13.01.2017 - 15.01.2017 6 °C
After a long train journey we arrived to a confusion of taxi drivers, pretty sure that is the collective term for taxi drivers. We added to the confusion by having an address to the See You in Iran (SYI) Hostel written in English. To add more to confusion the place has only been open a month and is an artists collective and Facebook group that Cath has been following since we decided to travel in Iran, Facebook is a blocked site in Iran making it a little more dodgy. After a number of drivers had some input, it was decided that it was best to phone the Hostel- success,we had an address; in Farsi. Thankfully it was Friday and the notorious traffic was calm, in fact the streets were virtually deserted, no mean feet in a city of 16 million.
On arrival at SYI we were greeted by young, very trendy, I hesitate to say hipster locals with perfect English who led us into a Cafe overlooking a still under construction courtyard. It was a delight to be welcomed with music- Western and Iranian, tea, breakfast and people of all ages sharing the space. We sat and enjoyed the sun streaming in the windows whilst we waited for our room to be prepared.
Tehran is a metropolis like any other, expensive, noisy and dirty although they claim to have the cleanest Metro in the world, we wonder what Singapore would have to say about that. We stayed a couple of blocks from the former US Embassy which is famous for the anti-USA murals along it's walls which are a whole lot more impressive in photos than in person. It was amusing to note that they have set up the "anti arrogance exhibition" in the grounds of the former embassy though. Feeling a bit watched we decided it was best to explore other parts of the city and set off on our usual exercise routine, walking to where we know not. We met a lovely couple on the street who were keen to know if we were "Briton", as you have glowing skin and eyes" and spent half an hour discussing Australia, Portugal where they plan to have spring break and what to see in Tehran. It turned out she, a PhD student in Agricultural Science and he, a civil engineer, had followed us down the street to talk with us, they really do have a need to know about the outside world.
As we are staying in the arty, liberal part of town we found ourselves having dinner in an Italian cafe, next to the theatre, that had pretty average pasta but fantastic, photo worthy cappuccino- finally! Running low on Rial and not wanting to exchange any more USD as we have only one day left we have little choice but to have an early night with a book and to make plans for how to get to the airport.
Our last day in Iran started with an almost normal Saturday morning routine minus Cath's much wanted bacon and eggs in bed, maybe next week, there were newspapers though so she was almost placated. Breakfast at SYI Cafe was pretty good, frittata with dates- an usual but very tasty mix and then the days exercise, walking to and around the Grand Bazaar Tehran. We are feeling qualified to comment on the quality of bazaars at this point in our Silk Road journey and this one whilst big is far less impressive than those in Shiraz and Isfahan, more like the junk area of the Victoria Market really, it lacks the creativity, colour and one must say friendliness of those smaller regional markets. In fact those towns were on the whole friendlier, more attractive towns. It has been hard to see the beauty of Tehran, much like our travel in Cuba the evidence of economic sanctions is everywhere; formally beautiful buildings are in disrepair, the streets are polluted and it appears there is a general lack of pride in streets. In a strange turn of events Cath had a celebrity moment as we were organising check out of our accomodation, many of the places we have visited Cath has researched via a blog called Travestyle- written by a young Persian woman and we met her in the cafe today as it turns out she is the daughter of a diplomat and spent her primary school years in, of all places, Canberra, poor love.
Iran has been an interesting place to travel and we have learnt an enormous amount about the culture, history and people. Not unexpectedly there have been a few surprises and some culture shock. Overall would we recommend a visit to Iran? Yes as everywhere deserves a chance but will we be back, not anytime soon but who knows?
And now we cross over from the East to the West- Istanbul awaits.