Our first invitation we get, as we stand at the side of a road in Tabriz, looking for a hotel. Not only that we get to know Abbas, who helps with the hotel (Thank you so much!), we also get to know the Family Alizadeh, who invites us to lunch in a nearby restaurant right away. Shima and her parents also show us around town the next day. We have a really good but much too short time together! Thank you for everything!
Next we go to Masuleh, a mountain village at the Caspian Sea. Again the coast is very green. Tea and rice are grown here. We find an traditionally Iranian appartement and have to learn how to eat seated on the floor. We get to know Mahmut and Seyed from Teheran and Dr. Behnam (nickname) and the guys Mani, Dara and Mouriss from Esfahan. All of them invite us to stay at their homes.
Mahmut shows us around Tehran (Azadi Monument, Holy Shrine of Khomeini, Milad Tower, ...) and helps organising a new front tyre for the motorbikes. In the end we are not successful but have a nice cup of filter coffee at the BMW branch. Tehran is not that bad as we had expected but the traffic is chaotic. No rules at all, smog and permanently jammed roads. But on the other hand lots of well worth motives for Elmar and his camera.
Esfahan is an elegant town with a lot of atmosphere. We enjoy it's beautiful buildings and places. Our friends take it in turns to show us around and try to help organise money and information about a ferry running from Bandar-e Abbas to Dubai. The problem with money is, that once in Iran, you cannot get Euros or Dollars anywhere and you cannot use any creditcard, not even if you book flights or buy a ticket for the ferry. We are not sure, whether we'll be able to pay for the ferry. It seems to be overpriced but what can we do? Finally we find someone who lends us 500 Euros which we'll pay back to his Dubai partner in November. This is Iran! People don't support the way their government works, so they do it their way.
Esfahan also gets us in contact with the tourist police. There had been Iranians who made friends with tourists and then robbed them. So the police doesn't want people to get close with locals at all. When buying tickets for Imam Mosque our friend cannot prove he is a licensed tour-guide. Of course not, he is a chemist! Police takes down his address and in the evening, when we get back from town, we are told to leave the place and move to a hotel. We don't want Dara to get deeper into problems and move the same night. The next day the police expects us to report our number plates and they tell the hotel manager to keep our passports. Joerg is fed up, rushes to the police station and complains. "It's all for your safety" is what he gets as answer. Thank you so much!
The next evening we come back very late from a dinner at our friends place. The hotel is closed and the night warden asleep. We knock, ring and phone but no chance of getting into the hotel. We finally end up in our friend's brother's living room, with a matress, cushion and blanket. Isn't that weird!
With it's winding narrow alleys, the old mudhouses, wind towers and mosques Yazd is a beauty in the middle of the desert. We stay at the Silk Road Hotel, a small and cosy place, traditional in style. Together with Diego from Argentina we also visit places outside of town, like an old fort, a caravanserei and the "towers of silence", which are part of the Zoroastrian traditions. We also meet Mark and Anita from Switzerland who plan to travel the world on their BMW 1200 GS for the next 5 or 6 years.
Persepolis and Shiraz
Our next stop is Persepolis. This stunning place once housed a huge palace, built by Darius. Its grandeur and splendor must have been amazing. When looking for Elmars lost sunglasses, we meet Ali, an Iranian who travels his homecountry by bike. He invites us to camp at his fire together with more bikers from Esfahan. Ali is a funny bloke: he takes what he gets, and he shares what he owns. We have a lot of fun together! The next day Elmar injures two of his fingers very badly. So we decide to give Shima's (first contact in Tabriz...) uncle a call. He lives in Shiraz and he and his wife's big family make us feel welcome right away. Elmar sees the doctor, we are shown around town (..., tomb of Hafez and Sa'adi, ...), we get our visas extended (just in case...) and we have a typical Friday picknick in a park. We experience Iranian family life and really good food for almost six days. Thank you everybody! We had a great time!
Then Elmar's fingers are a lot better and we drive on to Bandar-e Abbas where we hope to get a ferry to Dubai. Luckily there is a boat the next day. Handling and customs keep us busy all day although we have an agent at our side, who helps, and without whom we would have been lost. There are no regularly ferries any more. The boats depart the one port where there is enough load. So the shipping company can only tell two days in advance from which port they will sail next. We are the only guests, the roro-ferry usually does not take passengers any more. Locals take the fast ferry. The crew is very nice. Annette can take off her scarf and we even get served dinner and breakfast. We use the benches in the launch as beds and get softly shaken into sleep that night... The next morning the captain invites us to visit the bridge and we can spot the distant skyline of Sharjah port (Sharjah is Dubai's neighbouring emirate). We are nearly there!