cookies and a cake in the evening, but now we'd to cancel it. Good luck, Elham felt better next morning and so Nadine showed her to bake a cake. We're a bit confused which temperature to use to bake the cake and after the cake was still not ready after one hour we changed to a higher temperature. The cake still didn't want to bake propperly and after we found out, that the scale in the oven was in F instead of C we again increased the temperature. After 2 hours, the cake was at last ready. Finally after lunch we had to leave. From the awsome food of the last days more than strengthened, we managed to cycle 81 Km towards Qom in the afternoon.
 

Qom: Qom is Irans religious centre, and is often named the "holy city". After we just managed to escape a sandstorm we arrive in Qom in the late afternoon. On our way into the centre we pass several very beautiful mosques and a funeral procession, where the open coffin is caried through the streets. We're looking for a internet cafe and different from internet cafes in the rest of Iran, there we're seperate ones for women and men. The mens internet cafe was closed and so Nadine went to the "For womens only" internet cafe, while I was waiting outside. While I was waiting the owner of the internet cafe, a woman in her fourties, came out and brought me a cup of tea. After all the work was done, we left Qom around sunset.

 
Semi dessert: Normally we expected to see  lot of of dessert in Iran, but as you already know it was quite different from Turky until Teheran. Even now we never got the same dessert feelig like in Egypt or in Jordan. We cycled through Iran in Spring and nearly everything wasat least a little bit green. We're quite surpirised, that the cenre of Iran although it is not hilly has many tablelands and most of the time we're on an altitude betwenn 1000m and 2000m (highes pass 2200m). First the vast tablelands seem to bee very boring, but for me the vast landscape with mountains anthe horizon is very relaxing. Unfortunately due to heavy traffic and stong winds it wasn't completely relaxing.
 
Esfahan: From Arash, a friendly well German speaking fellow in Teheran, we got the mailadress from Shirin, a friend of him in Esfahan. Shirind also speaks German and offered us to show us her town. After we had managed to find a small guesthouse, we met Shirin in the aftgernoon. Together with her we visited the "Palace with the 44 pillars" and strolled around the Emam Square. The Emam square measures 500m x 160m, and is sourrounded from many small shops, two impressive old mosques and the old palace. Unfortunately the entrance fees were 15 times higher for tourists than for locals an therefore too expensive for us. Shirin was a bit sad that we didn't go into the mosques but she didn't say anything. At last she showed us an old Christian church. The Church was built from people from Armenia and each squarecentimetreof its inner walls were paintet extraordinary beautiful. Next to the church was a small museum with a special exibition about the Armenians. There we learned, that in 1915 about 1,5 mio. Armenians were expelled from their country from the Turkish army. We're quite surprised, that the whold world denied to recognice the fate of the Armenians but are still pointing upon the Germans.
 
Day of the museums: On the next day Shirin told us, that today the entry to all museums would be for free; it was the annual day of museums. No wonder, that the whole Emam Square was completely crowded  with locals. Of course we also used our chance to see the palace and the mosques. The first mosque was constructed with three huge halls with a vast atrium and with several small gardens. Especially the size of the huge halls, which were completely covered with blue ceramics, were very impressive. The second mosque had just one big dome for praying. The dome was so constructed, that it was iridescent like copper; really awsome! From the palace we could see the whole Emen Square and because it was already evening we're able to see everything during sunset and finally in the night when everything was iluminated.
Making carpets: In Kupaeh, about 90 Km east of Esfahaqn, Ali a taxidriver invited us for lunch to his house. While his wife was perparing lunch, Ali showed us how the world famous carpets of Iran are made. At least in this family the "loom" for making carpets was right in the middle of the living room. The carpet was made from Alis wife (no childrens work), and it takes her 1 - 2 years to make a carpet depending to its size. For a 2x3m carpet, one years work, they get about 800 $US! So if we're planning to by a carpet, we kown now where to order it!
 
Sitting in a well: We got some good tailwind an so we managed to cycle already 70 Km in the morning. Like during the last couple of days it was with 36C pretty hot and so we're really hapy when we found this well (fontain) in a small town. Before the locals realised what was happening we were sitting on the side of the well and cooled our legs in the water. Unfortunately we couldn't sit in the well for the rest of the day and so after a short stop for some icecream, we went back on the road. When we stopped cycling in the eavening we had cycled 142 Km, the biggest distance since Egypt.
 
Dessert: Finally around Yazd it became more dessert like. There was merely any vegetation and the temperatures had reached 40C in the shadow. Due to the strong sun (we were mostely above 1500m), the dry air and the wind our lips were cracked and aching. It was so hot and dry, that our noses started bleeding. Fortunately the are many small tunnels below the roads and so we managed to escape from the heat at least during our breaks. Hard to belive, that 4 weeks ago we were sitting in the snow!
 
Mosque with a holyshrine: After a long day we arrived in Anar, a small town, just to buy some food before looking for a place to pitch our tent. As usual we attracted a crowd of children, and finally their English teacher invited us into his house. We were just sitting with tea and some cookies in front of his house, when a friend of the teacher arrived. Actually the teacher had invited us to stay overnight in his house, but now he insisted, that we would have to sleep in the mosque. We expected to meet the Pasadran (guardians of the revolution) who would ask for our marriage documents, but nothing happened. Instead the very friendly warden of the mosque (I think it was not the Imam) welcomed us and just asked us how many days we're planning to stay. We were told that the mosque has a holy shrine, an therefore some accommodation for the pilgrims. Then we got our own room and off he was. We already had spent a night in a church in Jordan, but a night in a mosque with a holy shrine is indeed very special!
 
The holy shrine: Normally we're quite reserved with visiting religious sites and especially in visiting mosques, because we don't want to disturbe anybody. But now we're already in a mosque with a holy shrine and after all pilgrims had left the mosque, Martin went to visit the shrine. Besides the beautiful shrine also another room was very impressive. The room was completely covered with mirrows and due to a chandelier hanging down from the roof, the room was sparkeling awsome!
 
Shiraz: We had some good tailwind for acouple of days (we cycled distances up to 162 km) and so we arrived in Kerman earlier than expected. We decided to use the extra time to visit Shiraz, according to many Iranians their most beautiful city, by bus (the time was too short to cycle everything). But our trip was not really successful. First as Christians we're not allowed to visit a mosque with a holy shrine. We're a bit surprised because we just slept in a mosque with a holy shrine a couple of days ago, but we didn't say anything. The entrance fees for the most sites here were even more expensive than in Esfahan and tourists were charged 30times more than locals and so we decided not to visit anything. We're quite surprised, that the muslim government of Iran dosn't follow the instructuions of the Quran, where it is said that a good moslem should support, travellers (like poor people) and where it is also said, that a moslem is not allowed to make unfair prices. Insted of visiting the sites we spent the afternoon in the park and in the very beautiful bazar.
 
Haman: One of the sites we visited in Shiraz was a historic hamam. The hasmam is a bathhouse and the one we went to visit was now used as a restaurant. The hamam was decorated very beautiful and so we sat down. We expected that a waiter would come to take our orders, but nothing happened. Some students were sitting next to us and they told us, that you have to place your order on the counter at the entrance. We had no change to do so, because one of the students was already on the way to order some tea for us. Togehter we spent one hour in the haman before they went to a concert and we back to the busterminal.
 
Bam: Bam is an acient town with a huge castle. Normally a visit to Bam is on the scedule of every tourist, but in decembre 2003 a huge earthquake destroyed everything. Unfortunately not only the castle was destroyed, but also nearly the whole town. Probably around 40000 people died! Before the earthquake about 90000 people used to live in Bam, but nearly the half of them died or is missed! In Kerman we were told from an university professor, that there are now about 200000 people living in Bam. Due to the good national and international aid, many poor people went to Bam. At least all these families are well cared for at the moment, but nobody knows what is going to happen in the future. We're not keen on to visiting a place were people are suffering and still mourning for their dead relatives and friends and so we canceled Bam from our scedule. On the picture you can see Bam before and after the earthquake.
 
Do you speak English? If you think about Iran, you immediately think about the problems between Iran and the USA. So it was not surprising, that some of our friends told us, that it should be nearly impossible to comminicate in English. We already reported several times about the friendly Iranians and their great hospitalety, but it also turned out, that many people in Iran speak very well English and also enjoy it. A bit unusual is that the governmet thinks it is more important to read and write in English than to speak it. Therefore most English teachers don't speak to their pupils in English at all! Instead they just practice grammer. In Shiraz we even met an English teacher who was teaching since 10 years, but her skills in speaking were as good as the ones from a pupil after 4 years learning English. Already earlier we were a bit confused to hear that many people speak English with an American accent. Finally we found out, that because the teachers don't speak with the pupils the pupils watch american videos and so they learn the american pronounciation. We also could never see hear that the Iranians hate the USA. It's even vice verca, many of them would like to meet some Americans or would like to visit the USA. With the experience with their own governmet they now very well, that the citizens of a nation are not as bad as its government!
 
Belutschistan: Belutschistan is a vast region between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Belutschistan is inhabited and controlled by tribes and famous for drug smuggeling, weapon smuggeling and kidnapping since many years. We decided to cross this region by bus and so we took our first 550km stage from Kerman to Zahedan with the nightbus. We arrived in Zahedan at about 5am but from here it was still 80 km to the bordertown Mir Javeh. As we found out there was no public bus heading to Mir Javeh and the only option seemed to travel with a strange guy who offered us ride in his minibus. We didn't choose the bus option for safety reasons just to end up in some ones minibus at 5am to be shutteled out into the dessert. So we waited until abut 7am, found another and even cheaper minibus and two hours later, we arrived at the border to Pakistan. The border crossing porcedure was extraordinary fast (about 3 minutes together for immigration and customs office). We threw our last Iranian money into the donation box and left this country with its very friendly people.
 

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