11.01.2017 - 12.01.2017 10 °C
Breakfast, pay the bill, catch the taxi, jump on the bus and we were off to Yazd. More of the same countryside for the next four hours and then we arrived in Yazd. Although it appears a good deal smaller and less frantic than Shiraz, the old city is far neater and cleaner and the mud brick buildings are in good repair. It was a delight to wander through the ancient alleyways, seeing structures that appeared untouched for centuries. Also the wind towers, the first air conditioners, looked very impressive and undoubtedly worked; the alleys are cool, peaceful and clean. We enjoyed afternoon tea, coffee and cake at a rooftop restaurant, from which we had a good view of the old city rooftops and then returned to our hotel for a bit of R&R.
The rooftop restaurant at the Orient hotel, where we are staying, has a fantastic view of the Jame Mosque, which is lit up in purple and blue lights, highlighting the amazing mosaic tiles. On our wander through the old city we found the library, naturally Cath was in the door like a shot, and we learnt heaps from the librarian including that the mosaic on mosques in Iran is not just pretty tiling but a design that conveys the word of the Quran, this is particular to the Yazd area of Iran. We also saw the first gum tree we have ever seen inside a building, in the middle of the library. Upon enquiring we learnt that the previous owner of the building had been in ill health and had the tree planted to aid his healing. We gave the lovely young man a few tips on how to use eucalyptus oil and suggested he might like to get a koala, we left not sure that he had quite understood the Aussie sense of humour. Feeling adventurous at dinner, we decided that it was time to try the camel stew and it was very nice, if you had told either of us it was beef or lamb we would happily have agreed. Although we did hope that it was not one of the pretty white camels we have seen around Iran.
Our second day in Yazd promised to be a challenge as we had to book out of the hotel by lunchtime and did not catch the train until nearly midnight. What do you do when there is no local pub to pop in and waste a bit of time? Initially we thought that visiting the Zoroastrian fire temple and museum would be a good idea, Cath was keen to find out more about this mysterious group but alas they have very specific opening hours and as we had arrived a bit early we missed out. So a good walk around the city, lunch at a traditional restaurant, more walking to find an ice-cream and finally holing up in our favourite cafe so far, the Iranian Old Cafe which advertises Lavazza coffee and pasta - we may just have found a nice warm part of heaven in Yazd.
It was also the first day that Cath struggled with being a woman in Iran. We always knew it would be a challenge both personally and ideologically for Cath (and most likely western women in general) to travel in Iran, however it really was not an issue until this morning. There really is no way to describe it on the page without sounding a bit naive and pathetic and perhaps that is exactly how it was. The constant mental activity of having to think about what you look like, what you are wearing, whether you are covered enough, or offending, is wearying and whilst it must be a normal part of life for Iranian woman it takes its toll on those who do not have this as their normal life. It passed quickly though and after some reflection it is a small frustration in the greater scheme of things. It did however draw our thoughts to Turkey and beyond.
Finally off to the train station to catch the overnight train to Tehran and also our first instance of someone overtly trying to rip off the tourists, it may have been happening all along but we were blissfully ignorant of it. The man at the ticket counter tried to get Cath to pay for the tickets, which have already been purchased prior to our arrival in Iran, all he had to do was print them. The poor man may not have met the likes of tired, cold and cranky Cath but he got a very short "we've payed"; clearly the tone told him not to take it any further. The railway staff were very kind and clearly concerned that we would miss our train, they checked on us regularly to ensure we got on the right train, we were even escorted to the carriage by a young policeman.
The train was an interesting affair, quite comfortable but took about 3 hours longer than it should have possibly due to the frequent unexplained stops in the middle of nowhere. It seemed that it stopped every half hour, perhaps it was a bit tired and cranky too.