On the road to Tehran

We left Isfahan with a bit of sadness, most of us wishing we had at least one more day. It’s such a lovely place, and we explored only a part of it.

The drive to Tehran was an all day affair, with stops. Our first stop was a tiny mountain village, Abanaya. It sounded so quaint in the Lonely Planet guide, and in our itinerary from Distant Horizons. Turns out it is a major tourist destination for Iranians. As we arrived in our big blue bus, we noted 4 o5 five other tour buses parked in the town’s only car park. We walked up and down the town’s only road, some stone paved areas, mostly dirt and stones. Women wearing white clothes strewn with bright red and pink flowers were sitting on the edges of the “tourist walk” hawking all sorts of stuff. A fast moving stream flowed alongside the walk way, and a group of art students from Shiraz were sketching the rustic buildings along the water. I did not find it all that charming, but then a young man came up and said hello, holding the hand of an elderly lady. His name was Eshan, and he was from Hamadan and wanted to talk with an American. He introduced himself and his grandmother, and told me that he was in computers. Turns out he graduated with a degree in “IT” as he said, and earned a Microsoft certificate in Systems Analysis, and is also an inventor of some kind. Between the language difficulty and the crush of people, and my need to some what keep up with my group, I don’t think I really heard all that he had to say. He was very sweet and continued to walk along with me for quite a while, towing the grandmother along. I gave him both a San Francisco pencil and a post card, and wrote my email address on the card. I would enjoy exchanging notes with him, he is 26 and very sincere, and wants to come to the US to work in the computer business. Any offers?

We got back on the bus and headed north again. We passed through Natanz, where the Iranian nuclear industry is headquarterd, according to one of our group. The military presence was more pronounced there, and we were cautious about taking photos out of the bus.

While Abanya was pretty high up in the mountains, and there were green trees all around, the rest of the area was almost unrelieveably gray and brown. Mountains have a very rough, jagged look with very little vegetation visible from the roads. It seems like we will be on the road forever.

Around 1:30 we pulled off the road into a small hotel/restaurant in the city of Kashan. Kashan has a reputation for being a lovely city, but I didn’t see anything particularly lovely. Perhaps we just didn’t get there. On the other hand, we did see many people, families and single folks, lying on carpet covered raised platforms, right next to the sidewalk in some cases, in sort of “rest areas” with tent coverings in other places. It seems like a tradition in many areas to take an afternoon rest, outdoors, in public, where you can chat with people. I thought it looked absolutely wonderful. After lunch, we headed to the famous “Fin Gardens” for a brief visit. On the walk from the bus to the entrance, I passed a whole platform covered with hrose petals. The scent was like the lovliest perfume, light and sweet and lingering. I was just astonished by the lavishness of it all, and took several photos, not capturing the scent of course!

I entered the gardens, nice but not as transporting as those in Kerman. I chose to sit on a bench in the shade and people watch. Naturally, I was the one watched. After a while, and older woman with her daughter walked past, stopped and walked back, and the woman sat down next to me. She smiled, I smiled, and she asked “Where from?”. “America” I answered, to her big smile. We talked for a bit, her daugher(18) helped to translate. She asked about our politics, being very clear that she did not like her government one bit. “Clinton,Obama, Maccain, all good , yes?” she said. NO I answered. “Clinton and Obama are good, Mc Cain is just like Bush, more war” She nodded. One more convert to the Democratic side, some day! I gave her daugher a pencil and her a post card, and headed back to the bus.

I was walking towards the bus, when I remembered that there was rose jam to buy, next to the rose petals, so I made a detour. I heard my name, and looked around. It was Eshan, from earlier in the day in the tourist village. He was happy to see me again, and wanted to introduce me to his parents. I really had to go or the group would be angry, so I begged off. Small country sometimes.

We spent another few hours on the bus,and then Soufi asked if we wanted to make a stop for coffee or tea, and bathrooms. Naturally we all agreed.

Not far from the highway ( a big 6 land divided highway) was a rest area, with restaurants, bathrooms and shops. Honestly, if you changed the lettering on the signs, it could be a rest area on the Illinois Tollway! Fast food, junk sales, lots of young people on their way somewhere. We took over a small coffee place in one corner of the building, ordering coffee, tea, ice cream. I had a “beer” since I was mostly thirsty, and hot. It was fascinating to observe the teen agers, acting like teenagers everywhere, shoving and yelling and being obnoxious. What a view into the life of average folks, or at least those who live in the more urbanized areas and have cars and some discretionary cash. Not average Iranians, really.

As we neared Tehran, traffic increased and slowed down. We stopped a bit of distance from the Imam Khomeni Mausoleum complex, but Soofi did not want to really make a stop there. A few people, not me, persuaded him to go into the complex and let them visit the interior of the place. I decided to stay back, I was tired and had seen sooo many mosques, mausoleums, etc. The complex looks like Disneyland gone Islamic. Huge minarets, with neon lights all around, gigantic dome,with another under construction looking like a line drawing of a dome, only the metal work was finished. Families were picknicking on the ground in the parking lot, families were camping out in the parking lot too. The car and bus exhaust was so bad my throat was closing, so I held my cotton scard over my nose and mouth to breathe through. I couldn’t imagine sitting around there for hours, eating!

When the folks who had gone in came back, I naturally wished I had gone too. They said that some young women were weeping at the tomb, while others were more interested in taking picture of and with the Americans. The site is becoming a sort of outing place. Soofi is disgusted with the carnival atmosphere and says that the Ayatollah Khomeni would never have approved of the place, and he won’t go in. I understand how he feels, but many people like to pay homage to the man who changed Iran so thoroughly in 1979.

We finally reached our hotel in Tehran at about 8:30pm. This time I have a nice room, with airconditioning that sort of works, and a view out over a park and the city from the 10th floor. We are all clustered on one floor in the hotel, which makes things easier for everyone. Dinner was quite late, for those of us who had dinner. Some people had eaten quite a lot of ice cream at the afternoon rest stop, and were not hungry. I had eaten very little, and was starving!

I did sleep well last night.

Today we toured the two palaces of the Palavhi Shahs in the north of Tehran. In the Green Palace, so called because of it’s greenish marble facade, the most outstanding room was a reception room done all in mirrors. When I say all in mirrors, I really mean it! Walls and ceiling were totally covered in a mirror mosaic! Gaudy doesn’t begin to convey the look. The persian carpet on the floor was a rich dark one with a small pattern, nicely grounding the room. I can’t imagine how it would feel to sit in that room so much reflecting light would be crazy!

As you can imagine, it was all a bit too much, like too much candy, and I welcomed the cool moist air outside, and the tall green trees all around. The palaces are in a huge park with running water trees and flowers everywhere. Lots of Tehrani’s take advantage of the outdoors there on Friday, the sabbath. Tehran seems quiet today, like Sunday’s used to be in the US years ago before Kmart and everything else decided to be open all the time. It’s really nice that nearly all the stores are closed, a few restaurants are open, and most of the museums. People really do have a rest from the daily grind.

We visited a few more museums after lunch, then headed back to the hotel.I have to repack. We are leaving early in the morning, 7:30, and are to take only an overnight bag. The rest will be checked in the hotel for our return the next night. I’ve got to go and get organized. We have only a few more days. Tomorrow and the next day we are along the Caspian sea, then home!


Published in: on May 2, 2008 at 5:36 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hi karen
    i arrived to hamedan at last night .
    i saw your pic on my pc.
    my grand mother very like u .
    i have best wishesh for u .have good trip.
    i want design a site about turism .
    this domain is http://www.pageofpersian.ir
    u could see all pic and information of interesting place of iran.
    hamedan is very oldest place .
    the korush is the first king of persian .i like it .
    and his son.it was xerxes.(khashayar)
    xerxes’s wife is ester .ester mean (star)
    this grave is very important and interesting for the Jews people.

    this is a pic of this place .
    i want to send more gift .4example potterian dishes and ….
    see u again .
    take care plz

    my email is e.homaei@gmail.com

  2. Hi Karen,
    I’m been meaning to remark each time I have read another ‘episode’ in your wonderful journal. You’ve really conveyed the flavors of Iran. It’s been a joy to read! Thank you. Barbra

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