Rally Day 12 – 14
Last sightseeing in Turkey
At our Hotel in Doğubayazıt we met a group of French people who were going to visit the nearby Ishak Pasha Palace in the morning. It sounded very interesting and since we had enough time for a small detour, we went to see it as well. When driving up the hill to the Palace we suddenly saw a big smoke cloud moving fast towards us. It turned out to be a truck loaded with hay, only there was a big fire in the hay!! It came racing down towards us like a firebomb but we avoided it be turning in at a small side road. Insane!
Next up we saw the actual palace and it was worth our time. It stands as one of the most important remnants of the Ottoman architectural style during its prime time.
The border was pretty close and we were at the Turkish gates before we knew it. To our surprise the passenger and driver of the car had to go their own way through the Iran border crossing. Since Christian is the owner he had to stay with the car and do all the paperwork, he wasn’t nervous at all…Andreas went through his part in about 20 minutes with no problems, and on the other side could see the car being stuck between two sets of iron gates. Meanwhile Christian desperately tried avoiding a fixer but to no avail. A so called fixer is not part of the border crew, meaning the guards, customs officers etc. The fixers simply help facilitate crossing for foreigners charging a fee for their service. We ended up paying this annoying guy 10 euros and 10 dollars to help us through, but we probably could have done without him.
After a long hour everything was in order and we could drive away, but only after changing a bit of money at “the black market”.
The 200 km from the border to the first big Iranian town was an okay drive, but once we hit the outskirts of the town the traffic worsened. Tabriz is quite big by European standards as it has 3 million inhabitants and they all drive like complete maniacs, much worse than in Istanbul to be honest. People are overtaking on left and right, pressuring each other constantly and use the horn all the time. In the end we found our hotel and went out for something to eat, but simply to cross the street was a nightmare. At the Hotel Christian found an okay television station and he was happy again.
After a good nights sleep we were ready to take on the Iranian traffic once again as we set off towards Tehran. Once we hit the freeway the traffic was less insane, but still much worse than what we have experienced in Europe. It also didn’t help it was the end of the Iranian Ramadan holidays (Eid), meaning everybody was returning to Tehran at the same time. In addition getting gasoline for the car proved a nightmare with long queues at all the gas stations, but at least it is very cheap with one liter costing around 2.5 danish kroner. On the drive we were also flagged down 5 times by the police! Every time they stopped us out of curiosity and we had no problems continuing our drive. At least most of the signs also had an English translation:
Tehran has a population of 18 million and a reputation as one of the worst cities in the world to be drive in. Forget about roller coasters in Tivoli they are nothing compared to steering your own car through the madness that is this traffic.
Dinner on a rooftop
A bit outside the capital we met up with Shadan one of Christians friends who lives in Tehran. He offered us to have our car parked in a parking house and take us out for dinner, naturally we could not decline such an invitation. We got our car parked and was then driven around the northern part of Tehran, close to the mountains. Shadan picked up some food on the way and we went to some friends of his who had a rooftop we could eat dinner on, it was really nice and we could see part of Tehran from there.
We did not drink any “fire water” since that is illegal, not one drop… wink wink.
Some time after midnight we were really tired and drove home to Shadan’s place where he offered us to sleep – great!.
Relaxing in the capital
After our late night dinner we decided to take it easy and not rush the day, getting up late and eating a nice breakfast.
Originally we were supposed to drive down to Isfahan, which is a very beautiful old city in central Iran. However, since we now had our own local translator we decided to go and get stuff fixed on our car. Apparently all the car shops in Iran specialize in different kind of things, no car shop can do everything. This meant we had to drive to 4 or 5 different places to get all the stuff done on our worn out Nissan Micra.
In the evening we again went to the rooftop and ate barbecue, not bad, not bad at all!
After 2 days in Iran we can safely say the people are not at all like portrayed in western media, far from it actually. They might even be the friendliest people on earth to be honest. You quickly realize that the society is not black and white, the religious rule is not all that controlling in daily life. However, the international sanctions do hurt the country, for us it means we cannot withdraw money from the banks. We have all our cash in good old US dollar bills and exchange at the black market.