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
    Esfahan to Behesht-e Gomshodeh

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    When I come down the stairs early in the morning the lobby is filled with Dutch cyclists, well past middle age, in tight Lycra. Bit hard to stomach that early without breakfast. Here is a piece of advise: If you are cycling for fun, not trying to break records, you are fine not wearing tight Lycra shorts [​IMG] Do the people around you a favor. I can only imagine the stares these guys get in Iran [​IMG] Anyway, I extract the bike from the lobby and head over to Imam square for some hero shots. There are plenty of ways to sneak a bike in the square. Just watch the locals.
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    After the photo session I return to the hotel for a quick breakfast before leaving Esfahan. The first part of the trip is on a major highway with enough traffic to keep you on your toes.
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    Halfway I’m back in the mountains proper. There are small fields on either side of the road and in this part of the country the harvest seems to be a manual affair.
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    The cut wheat, I assume, is put into neat piles
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    to be thrashed on the spot with a portable machine
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    It will later be picked up by one of the ubiquitous blue pickups.
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    I spot a defunct Selcuk bridge just off the road
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    and a little stream makes for a nice rest stop.
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    I stop at the “Persian Gate” for a picture.
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    This is a narrow passage in the mountains where the Persians unsuccessfully tried to stop Alexander the Great on his way to Persepolis in the winter of 330 BC. It was an heroic battle of 700 Persians vs. 10,000 Macedonians, which sealed the fate of the first Persian empire. So, I’m pretty much following their tracks on the way there. There is not much in the area in terms of infrastructure even now and I briefly wonder how they could sustain such a huge army back then. I’m briefly lost but then return to the same road to continue on to the Margoon waterfall. Just before I pass the Persian Gate a second time I see a two car head on collision. The cars are trashed but the drivers seem to be at least alive. A timely reminder to be ready for anything on these roads.
    Up in the mountains I see more nomad camps.
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    Road signs indicate that this road would take me all the way to Yazd, although my map doesn’t show this. This would be a nice way to go there for somebody following my tacks.
    The Margoon falls are very nice and there are plenty of Iranians around camping and having a picnic. the falls just seem to shoot out in the middle of a huge rock face.
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    Unfortunately the camp sites are too far away from the parking lot and there is already too much interest in my bike. So, I decide to move on to Behest-e Gomshodeh, or “Lost Paradise”, a mere 35 km as the crow flies. So I ride off into the sunset, down a dirt road through beautiful countryside.
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    All the little villages along the way seem almost deserted
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    The goats are brought home just before sunset.
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    There are many forks in the road and I have to ask for directions a lot. At some point a bunch of people gesticulate wildly and make me understand to cross to the other side of a river, although my map indicates otherwise I do so. This puts me back on tarmac but it turns out there is no way to get back to the other side until about 10km after my destination. Thus I arrive at my destination with a bit of a detour in the dark. There are bright lights and loud music when I arrive and I’m not quite sure what to do. So I go to one of the restaurants. They have takhts set into the river and there is one tent on one of them. I have dinner and pitch my tent on one of the takhts in the middle of the river.
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    Just when I’m falling asleep, thinking this ain’t so bad, there is a lot of noise outside and the hole takht starts shaking. Turns out they are building a suspension bridge just outside my tent in the middle of the night. The wires for the lights they have strung everywhere are sheafing on the suspension bridge cables and the frame of my takht. Hm, sitting on a metal frame in the middle of a body of water with some 220V cables sheafing on the frame doesn’t sound good. Before I can say anything the power goes out but the guys are persistent and unsuccessfully try to start a little generator for more than an hour. Meanwhile I reroute the cables to a safer spot. They get the generator going a few times but the load is just too big, which they don’t seem to realize. When the show is finally over I get some sleep.
  2. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
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    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Shiraz to Firouz Abas and back

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    I leave Shiraz at 5:30 am. At this time the roads are deserted and it is nice and cold. I watch the sun come up as I drive South into the desert.
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    Near Firouz Abad, on a bluff just off the road, sits Ghal’eh Dokhtar, also known as The Maiden Castle. It was built by Ardeshir I, of the Sassanian Empire, in 209 AD, roughly 500 years after the fall of the first Persian empire.
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    I climb up the bluff and follow a path that spirals up inside the guard tower into the castle. The ceiling is covered with bats. It looks like the reconstruction work has come to a grinding halt suddenly. Scaffolding is inside the main structure
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    A mangle of scaffolding hints at a major construction accident.
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    I continue of a few kilometers past some green fields, thanks to irrigation,
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    to the Palace of Ardashir, built a few years after the Maiden castle.
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    The palace is pretty well preserved and quite large at 104m x 55m.
    Just past the palace is the Sassanian city of Gur, but all that’s left are what is thought to be the remains of a fire temple.
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    It looks like the town was built in a circular pattern and there are little mounds everywhere. Plenty of work for a few generations of archaeologists.
    The fire temple is also the turnaround point for my trip. I’ll be going home from here.
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    I return to Shiraz just in time for my siesta.
  3. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Shiraz

    Well, after Esfahan Shiraz was a bit of a let down. I’m sure the heat and the terrible Zand Hotel didn’t help. Besides some large species of cockroach I also meet a few other bikers there. First an older couple, dare I say going on sixty, on R100 and R80 Beamers with a very impressive repertoire of anecdotes of previous motorbike trips. They are on their way through the Stans to Mongolia. They are very modest about their accomplishments. I hope I’ll be as energetic when I reach that age. The attention I get here is a bit much at times but probably nothing compared to what happens to that lady when she takes her helmet off!
    Next is a UK/German duo fresh from the Iran/Pakistan border, hating everything they have seen so far in Iran. Severe case of having been on the road for too long. I make my excuses when they want to join me for a trip to Persepolis. In all fairness I have to say that 50+ degree heat does funny things to your brain and I’m sure they’ll fully recover.
    They are lucky they made it through at all. After a bomb blast on 5/29 in Zahedan, near the Pakistan border, that killed 25 people, followed by riots and an arson attack on a bank that killed another five people, the Iranians have closed the border to Pakistan. Three people claimed to be involved in the terror attack have been hanged publicly already. Justice can be swift. I just hope they got the right guys. A French overlander got abducted on the Pakistan side in the last few days as well. My decision to give Pakistan a miss for the time being seems to be the right one. Hopefully the border will reopen soon. There ought to be a few bikers stuck on either side as this is smack in the middle of the narrow time window for making the trip from India to Europe or vice versa.
    I do a bit of early morning and late afternoon sightseeing. Shiraz’ center is dominated by the large Zand period Karim Khan citadel with a nice garden inside.
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    One of the corner towers has a distinct lean and the citadel’s Haman next to it is being blamed for that.
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    I wander through town a bit, going from one ice cream or smoothie place to the next, locking at what is on offer in the bazaar
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    and nearby stores. Something black for the ladies?
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    or maybe a space cowgirl outfit for the little one?
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    Iran bread. It goes stale the second it comes out of the oven. Nothing like the tasty Turkish flat bread.
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    Just in case you need to know your weight and height, there is a machine for that.
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    A corner is dedicated to motorcycle shops.
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    This is as good as it gets: a 200cc Enduro for the uebercool hipsters
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    I watch a funeral procession
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    and have a look at the Iranian Disneyland
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    before I watch a snake charmer. His combover was more impressive than his snake charming.
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    This must have been a mirage. An open air pool in Iran? No way! I was so tempted to fall in.
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    I visit the tomb of Persian poet Hafez. I have to admit I know nothing of his work but most of it would be lost in translation anyway. The way it goes with poetry.
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    When I get there I do realize that they really do like him still, a lot. Old and young practically throw themselfes on his grave, shedding tears.
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    This is also the only place I have seen where Iranians don’t dare to litter. I just sit there and study the spectacle when a couple asks me to take their picture. After that another couple asks me and soon is becomes the popular thing to have your picture taken by the foreigner.
    On the way back to my hotel I visit the shrine of Emir Ali, housed in a domed 19th century building, which has every surface inside covered by mirror ornaments.
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    After many failed attempts I do get into the Vakil Mosque
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    and the nearby Haman, turned carpet museum.
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    I decide to extend my visa here, which means I have to stay at least until Sunday. I’m cutting it a bit close at the rate I’m going and my last day would be the election day, which is probably not a good day for a border crossing. So, off I go on a Saturday morning in search of the visa office. Once I get there they send me straight back to the Bank Melli near my Hotel to pay the 20,000 Rial fee. Someone at the bank helps me fill out the deposit slip and I hand the cash and the paper work to a cashier. All is going well until a feisty women barges in and throws a huge wad of cash on top of my little money pile and starts arguing with the cashier. Iranians have no notions of queuing or privacy. They always go straight to the front and interrupt anything that might be going on. The clerks try to deal with everyone at once and the result usually is that everyone has to wait forever and mistakes are being made. Being shy in these situation just means you will be pushed aside and wait forever. I remind the cashier frequently of my existence and eventually have to get a little pushy Iranian style to get my deposit slip stamped. I dash back to the visa office. A very friendly young officer helps me fill out the forms and leaves me in the office of the senior officials who actually do the extensions. The jeffe is in a foul mood. Yelling at subordinates and generally being an ass to everyone except me. He does give me a full 30 days though, starting at the expiration date of my original visa. So, not bad and all done in a couple of hours.
  4. zakou

    zakou Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2003
    Oddometer:
    984
    Location:
    Almyros Magnisias, Greece
    Its been a plesure reading your posts!! Go on and good luck. I was in turkey for 12 days (5900 km) and we are planing a 15 day trip next May to Iran so please keep all information about your trip to this country!

    Best regards
  5. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
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    Christchurch, NZ
    Persepolis

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    I leave Shiraz very early, hoping to be able to get some good shots of Persepolis right after sunrise. I’m the first one in and enjoy the site by myself for a short time. Persepolis is quite a big site and there is so much to see that I decide to stay for a couple of nights. The fancy Apadana hotel right next to the entrance has secure parking and gives me such a screaming deal that I think the very attractive woman at the front desk must have made a mistake and I ask her to write the number down and even then I clarify that it is in Rials and not Tomans. It must have been my very good looks or maybe it was just my lucky day. Only hitch is the big pool in front of the hotel is empty. I guess it would be a bit much to have such a pool in operation right next to Persepolis for everyone to see half naked bathers.
    I won’t bore you with the historic details of the place other than saying that it was the ceremonial capital of the first Persian empire during the Achaemenid period and it was burned to the ground by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Artistically the Achaemenids happily mixed styles and ideas from the areas the conquered. It’s quite fascinating and it let the pictures speak for themselves.


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    I notice that the Basij, the religious militia defending the revolution has taken a day off.

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    Sadly, the picture below is only one of many carvings of early western visitor left on the Gate of Nations. Fools are truly international.


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    Many Iranian families are around and they take the obligatory family shot at the Gate of Nations.


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    Persepolis is a nice spot to watch the sun set behind the mountains.


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    At night the place is lit up with barely enough lights working to make it visible.


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    My hotel has only fish for dinner, a poor choice in the middle of a desert. I walk down the road in search of a couple of restaurants I had seen on my way in and get a lift from a local on a small bike. We talk about the upcoming election and he tells me that he will not vote because he thinks it doesn’t matter. The restaurant turns out to be a psychedelic faux grotto in slime green. What a trip! The food however is excellent.


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  6. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Naqsh-e Rustam

    During my stay in at Persepolis I ride the few kilometers to Naqsh-e Rustam a couple of times to see the magnificent rock tombs of the Achaemenid kings. After the kings bones were picked clean by vultures, according to their Zoroastrian beliefs, they were placed in funerary chambers inside the tombs. Unlike the two similar tombs at the Persepolis site one can not look inside the tomb. Reliefs depicting royal ceremonies and battle scenes were hewn into the rock below the tombs during the Sassanian period.
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  7. Sylvia Stuurman

    Sylvia Stuurman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    63
    Location:
    Mheer, the Netherlands
    What an exceptional beauty you have captured in pictures and words. Thank you!
  8. locorider

    locorider Loco, pero no estúpido!

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,755
    Location:
    Puerto Rico, U.S.A.
    Bravo! Excelente! :clap I wish I could do a trip like this in the future!

    Ride safe!
  9. Stravoxylo

    Stravoxylo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    NYC
    every installment a gem. Thank you for a window into a region with such rich history.
    Solo travel has a flavor all its own, which can't be replicated any other way.
  10. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Bristol, Britain
    Agree re the solo travel thing. Though it would be nice to have someone alongside sometimes to gasp in shared wonder. Maybe that's where we blog readers come in.

    I think this has now become my all-time number one ride report. And it hasn't even finished yet.
  11. Ted Bell

    Ted Bell I want that one!

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
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    110
    Location:
    Springville, UT
    Thanks for sharing your fascinating trip!
  12. knobie

    knobie Adventurer

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    Oct 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    SLC, UT
    Wow! Thank you!
  13. strommer

    strommer Ride for balance

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2004
    Oddometer:
    374
    Location:
    Beantown
    I rode from Ankara to Baku via Georgia in 2000 with two Germans also on motorcycles and my wife following us in a car. We had a great time. We exited from the Turkish border crossing that is inland, called "Turkgozu". Back then Georgia was considered unsafe for overland travel (armed bandits at work). One of the Germans split for Armenia shortly after entering Georgia and later reproted the road to Armenia being in poor shape and the road in Armenia being even worse.

    But that is almost ten years ago. Today for Georgia you'll have to take into consideration the fact that there are Russian troops in some parts after the war last summer. I don't know about conditions in Armenia. I wonder if all the Georgian border and customs guards would ask you to wheelie their checkpoint once all the stamping and signing of documets is done. They did back in 2000.

    Have you checked on the HUBB ?
  14. demirgursel

    demirgursel Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    11
    Location:
    TURKEY
    very nice:thumb I have not turkeys tour.thanks:clap
  15. Condolini

    Condolini Fountain of useless info

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,678
    Location:
    Behind the Cheddar Curtain
    Saw some of the sites in Turkey while visiting in Nov. 2008, would like to hit the roads on a bike.

    Thanks for the great RR! Beautiful scenery and the descriptions are fantastic. Would like to follow a similar route but being a lone female, it prolly wouldn't be the best choice.
  16. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
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    294
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    Christchurch, NZ
    Persepolis to Yazd

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    I arrive at the gate of Pasargadae, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC), at 7:30. I have a chat with the friendly guards and they let me in early. The site is laid out to face the evening sun. So, there is not much to take pictures of in the morning other than the back side of, what most believe to be, the grave of Cyrus the Great.
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    The different parts of the city are quite spread out and I drive around and hike to various ruins for a while.
    A little roadside shop owner evidently is an Ahmadinejad supporter
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    In Abarqu I stop to look at an old ice house
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    and a Cyprus tree, supposedly 4000 years old.
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    There are other interesting things to see here but it is too hot for that at around noon. The town is clearly hoping to attract foreign visitors and they have installed signs in English everywhere. After the city I hit on a 40km stretch of brand new four lane highway and I let it rip.
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    I stop to explore a crumbling caravansary at the side of the road.
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    I make it to Yazd in good time and head to the Silk Road Hotel. The guy I check in with is completely clueless and too lazy to even lift his feet. Just like last time. On the plus side that makes him a push over on the price. For parking he just points to a space at the back door and disappears. I maneuver the bike in by myself.
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    This is a gem of a place and I have stayed here before. Some of the people who work here are super motivated and friendly, others (relatives of the owner maybe?) just couldn’t care less and leave some travelers thoroughly disappointed after all the hype they chose to believe.
  17. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Yazd

    Yazd is a very old city, some say more than 7000 years old. Luckily, there still is a compact old city core with alleys too narrow for cars and thus it is a pleasant and quiet place to wander around in. The central point is the 15th century Jameh Mosque, just a minute walk from the Silk Road Hotel.
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    Nearby Amir Chakhmaq square is a nice place to sit late in the afternoon
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    by the fountain and have an ice cream or two, or three..
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    The narrow alleys of old Yazd are easily explored on foot or by motorbike, just leave your panniers at the hotel or you might get stuck.
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    The old town is a sea of badgirs, tall wind towers that direct any breeze into the house and hot air out of it. Often air is directed over an ancient underground water channel, a qanat, for extra cooling. A genius system that really works. There are a few things to be learned from the old Persians about living in the desert.
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    I pay a visit to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple
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    with the winged man, the symbol of the Zoroastrianism, on top of the temple.
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    Many of the old doors still have his and hers door knockers.
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    Their modern counterparts have door bells with intercoms and cameras.
    Old Yazd looks especially nice at sunset.
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    A number of Qajar era mansion have been restored.
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    A bazaar side street:
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    At night many of the buildings are lit
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    and the views from the Orient Hotel&#8217;s roof top restaurant are magnificent.
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    P.S.: This is what I&#8217;m looking at while I write this in the Orient Hotel courtyard. Life can be tough [​IMG]
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  18. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Towers of Silence, Chak Chak, and Kharanaq

    These three places can be visited in a nice loop from Yazd. The Towers of Silence are on the outskirts of Yazd. Zoroastrians placed their dead into the open towers on top of the hill to have the bones picked clean by vultures. Today, the name is a total misnomer. The hills are boxed in by a highway on one side, Yazd university on another, and modern ugly apartment buildings on the remaining two sides. Local youth run up and down the hill with their motorbikes, all of which have a straight pipe exhausts and no muffler. So, you can imagine the “silence”.
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    Chak Chak is a nice drive into the desert but the place itself will disappoint most people. Mostly ugly, modern brick buildings on a steep hill. “Chak chak” means drip, drip and indeed there is some water dripping from the rock in the fire temple. It is Iran’s most important Zoroastrian site and, looking at their buildings, it seems that Zoroastrians are not sentimental, rather practical people.
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    >From Chak Chak its a short ride to Kharanaq, which is small village at the side of the highway. It looks like its inhabitants have left the old mud brick village in favor of the modern village next to it. So, you are free to explore the old village, climbing up and down crumbling old houses with spectacular views of the fertile valley below. There is an old minaret in the village and some girls from Tehran got a local to shake it for them, which got them bursting into applause. If you are not claustrophobic and are not afraid to get dirty you can climb up the minaret.
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  19. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

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

    Predictably I get &#8220;stuck&#8221; in Yazd for a few extra days. It&#8217;s just too nice. I read a bit, wander around the city and generally just relax. The way a vacation should be.
    Most of the time the old city is completely deserted because everything happens behind the thick walls. I do run into some very curious kids, though.
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    An interesting place to go to is the Saheb a Zaman Club Zurkhaneh to see a workout Iranian style. The club is in the town&#8217;s old water reservoir. It seems to be a very reglemented type of workout with a bunch of men standing in a circle, doing various exercises. There is an MC, beating a drum and reciting/singing something in Farsi, some say it&#8217;s poetry. The men are of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. This is a very hard one hour workout. Quite fascinating really. <!--Mime Type of File is image/jpeg -->[​IMG]
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    They have normal weight lifting gyms too and it is quite popular. Every news stand has a few weight lifting magazines with the nastiest, steroid pumped, 80s style muscle men posing on the cover. There are many stores selling supplements and you see some of the steroid types in the streets too.
    I found some strange graffiti
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    and the ubiquitous religious propaganda
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    Oh, and then there was the &#8220;Nazi Tweety&#8221; store.
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    Would you trust that man,
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    or the camel butcher?
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    Kids play football
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    and Yazdies swing into action a couple of hours before sunset.
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    The locals enjoy ice cream as much as I do.
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  20. Boarder06

    Boarder06 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2008
    Oddometer:
    294
    Location:
    Christchurch, NZ
    Yazd to Kashan

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    After an early breakfast I get some help to back the bike up the steps through the narrow doorway in the Silk Road Hotel. I stop in Meybod, just North of Yazd, and have a look around the old part of the city.
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    The Sassannian Narein castle opens at a leisurely 9am and I climb to the top of it.
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    In the courtyard is a little mud brick construction facility. Some of the standard mud brick architectural features have been built en miniature which allows to study the ancient construction techniques.
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    I ride along the desert road, braking for camels when I need to (yes, there really are camels crossing the road).
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    Next to the road I spot a bunch of old caravansaries and I stop for lunch. I munch some of the European style bread I bought in Yazd with fresh feta. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I found that store in Yazd. I explore the caravansaries a bit
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    and continue through the desert.
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    I actually want to go to the small mountain village of Abyaneh and see a sign just South of Natanz. When it is time to head West according to my map I am surrounded by anti aircraft guns camouflaged in the desert and no sealed road in sight. No doubt they are here to proctect the nearby nuclear facilities in Natanz. I don’t want to take a dirt road going through there. I don’t feel like arguing with some officials in the desert heat. By the time I’m clear of the military installments I’m almost in Kashan and I decide to forget about the mountain village. I find a room in one of the historical houses.
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    My room is far enough away from the other rooms in the house that I can sleep with the door wide open without causing any offense. Nice to have a cold breeze during the night.