Germany to Iran and back

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Boarder06, May 3, 2009.

  1. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    In the morning I just don’t feel like leaving and I don’t. That’s the beauty of traveling solo. After breakfast I set out to visit the town’s sights.
    First stop is the 14th century mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai, Iran’s most important Jewish pilgrimage site. It’s looks a bit misplaced in the middle of a modern city.
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    The friendly rabbi greets me outside and after telling me to take my boots off leads me inside through the 400kg, well greased, stone slab door.
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    There are indeed two coffins inside
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    and a small meeting place. The rabbi gives the grand tour in a mix of Yiddish, English, French, and German, which reminds me of a colleague of mine from Berkeley who always talks and corresponds in the same language mix. So the guy makes me smile and we chat for a while. I learn that the Jewish community in Hamadan has 15 members from 10 families. I wonder what life is like for these people in an Islamic republic. After some more tourist show up I say goodbye and leave after giving a small donation.
    I wander through town past stores
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    and spend some time on the central city square, basically a huge roundabout with a park in the middle, which has a very ugly relief of Khomeini and some scenes from the Iran-Iraq war.
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    I sit down and watch people for a while. The old guys meet and chat, the young people walk by busily and I see the ultimate Yuppie macho guy in an ill fitting suit. He wears a fancy Bluetooth ear piece, acting all important, and lets his wife carry the phone behind him. I have a look at a cop cruiser
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    and walk across town, past a shop window full of fake bavarian non-alcoholic beer
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    and some strange signs (any Farsi speakers here?)
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    to the mausoleum of Persian poet, physician and philosopher BuAli Sina, known in the west as Avicenna. He died in 1037 but the impossibly ugly mausoleum is from the 50s. Not a decade known for architectural highlights. The best thing that can be said about this place is that there is a lively park next to it.
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    I walk back to the hotel and take a nap. I wake up by some loud noise which turns out to be a pretty bad hail storm.
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    Yep, it pays to listen to your inner voice telling you not to get on the bike today.
    P.S.: Who says kitsch and energy conservation can’t mix? Clearly the hotel owners have found a way.
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    #81
  2. Motojournalism

    Motojournalism motojournalism.com

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,678
    Location:
    Montreal via BC
    You know it!:thumb

    Great work with the photography. Looks like you wait for the good light when you can.

    All of us in North America are jelaous of your bike!
    #82
  3. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
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    I wake up to a blue sky and I’m happy that I didn’t leave yesterday. I get gas and find my way out of town with a local map I got from the hotel. Just outside town I visit some cuneiform rock carvings and a waterfall next to it.
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    The rock carvings are very underwhelming but since they were made in three different languages they have Rosetta stone like importances. I buy some very tart fruits from a vendor at the waterfall and give him some coaching in English pronunciation. There are a couple of small ski resorts nearby.
    The road zigzags through the mountains
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    to the little village of Oshtoran, where I explore the mud walled Qal’eh Hamza Khan fortress at the side of the road.
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    I follow the road to Tyserkan
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    and I spend some time searching for Jewish prophet Habakkuk’s tomb. This town has only signs in Farsi and with the help of m local map I can actually find my way. As I walk up to the tomb I’m surrounded by a flash mob of male teenagers. All want to know my name, where I’m from and so on. I don’t really get a chance to look at the tomb, let alone take a good picture.
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    A girl of about 14 or 15 finally walks up to me and apologizes in very good English for the behavior of the boys and asks me if I need any help. I can tell that she’s nervous and it must have taken quite a bit of courage to step in front of the boys and talk to me. So I talk to her for a while and compliment her on her English. With the help of another girl I’ll get a map for my onward travel and one of the boys insists that I take a drawing of the tomb with me. So we find a place on the bike and off I go.
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    In Nahavand I’m looking for a local biker to show me the way to Haman-e Haji Agha Torab, a former bath house turned museum. The first kid I can stop after a while has no idea but two older guys are up to the challenge. They lead me through narrow alleys and the little 50cc has a hard time with these two. At least we are not racing through traffic. They join me for a tour of the place and it looks like they have never been inside before. The old Haman is a wonderful building with whimsical mannequins standing in for real bather.
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    I wish it would still be a working Haman. That would have been a treat. The place is secured like Fort Knox with several cameras in each room. My two saviors strike a pose for a picture and lead me out of town.
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    I ride on to Borujerd, which turns out to be bigger than I thought and I promptly get lost. I stop just before a roundabout to get my bearings and a kid on a bicycle stops next to me. I ask him for the road to Chagalvandi and he motions to follow him. Off he goes like a mad man. It’s quite hot and I feel bad to have him do this for me. At an intersection he asks me if I want some ice cream and I nod. So he guides me to a little shop where I get treated to an ice cream Shiraz style.
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    Repeated attempts by me to pay are refused and I thank my hosts and the kid leads me to the road to Chagalvandi. I say goodbye and realize he has put me on the main highway to Khorramabad, which I don’t want to take. I ask another guy and after a big powwow with some bystanders a guy leads the way with his car. He only leads me farther down the highway before he admits defeat. I wave goodbye, turn around and use the Zumo to work my way to the right road. The road turns out to be a dream. A scenic mountain road with no traffic to speak of. It’s late and I stop for fewer pictures than I should.
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    I roll into Khorramabad, the capital of the Lorestan province, just as the sun sets and find a hotel with pretty shabby rooms but secure parking. The manager talks my ear off about being a large man, i.e. paying large, but I negotiate the price down to a bearable level.
    I walk into town and look for a restaurant. I see a sign in Farsi but can’t figure out where the entrance is. I ask a guy and he takes me up with an elevator to the restaurant. It turns out he works there. I order some food with him and he seats me at a table. I watch the families around me. The kids have a blast with a fake Christmas tree which sprinkles fake snow on itself. I sit at my table, wait for my food and drink some water when a bunch of guys take the seats around me without saying a word. I’m surrounded by grim looking guys who don’t even acknowledge my existence. This is weird. The guy who brought me up to the restaurant comes over and wants me to follow him. Once we are away from the table he apologizes profusely and seats me on one of the takhts. I’m still wearing my motorcycle boots and I don’t want to take them off after riding in them all day. Wouldn’t be fair to the other guests. So, I just sit at the edge and get awkward stares from the all women table across. There is something about traveling solo that Iranians don’t understand. I get this question a lot and they always ask why and then look very sorry for me. Going out to eat by yourself is equally foreign to them and some restaurants simply ignore you unless you go straight to the counter and order. When my food comes I’ll eat quickly and make my exit.
    P.S.: While I’m writing this I’m watching the English news on Iranian TV. The anchor man does a very bad imitation of a CNN anchor man and sounds more like a speech synthesizer. The news selection of course is another story.
    #83
  4. dpouwel

    dpouwel Petualang

    Joined:
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    617
    Location:
    Jogjakarta, Indonesia
    :lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3
    #84
  5. strommer

    strommer Ride for balance

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
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    374
    Location:
    Beantown
    Nicer Dicer -- ???
    #85
  6. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Bristol, Britain
    Fascinating stuff. And yet more beautiful photos. One day, I'll get as far as Iran (farther?) myself. Till then, these observations will keep me going.
    #86
  7. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    After a very sparse breakfast, even for Iranian standards, I take a short walk to the Falak-ol-Aflak castle, which sits on a hill in the middle of the city.
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    It is not very photogenic on the inside. There is just too much dodgy plumbing, wiring, lighting, and air conditioning marring the historic walls. The castle does however have a very nice museum. Especially the section about the Nomads of Lorestan is very informative and has signs in English as well. Back outside I reckon it’s clean your toxic chemicals bottles day.
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    I first thought the guy is just going to dump them into the sewer. I get on one of the castle towers to have a view of the city
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    In the afternoon I give the bike some TLC and take a ride to the ruins of the Shapuri bridge
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    Just before taking the above picture I get rear ended by a little kid on a 50cc. It’s on a field in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around. How he managed that is beyond me. He just bends my license plate and breaks his blinker off and gets a crash course in English swear words.
    After yesterday’s dining disaster I look for a different restaurant and come a across this one:
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    It’s not what you think. It’s a Mashaal and it’s even worse than the other other restaurant with the double arch.
    On my way back I walk past a spooky playground
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    I’m afraid that Khorramabad will not make my list of favorite cities. It has so many things going for it: A nice setting surrounded by mountains, rivers running through it and enough ruins in the city and sprinkled around it to make it interesting. However, the rivers have been turned into smelly sewers filled with garbage that everyone just drops wherever they go, the traffic and pollution is of course horrendous too.

    Read in the next installment how I wet myself on the road to Esfahan.
    #87
  8. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 PITA but useful

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
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    Wholly #$#%. What a trip. :bow

    Where I used to work we had a guy from Iran. He said his native language was Farsi. I told him to speak a bit of it and I was like... :confused Very tough language I heard.

    Thanks for sharing!!
    #88
  9. Frgich

    Frgich Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2007
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    Location:
    Europe-Croatia-Zagreb
    Aaaah Esfahan, that part I'm waiting for some time, carry on Boarder :thumb
    #89
  10. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
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    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
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    I know it will be a long day so I leave Khorramabad early, apparently too early to get some breakfast. I get gas at the other end of town because the gas station in front of my hotel has been closed since yesterday. With some help I get out of town and with a lot of asking I find the road through the Zagros mountains. The mountain roads have been spectacular so far and I want to continue to ride them as much as possible. It’s another beautiful day and along meadows sprinkled with poppies,
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    past nomad’s tents
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    I ride to the small village of Bished
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    where I park my bike and take a ten minute hike to a waterfall below the village.
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    The waterfall is stunningly beautiful, just don’t turn around because the place is completely trashed. People have managed to haul the junk here. Why they can’t take it with them I will never understand. On my way back to the bike a family starts talking to me and we study the map together. As I thought, I have to ride back 20km before I’ll be able to continue through the mountains to Esfahan. The men tells me I know the roads better than him. I don’t know about that.
    In the next village I see a bunch of dead sheep lined up at the side of the road and blood stains on the road. Intended killing or road kill? Probably the later, otherwise they wouldn’t be laying in the midday sun, I hope. A dog is taking a bite.
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    I carry on for a while and eventually make my way down through some switchbacks to dusty Sefid Dasht, which sits in a small valley surrounded by high mountains.
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    The town looks a bit rough around the edges, as you would expect in this location. I stop and buy some cold drinks and food, since I haven’t had anything to eat yet. I ride out of town, up the mountains on the other side and the road deteriorates rapidly. I drive through a number of goat herds and the herders confirm that this is my road. I spot a shaded place next to a little stream and decide to take my lunch break.
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    After lunch I find myself once again on good tarmac after a few more kilometers. I pass many nomad tents and tiny villages
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    with beautiful mountain backdrops.
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    Once again the tarmac disappears and I find myself on a dirt road. I come across two guys trying to fix a broken down dozer and confirm once more that this is my road. They invite me for tea but I want to keep moving. I just hope the dozer hasn’t been broken for long and the road is in a reasonable shape. I climb up a mountain again and reach the pass at 2960m. The road forks a few times on the way up and I stay on what looks like the most used road
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    On the pass I meet an older couple from Aligudarz who confirm my choice of road and invite me for tea and cookies. As I come down it’s just dry dusty mountains.
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    The road now alternates between dirt, excellent tarmac, and disintegrated tarmac and I have to go slow, never knowing what is around the next bend. As the area flattens out I look back one last time before heading to the highway
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    OK, one more look
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    Once I reach the highway I’m surprised how well maintained it is and how little traffic there is. It’s four lanes with about 200m between the opposite directions. I let it rip and sure enough I get pulled over by a cop with a laser gun. Luckily I was only doing 110 km/h in that section which is the speed limit. He wants to see my passport and asks me where I’m from. Ah Germany, he points to his parked Mercedes and says “Very good”. He then gives me the sign to go slow and waves me on. Very nice cop. I see a few more radar traps along the way but they leave me alone. At one point the semi in front of me decides to switch lanes for no apparent reason, as they often do, and I have to hit the breaks hard. As I do this my pants are getting wet. Oops, what just happened? Not what you think. I hit the breaks hard enough to slide forward in my seat and the mouthpiece of my camel bag gets caught between me and the tank bag and releases some water. Nice and cool. I should do this more often.


    At a gas station I have something to eat and have a chat with a Kurdish biker gang (their words) on 50cc motorcycles. I use the Zumo with the Iman Square GPS coordinates and the location of the river to find the way to my hotel without a single wrong turn. Just 1km before my hotel an overzealous cop pulls me over and wants to see the passport again. He doesn’t say a word and waves me on. I check into the trusty Iran Hotel, where I have stayed on my last visit, and three of us maneuver the bike up some stairs into the lobby where it now sits under the hijab. After a shower I walk down the street to the Venice restaurant. The only thing authentically Italian about this place are the snotty waiters - one with a recent nose job - but they have a salad buffet and pasta. A welcome break from the monotonous Iran restaurant kebabs.

    Read in the next installment how a caffeine overdose keeps me Esfahan.
    #90
  11. Eric D

    Eric D Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    Daugavpils, Latvia
    Fantastic adventure, beautiful pics and report.Thanks for posting these.
    I look forward to continuing:clap
    #91
  12. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Bristol, Britain
    Great stuff. Don't suppose you got any photos of the Kurdish moped biker gang?!
    #92
  13. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
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    Because I have been to Esfahan there is no real sightseeing pressure and I can just relax and enjoy the city. I settle into a nice routine: Go to a park, read, eat ice cream, nap, start over, maybe do a bit of sightseeing early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The Iran hotel is reasonably priced and there is no rush to leave town. Compared to my last visit in early March the parks are now green, the fountains are on and Esfahanis and local tourists are out in droves, especially in the evening.
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    This is the only place in Iran were I see no camping signs and surprisingly it is actually enforced.
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    Especially Imam square comes alive around sunset. It’s just filled with people having picnics, playing games, smoking a qalyan and generally having a good time.
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    The boys and girls play football
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    One of the nights I’m there, taking pictures of the Imam mosque, I hear someone shouting my name. Hm, that face looks familiar. It’s the guy who gave me some free ice cream in Borujerd. He is here with his extended family and I’m introduced to all of them and we take a group shot. Mum asks me how old I am and is very worried about me, traveling all by myself. She points out that her son, who is the same age, at least has a (very attractive) fiance. Not much I can say about that.
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    Another day I go to the Khaju bridge for sunset and listen to the guys sing and recite poetry under bridge. The singing sounds very unusual for Western ears. A bit like a stuttering yodel attempt with a sour throat but at the same time it is actually very melodic and it sounds like it is very hard to do. Most of the songs are an interaction between two or more guys under different arches of the bridge or some distance away. Even if you don’t understand the words it’s just beautiful. I’m glad some kind soul told me about this daily ritual the last time I was here.
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    I spend half a day looking for a lens cap to replace the one I lost a few days ago. The first one I find costs $10 and I tell the guy to get back to watching TV because he is better at that than running a business. I finally find another used camera and repair shop not far from my hotel and have a lovely chat with the old chap running it, reminescing about the old Russian Zenit and East German Pratica SLRs I used to own and he still sells. I’m briefly tempted to buy a medium format camera but with space limited on the bike I decide against it. Nearby is a top photographer and I consider to have my portrait taken.
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    I do get around to do some sightseeing eventually:
    Imam Square at night
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    Chehel Sotun Palace
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    Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
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    Imam Mosque
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    Bazaar
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    I took so many pictures that I had to split up posts. So, to be continued ...
    #93
  14. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Esfahan 2

    During my extended stay in Esfahan I had plenty of time to take some pictures of the locals. Other tourists miss the obvious shot [​IMG]
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    If you think all the women shuffle about in black with their faces fully covered your are very much mistaken. Esfahan women can be very fashionable and they are not afraid to talk to you or even flirt with you.
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    Men holding hands is very much OK in this part of the world
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    Some wear black,
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    some wear something more colorful
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    The kids are having fun in the fountain. A gardener tries to keep them out with not much success.
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    Local bikers
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    #94
  15. checksix21

    checksix21 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    22
    Location:
    Bellingham, WA
    Great trip report, looking forward to your next installment. Good luck, und viel gluck.:clap :clap :clap :clap
    #95
  16. LoneTiger

    LoneTiger Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    56
    Superb report :clap
    #96
  17. Ragin Rabbi

    Ragin Rabbi Semper Fidelis

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,342
    Location:
    Western Maryland
    Eye opening. I hope that doesn't make me sound too tragically ignorant, but I just never realized the scope and variety of ANYTHING in Iran. You sir have been a great educational tool, and have a pretty good eye.

    Keep the story/photo's comming.

    Thanks.
    #97
  18. FalangADVenturer

    FalangADVenturer Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Oddometer:
    45
    Location:
    Hat-Yai, southern Thailand
    Thanks for sharing this great RR and the amazing photos.:thumb
    Cheers
    #98
  19. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    My favorite building in Esfahan is Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on they Eastern side of Iman square and I go there a few more times. It is a simple building as far as mosques go. No minarets, iwans or courtyard. Just one richly decorated dome.


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    Another must see is the Jameh Mosque, which impresses with its size and the different styles that have been used in its construction. It has many nooks and crannies that beg to be explored. The big brick dome just has to be seen.


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    One of the many donation boxes in the Imam mosque is very clear on the return you get on your charity.


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    All good things must come to an end and one afternoon I pay for my room and plan for an early departure the next day. I want to go to Jolfa on my last night and buy two bus tickets for the grand total of 10 cents. They come with free candy and a big smile from the ticket seller. I find the right bus and get on, men in the front and women in the back. Vank cathedral is well hidden behind high walls, just like other active Christian churches in Iran. I pay the $3 for foreigners and looking at the surroundings that money is put to very good use. In contrast to the Armenian churches I have seen in Turkey this one, dating back to the 17th century, is very plain on the outside but has beautiful frescoes on the inside. Alas, photography is not allowed inside. So head on over to Wikipedia <http: en.wikipedia.org="" wiki="" vank_cathedral=""> to have a look at the frescoes <http: en.wikipedia.org="" wiki="" file:vank_cathedral_-_heaven-earth-hell_fresco.jpg="">.</http:></http:>
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    Attached to the Church is a small museum with some interesting exhibits of Armenian books and historical artifacts and some gruesome pictures of the 1915 genocide.
    After leaving the church I park myself in one of the fancy coffee shops and get carried away with too many cafe frappes while I sort through my pictures on my laptop. This cafe could be anywhere in Europe: lounge music, fancy coffee drinks at high prices, snack food, filled with young couples on a date or people working on their laptops. Except maybe for the headscarfs, which ride at the very back of the head, revealing more than they cover. In my hyperactive state I think it is a good idea to take a picture of this orange glowing orb before buying some energy drinks on my way home.


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    I have so much caffeine in me that I walk all the way back to my hotel where I’m unable to sleep for most of the night after these guys stare at me.


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    At 4am I realize that I won’t make my planned early departure and think “screw it!”, turn off my alarm and sleep in. Thus, I get to spend another day in beautiful Esfahan. The front desk guys make of course fun of me when I finally appear from my room. I tell them to rename the place “Hotel California”.


    Read in the next installment how I almost got electrocuted in a "Lost Paradise"
    #99
  20. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Hey Guys,

    Thanks for the feedback. I'm currently in Yazd, using a long weekend, thanks to yet another relgious holiday, to catch up on my posts.

    I'm thinking about a little swing into Georgia and Armenia. If anyone has any recent information about riding there I'd be much obliged if you'd share.

    Cheers