E #20 | Welcome to my Country/Iran | 187th day

This article was translated by my friend Carmina. Thank you very much! You are awesome!!!

 

After the three girls in Ankara had left me with the traditional greeting "Su gibi git, su gibi gel." (Travel as quickly and safely as water and come back as water.), I was then in the long-distance bus, which would lead me into a whole new world. The bus offered a lot. Spacious seats with footrests and entertainment system (exclusively in turkish, of course). Considering the journey duration of 30 hours, I decided to treat myself. It was basically a christmas gift from me to me. We drove through Eastern Turkey, however I didn’t get to see that much. We started at twilight and the darkened windows made it hard to see the landscape. We had the first stop after only a few minutes. There were problems with the tires. Provisionally, the bus was made fit to drive and only in Iran did we stop at a garage. It went on at usual rapid speed in 2-3 hour stages towards Iran. On one of the stops a woman surprisingly crawled out from the luggage compartment! She had spent the night sleeping on the luggage. Why not!

I was a bit disappointed that we drove right past the Ararat, the highest point of Turkey (5.137m), and I unfortunately could not see the single mountain because of the weather. The border crossing was a cool experience, took some time, but was totally unproblematic. Not even my luggage was checked and every official was very friendly, interested and welcomed me into his country. "Welcome to my country / Iran". This would be the most common phrase I would be hearing in the following days. It is unbelievable what an interest, hospitality and kindness I meet here!

My hosts in Tehran showed great flexibility. Due to the delay I arrived at 4 o'clock in the morning on one of the bus stations. A nice Iranian, who had already taught me some Farsi (Persian) on the trip, also organized and negotiated a taxi for me, which delivered me shortly before 5 in the morning at Peyman's (IRN) and Mozhde's (IRN) house. The young married couple live in the east of the city and have been excellent hosts for my time here in the capital. Peyman was also so friendly to be my supporter for my mobile phone contract and also for an Iranian electronic cash card. It is unusual that they want to have my fingerprint for all kinds of documents here. But oh well ... I have beautiful fingers, which I can certainly show. After I had somewhat acclimatized, we spent a lot of time on conversations. Peyman is studying social science and the two could teach me a lot about Iran, its structure and culture. In turn, I was able to answer questions on Europe, modern Germany and Nazi Germany. Very exciting. Last but not least, the two helped me to establish a rough route for my personal discovery of their home country. I love it when locals recommend their most beautiful places.

Right now to my highlight of the past days. I have experienced cool things, but this is really outstanding. I have never met so many friendly and interested people. At times, I feel like a zoo animal. I am being looked at, photographed and even fed. On the road, I am always asked to answer questions about myself, my origin, my trip, my impressions of Iran etc.. From all kinds of people. They approach me with a smile, offer me free advice, goods and food, treat me very respectfully and - usually after a photo together - they say goodbye with "Welcome to my country / Iran!". I have never experienced such a hospitable nature / culture. Unique! The Iranians are aware of their unfortunately not too positive picture abroad, especially in Europe, and it seems to me as if each individual person I meet here functions as ambassador of international understanding who takes his/her mission very seriously. And indeed, it is so. Everyone who meets a person of another culture is an ambassador. I am and you are too! Also within Germany!

Iran is different: Yes! Iran surprises and is unfamiliar: Yes! Iran still has some problems: Yes! AND: As far as I am concerned, Iran is a safe and incredibly open-hearted country. Up until now I have only experienced the metropolis of Tehran, which is, of course, somewhat more western. Surely, if you are here you have to adapt and respect the unfamiliar and sometimes discriminatory rules. But the country is definitely worth a trip, a long term stay or even more. If you have the chance to come here, definitely do it. Better today than tomorrow, because only recently did the country open itself to tourism, lots can still be experienced in its purity and the people here welcome you with honest joy and interest. And no, I am not subsidized by the tourist office (unfortunately!), I would just like to draw a positive picture of the Iran in Europe. Of course you cannot be naive, but like everywhere else in the world, there are more good than criminal people here.

The most interesting topic is life in a country that religious-conservatively builds its legal system on its interpretation of the Koran. The Islamic law, the "Shari'ah, is part of the democracy that governs the constitution in the country. Probably the most important problem that accompanies this is the inequality of the sexes according to the law. Women and men are generally separated in public. For example, there are own train wagons for women as well as a couple of sex-separated restaurants and cafes. Women, as well as men, must be covered in the public, although the rules for the woman are, of course, much more severe. The independent religious police check compliance with these rules. With a few ladies and gentlemen I have already been able to talk about this topic. And most want the secularity and more liberalism. I would like to write a bit more about this topic. However, the behavior of the sexes according to my observations or me has not shown any great differences ... well, perhaps the girls smile a bit more.

Teheran

Tehran has about as many inhabitants as Istanbul and is thus also gigantic. Particularly notable, in negative sense, is the severe air pollution caused mainly by the traffic. Some people walk around with mouth guards and sometimes the smog is so dense that you can hardly see. And I also haven’t experienced such a wild traffic hurly-burly before. A walk becomes an adventure and I always catch myself shaking my head with a bewildered smile while watching the events around me. A road crossing becomes a battle between you and the cars. But not only the streets are extraordinary for me. The hard working salespeople who are everywhere to find are incredible. All possible hotchpotch (including underwear, toys, coloring books, MP3 players ...) you can buy directly in the metro, on the highway, on hiking trails ... really everywhere. Constant conversation, for they are diligently proclaiming their speeches, but are not obtrusive and show respect. Probably not least because of this, people actually buy from these sellers. A man next to me tried and bought a pair of socks and razor blades in the subway.

Objectively, Teheran unfortunately isn’t that much of a beautiful city. The smog, the sheer size of the buildings erected before the Islamic Revolution in the late 1980s and the crazy traffic makes it seem rather dreary. Historically and architecturally it doesn’t have much to offer, since it was only appointed capital relatively late. The cultural centers of the former Persian empire are still located in the South. The city is trying to counteract to this by setting up parks and modern buildings such as the Azadi Tower or the Tabiat Bridge. Unfortunately only with moderate success. Although the Milad Tower (> 400m) gives a magnificent view over the city and the Tochal mountains in the background, I am not convinced enough to call the city "beautiful". The Great Bazaar, with a total of of 10km length, with winding and sorted shopping alleys and traders is worth a visit. A gigantic area full of great and inexpensive things.

I visited the 200-year-old king’s domicile, the Golestan Palace with its enormous marble throne and spent interesting and exciting hours at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the world-famous National Jew Museum, unfortunately photography was forbidden, but it was incredibly fascinating what sorts of precious stones and exquisite jeweler art the kings have accumulated over the past centuries. I had the very special luck with Zarry (IRN) to have a professional tour guide as a friend. Among other things, there was the largest pink diamond - the "Ocean of Light" - and a throne or globe from hundreds of thousands of different gemstones to discover. Another, very funny experience, was the visit of the restaurant "Moslem" at the large Bazaar. Probably the most famous fast food restaurant in Iran. Hundreds of people dine here in 3 floors. The queue at the entrance is always long, however Peyman brought up the tourist argument in conversation with the owner, which brought us in straight away. I would have been lost. One single hullabaloo. I could hardly walk and was pushed from one counter to the next by the crowd, but in the end we were seated tightly at a table and the food was amazing. There is much to report about the Persian / Iranian cuisine! I’ll save this for another article. In the funfacts you will find one of the “highlights".

Tochal-mOUNTAINS

Peyman and Mozhde suggested to make an excursion into the nature on the weekend, to escape the city and the smog and as it was supposed to go to the mountains, I was immediately enthusiastic. Although here the winter also reaches minus temperatures, I was in for the small expedition. Through a travel group in WhatsApp, I got in contact with two other Germans in Tehran and the two joined us promptly. Ben is traveling with his car from Germany to India and Lennard is going to Africa with his. Very impressive. So we met in the morning with Peyman's brother and drove to the foot of Mt. Tochal (3.933m) to begin the ascent. The summit was not our goal, because the weather conditions were too risky for us. After passing of a lot of restaurants with the all kinds of salesmen, we finally reached the ascent through a ravine, which serves as a recreation area for the metropolis. From then on there was less going on.

At the last possibility we got small crampons which we could bind under the shoes and without this we would not have made it far. We went through a beautiful winter landscape up the rocks to ~ 3.200m. Occasionally through small water courses, climbing passages, ice fields and past one or the other waterfall. Partially, ropes were struck into the mountain without which we would not have achieved so much. At minus-degrees and up to ~ 100cm of snow and ice we reached the mountain hut. We had a wonderful view over Tehran and the mountain range. From here, the air pollution in Tehran is very well and frighteningly visible. But we had pure mountain air and enjoyed being the "exotics" on the mountain. Everyone, whether male or female, wanted to talk to us, question and take pictures with us. "Welcome to my country / Iran!”.

After a night in the 40 man bed room, of course strictly separated by sex, we set off after breakfast to hike a bit on the plateau and then back down the descent. I love mountains, which I have already mentioned a few times here. I would like to thank all my fellow travelers for the fantastic two days on the mountain. It was my first winter hiking trip and I enjoyed it. But at about -14 ° C on the mountain I also told myself that it is now time to travel southwards again in direction of summer.

nEW YEAR 2017

Here, we are currently living in the year 1395. The Iranian calendar looks somewhat different. The New Year's Feast starts here on March 21st and lasts longer than ours. I certainly had an outstanding New Year's feast and I hope you did too! A school friend of mine studied at the Caspian Sea in Iran and so some friends from my hometown also set out to spend a few days in Iran. Then of course it is natural that we all met in Tehran and joined for new years. I strongly believe that in Iran never before so many people from my hometown have celebrated New Year's Eve. It was great! We also welcomed Ben and Lennard, and the Armenian restaurant around the corner even made a bit of firework for us.

Unfortunately, on the way to the apartment of my friends, I was just about to type a message on my smartphone, which was suddenly torn out of my hands. A motorcycle thief had, while I crossed a side street, snapped for it, skilfully gripped it and off he was. It all went very quick and I was, of course, first of all perplexed. Shortly before the biker turned around the next corner, we looked each other in the eyes and realized what had happened just now. What a crap! I had already been warned of these thefts when I entered Turkey, but now it actually hit me. Away it is. Along with my German and also Iranian sim card. But something like this can happen anywhere ... Tehran is just a big city like any other. An unfortunate last day in 2016.

But I was still quite lucky. I have never really liked my mobile phone and that’s why it was very cheap. Funnily, only one day before I had transferred all of my emotionally valuable pictures onto my laptop. Electronic devices in Tehran are comparatively cheap and accessible everywhere. And a few minutes before I had decided on a meeting place with my friends and knew how to go there without navigation. And the two most important things: It was just a mobile phone and is easy to replace ... with my passport this would look different. Above all, of course I can also be lucky that it was just a theft and I personally did not suffer any damage.

 

It is a bit annoying, but I have of course expected such an incident during my trip. Luckily I found two extraordinarily helpful (classic Iranian) friends with Peyman and Mozhde. In no time I had a new mobile phone, all important bureaucracy done and I can now start again properly. I will go to the South with Ben and Lennard and their big cars and I look forward to some great days with them. Summer: I'm coming!

 

Many greetings and a fantastic start into the new year to everyone! Schilli


Funfacts

- On the bus to Iran, I was extremely well received by the traveling Iranians and the first thing that came to one of the men on the bus on the subject of Germany: Michael Ballack!

- The taxi drivers at the bus station are frightening. Two taxi drivers literally beat themselves about who would get to drive me!!! A fellow bus rider then organized a decent taxi for me. Oh, any car in Tehran can be a taxi. Private people also like to go for money. Just wave and ask.

- Depending on the license plate, certain cars are allowed to drive only certain parts of the city ... isn’t of much use, though.

- One night I was locked up in the toilet in the apartment. The lock did not open. Peyman freed me after a few minutes. Super funny! Oh ... of course ... longdrop toilet ...

- One morning my two hosts took me to a mountain village to taste an Iranian delicacy. Kalleh Pacheh: Cooked sheep's tongue and brain, eye and head! Crazy, but also tasty! Especially the tongue and the brain have grown on me.

- Ben is really well with photo cameras and likes to play around with them.... He travels with six different cameras!

- On the mountain I was invited by an Iranian to a trip to the not so distant Damavand. The highest mountain in Iran with 5.610m would be interesting, but I need summer now. Also, maybe I should do a 4,000m mountain first, as training.



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