A very excellent road trip. (November 2014)


We only spent an afternoon and a night in Kashan before heading to Tehran.

It is another oasis town with a history dating back to pre-historic times. There are buildings still standing that were constructed 7,000 years ago.

It is believed that the Magi or Three Wise Men came from Kashan.

We visited the Fin Garden or Bagh-e Fin, a classic Persian Garden now on the UNESCO World Heritage list and a traditional house, Khan-e Tabatabei, which was built around 1880.

While we were walking through the streets of Kashan we came across a traditional bakery making ‘stone bread’ This is made by laying the dough over hot bluestone rocks in the oven. Once the bread is baked the rocks then have to be plucked from the bread, leaving very distinctive pock marks.

In the Kashan bazaar I again discovered more of the weirdly spooky store mannequins.

The Muslim faith requires that you give to the poor and to that end there are ‘Poor Boxes’ throughout Iran. Sometimes you can find one on every corner of an intersection.

Our trip in Iran was amazing and made even more enjoyable by our guide and driver, Rasoul and Hamid, who were with us for the majority of the time.

It was an excellent road trip, of approximately 1,500km, with great companions, interesting sights and lots of good natured humour along the way. These kilometers don’t include the side trips around various cities looking for a good cup of coffee.

Even choosing dinner was an event. We were always offered a number of options and while we were on the way to our chosen one, they would come up with an alternative plan.

I think we got up to ‘Plan F’ one night.

Rasoul loved music and poetry and had an excellent all-round knowledge of the sights and their history.

Hamid is a documentary film maker and enthusiastic photographer. When he wasn’t driving us around, he was often off somewhere taking snaps.

The next day it was a relatively short drive to Tehran, made easier by the excellent Iranian motorways.

We drove into Tehran with enough hours left in the day to do more sightseeing.

The first stop was the Azadi Tower, previously known as the Shahyād Āryamehr. It’s the symbol of Tehran and built in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500 anniversary of the Persian Empire

Then we had a quick visit to the Carpet Museum, built in 1976 and featuring a large range of Persian carpets from all over Iran.

After that went in search of digital hardware.

Thea had taken over 8,000 snaps and I wasn’t far behind. Our computers will filling up, as were our memory cards and our portable hard-drives were sagging under the weight of pixels.

Hamid, our driver, knew where the best deals were to be had on digital storage.

A 2TB portable hard drive and 3, 32GB memory cards, solved our storage issues and were half the price we would pay at home.

Our hotel in Tehran was a change from the Traditional Houses we had been staying in.

That’s not to denigrate them, as they provided excellent accommodation in a unique Persian environment. It was very close to the former US Embassy which ironically, is now an Iranian army base.

Next was Golestan Palace, the oldest historic monument in Tehran and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Palace Complex consists of 17 palaces, museums and Halls. Almost all of this complex was built during the 200 years of Qajar kings (1794–1925). The palaces were used for coronations and other important celebrations.

During the Pahlavi era (1925–1979) Golestan Palace was only used for formal royal receptions as they built their own palace at Niavaran.

The National Museum is divided into two parts, pre and post Islamic history.

We were only able to visit the pre Islamic building as the other was closed for some strange reason, that no one could explain.

The pre Islamic exhibition was a simple and rather small exhibition set in a very handsome brick building, with Iranian influenced, Art Deco features. It was designed by the Frenchman André Godard and completed in 1937.

The exhibition features artefacts from Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, through to the Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanid periods.

There was an excellent collection of well preserved artefacts from Persepolis.

For lunch Hamid and Rasoul took us to a restaurant on the very edge of the Grand Bazaar.

This was a licence to print money.

When we arrived, the queue to get in was thirty metres long and it hadn’t changed when we left. It was a production line and ‘fast food’ like you’ve never seen. The line moved quickly and we’d were inside in about fifteen minutes. The food was ordered and no sooner had we sat down than it was on the table.

It was tasty and as usual far more than we could eat.

We took a little longer than most of the diners, as the faces on the surrounding tables were constantly changing.

As we descended the stairs to exit we were offered chewing gum and tooth pics.

This meal was in total contrast to the one we had the previous night. That restaurant was in Tehran’s vibrant artist quarter and we opted to have the tasting plates, featuring a selection of their specialties.

It was chic, sophisticated and the hejabs weren’t hiding much hair.

After lunch we made a rather quick trip though the Grand Bazaar.

It was fast for two reasons.

Firstly we needed to walk off the rather substantial lunch and secondly we had been warned about pickpockets. This was the only time in Iran that there had been any suggestion of crime.

The Grand Bazaar yielded another treasure trove of creepy store mannequins.

There seemed to be more activity outside the Bazaar than there was in. There were traders lining the streets selling everything from children’s toys to chewing gum.

As we left the Bazaar area there were hundreds of men on motorcycles waiting to take the shoppers and their purchases home.

Rasoul and Hamid produced yet another excellent coffee, this one at the Ferdowsi International Hotel.

It was then off to Tehran Station for an overnight train trip to Tabriz.

Sadly our last stop in Iran.

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