IRAN PART 1 – WELCOME TO IRAN

Welcome to my country. With a big smile on his face the guy at the toll station welcomed us to his country. Where are you from? Holland? I love you, no money, I love you! This extremely friendly guy was so happy to see us that he didn’t even wanted us to pay for this toll road. After all the problems for getting the visa and a very tiring and time consuming border crossing process we were finally here. We we’re in Iran! A huge country of which the reputation as a holiday destination is still doubtful for a lot of people. However, stories like ours about the guy at the toll station are getting more and more regular. But still, people were a bit surprised when we told them that we wanted to visit Iran. After a bit of research about how to dress and behave in Iran and about all the do’s and don’ts of an Islamic state we were ready to set foot on Iranian soil

First morning Iran

First camp spot in Iran

Not bad the sunrise in Iran

We had arranged with Hoessein to meet him at 9 o’clock at Iranian side of the border. Hoessein was the man who would help us to get our car into Iran. After the exit border crossing of Armenia and our entry into Iran we were asked for the Carnet de Passage. A little nervous we told the guys that we didn’t have one and a guy called Hoessein would arrange everything for us. “Ohhh no problem Hoessein will arrive here in 30 or 40 minutes”. Perfect! After a while a bit more than the 40 minutes we finally found each other. The process could start. As car owner Tom had to show up a few times but the process mainly consists of waiting and more waiting. Around 1pm everything was settled and we were finally allowed to drive into Iran. Before Hoessein and we followed our own ways we had a lunch with each other. And with the words “you’re going to meet a lot of nice people in Iran, because you’re very happy and open people”, we said goodbye to each other. We drove from the border to Tabriz. We were very eager to visit Isfahan and the only way we could achieve this was to hurry, because we only had 7 days. The good thing is that the roads are very decent in Iran and in one and a half day and 1200 km further we reached Isfahan. On internet we had read something about a park in the city where you could camp. When we saw traffic signs of this park with camp signs we were very happy. But we cheered too soon. When we arrived there we were friendly asked to look for another place because camping season was over.

So what next? Fortunately we had read on the internet that there is a park with a cable car at the other end of the city and should have a very big parking lot where they allow you to camp. We drove over to this spot, by the time we arrived it was pitch black, and asked if we could stay there for one night. The answer was a clear “no”. We asked if they knew another spot where we could camp. They had no idea so after a little conversation they allowed us to go inside and camp at their parking lot. We drove into the darkest corner of the parking and parked the car. We firstly wanted to have a quick look where we actually were before we unfolded our tent. It was a combination of a park with zoo, bowling and fair or something like that. We think it’s mainly a place where people escape the city and therefore could sneaky hold hands and maybe even kiss each other. It was Thursday night, which is for us like a Saturday nights and therefore quite busy. Couples, friends and families were hanging around and picnicking. And people in Iran know how to picnic. Fully equipped with gas burners for tea, shishas and bags stuffed with food they will find a place to relax for a while. After we strolled a bit around we headed back for the car prepared dinner and went to bed afterwards.

Mosque around the Naghsh-e Jahan square

At 5 o’clock in the morning we were waked by the morning prayers and we didn’t sleep much more afterwards. We heard more and more people and cars entering the parking and passing our tent. At 7 o’clock we decided to get up, which was for Dani bit of a challenge on a public parking. But she managed it to dress properly in the tent, and we got out. Totally surprised we were when we saw the whole parking full with cars and people. We thought it was busy the other night but this was taken to a totally new level. All the people walked with bags full of food up in the mountain for another picnic. Considering the time we thought it was a big early for a picnic but it seemed that it was for the locals completely normal. The fun part of this all was that we thought we had the most tranquil spot on the parking but in the end everyone felt the urge to walk exactly along our car to reach the path that leads into the mountain, very good choice to park there the night before. We decided to pack everything and drove of to the city center of Isfahan.

Khaju bridge Isfahan

Khaju bridge Isfahan

Because of all the visitors that morning at the parking we were early in the city center. At half past eight we walked already on the most touristic square of Isfahan. Which isn’t at half past eight in the morning we can tell! This Naghsh-e Jahan square is very impressive surrounded by mosques, all kind of shops and in the middle several fountains. And maybe it feels even more impressive if you’re almost the only one walking around there. The reason nobody was around there had everything to do with the fact it was Friday. Friday’s are for them like for us sundays are. Almost all shops were closed or were slowly preparing to open for just another day. We were looking for a place to score a breakfast which isn’t that easy. In the end we found a place with sandwiches to take away. We ordered two and walked over to I nice public couch in the sun at the middle of the square. Best thing ever after all the snow, rain and wind!