I saw the Sea, and now I’m leaving Iran

Yesterday was a really looong day. We were on the bus at 7:30, for what turned out to be a 12 hour saga, culminating at the Caspian Sea. For reasons unknown, the official itinerary for the trip says that the travel time from Tehran is about 4 1/2 hours. With the best of luck, the route we took is at least 7 hours, not including stops! and we did stop.

For the first few hours, we were in the Tehran vicinity, passing through industrial areas, suburbs and very little of interest. BRown and gray were the only colors out there.

IN the city of Rahst, we stopped for lunch. Soufie prepped us by telling us that this place specializes in fried Caspian white carp, and suggested that we try it. He did warn that it has lots of bones. Most of us agreed to go with the carp, though a few held out for lamb or chicken. What arrived first was plates mounded high with the most aromatic rice I’ve ever tasted. It was lightly smoked during the drying process, which gives it a most unusual and wonderful flavor. I really wanted to bring some home, but alas, it was not to be.

After lunch we drove up into the mountains, where the landscape changed so dramatically it was hard to belive we were still in Iran.OUr destination was the small village of Masouleh, reputed to be very charming and old fashioned with interesting buildings. It was more than 60 km from Rahst, and it took more than an hour to get there. We passed many many rice paddies, which was a surprise to most of us. Iran certainly eats lots of rice, but we didn’t know they grow it here. The country we had seen we so arid it was impossible to imagine rice growing. It seems to be in small, family farms, with women doing most of the work planting the seedlings.Folks who had been to asia reported that it looked pretty much like China. Then there were tea “farms”, with rows of intense green tea bushes spreading out into the distance. We saw some tea being harvested, by hand,into what looked like burlap sacks. I saw more of those same sacks in a couple of small towns, on the backs of donkeys, heading to sell them, I supposed.

As we drove higher up the mountain, the weather grew colder and wetter. By the time we arrived at Masouleh, it was 4pm and raining steadily. We all sat on the bus and wondered what to do. We got out, stood around and realized that it would take at least an hour just to walk to the intresting part of the village, and back again, and it was raining . I ended up talking to a small group of 15 yr old girls, as usual, handing out some post cards, and eliciting smiles and waves. We all retreated to the bus, and agreed to skip the hike in the rain, and drive back down the mountain and on to the sea. If we wanted to see the Sea before dark, we had to hustle. Our poor driver, after negotiating the narrow winding road, had to turn around and do it again!

We did reach the Sea before dark. It’s not really all that exciting. Flat, not much different from one of the Great Lakes. We continued on to our hotel, expecting the fun of staying in a 1930’s era hotel which is a bit run down, but still “princely” according to Denise who had stayed there a few years ago.

It was quite a drive along the shore of the Sea, through many small villages, to Ramsar. By the time we arrived, it was 8pm. We got off the bus, gathering our small over night bags and waited for our room keys.Much to our dismay, the old nice part of the hotel was closed,only the ugly 1960’s vintage gigantic mess of a hotel was open. Very unhappy, we proceeded to our rooms and then to a poor dinner in the hotel dining room. This place should go down in the record book of bad hotel design. To get to the elevator, there is a flight of steep stairs. Then, the elevator does not stop at the floor with the restaurant, one must either walk up or down a flight. The place was nearly empty, and the hallways smelled odd, like some sort of disenfectant or maybe mold? We grumbled our way back to our rooms.

In the morning, at breakfast, everyone remarked that much to their surprise, they had slept really well! Mysteries abound. After breakfast, we went to the actual water, took some photos, one or two people insisted on taking off their shoes and wetting their feet. It’s really not all that much. Back on the bus, heading to Tehran.We did stop at the Shah’s Caspian sea palace, not bad. A little boy, around 6, smiled at me, so I gave him a post card. He then followed me around for the next 20 min, trying to tell me something! he was very cute!

The countryside up there is really lush, green fertile. The road back wound through very steep mountains, back and forth. There is a new highway being built, and the construction of it makes me think of the 3 Gorges Dam project in China.The terrain they are working in is really difficult, the amount of earth being moved is phenomenal. I can only imagine how long it will take to finish. We had lunch in a restaurant , outside, looking over the deep gorge, with a river racing at the bottom, draining from the snow and ice just slightly above us.

We arrived back in Tehran at about 6pm, just time to write this last entry, shower and repack. I have three long flights ahead of me tomorrow, starting with the Tehran – Frankfurt flight at 3:30 am! We leave for the airport at 11:30, after our “good -bye” dinner. Then it’s Frankfurt-NY, then NY-San Francisco. I expect to be home Monday evening, exhausted beyond words. It’s been a great experience, both intellectual and emotional, and I’m so glad to have been able to come here.


Published in: on May 4, 2008 at 2:35 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Karen,

    Thanks for the blog. It’s been so much fun to read. Welcome home. Hope you catch up on your rest and take that headscarf off. Talk to you soon


  2. hi karen .
    do you remember me ?
    i’m ehsan , i visited u at abyane.
    did you had good travel?

    yours sincerely (ehsan)

    • Hello Ehsan,
      If you are interested, you can look at my website, sfslater.com. It has images of my artwork, with a section of Iran paintings. And also in the monotypes there are many with Iran images, at least to me they are about Iran! I hope you and your family are well.

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