On the way to Tehran we tried to find a place for one more night that was somewhat undisturbed and away from civilization. But to find something between the capital Tehran and the metropolis Karaj is almost impossible. We turned left into country lanes, tried it in industrial areas and on gravel roads. Nothing worked. Everywhere were either houses, people or “everything forbidden” signs. Almost hopelessly we turned into a road that led to a quarry. Our last hope was to pass a few houses that didn’t look very inviting and we came to a lonely homestead. It looked like a small farm. Actually we didn’t want to stay here, but it slowly got dark and we had to decide. So we looked for a small corner at a water basin closeby. And just when we had turned off the engine, the owners of the yard came out of their gate. Such a crap we thought. Contrary to our feelings, we approached them positively and asked (as we had learned) whether it was ok for them that we would stand the night here near their property. The younger man spoke English and introduced himself as Reza. I just thought to myself: Oh noooo, just like my master thesis supervisor! But this Reza was incredibly nice and didn’t allow us to stand in front of his farm, but forced us to stay on the farm. Amazing for us, because he was just getting into the car with his father and a worker and driving home to the city. We refused several times, but then we could not resist and parked on the lot. He showed us the toilet and unlocked the bungalow for us. We were allowed to use everything and should sleep inside, outside it would be so cold. We refused again several times, but how could we? Reza was so incredibly friendly! In the meantime the worker, who had almost gotten into the car, had already taken a few logs and lit a fire in the bungalow. The three said goodbye and we were alone on an Iranian farm, were allowed into the house, where the fire already burned for us. We thought, more is not possible, that is hospitality as we cannot imagine it in Germany. But after an hour Reza came back, his girlfriend Mary in tow and with several bags. Now we were fed. Resistance was pointless. He skewered a few pieces of lamb, Mary spread the blanket in front of the fire and bread, yoghurt sauce and chips were opened. And of course there was Arrak. We talked and gormandized the whole evening. We learned that Reza had actually only learned English through English/American movies. No lessons or anything like that, just watching it. We were flattened. So much willingness to learn and to speak so well, just WOW. At the end of the evening we were all well sated and Martin and I were more than just a little bit squiffy and we two plumped into bed while Reza and Mary went back to town. The next morning we still couldn’t believe what had happened to us the previous day.
Still in Tehran we also visited our new camping friends from the weekend before and were invited -richt away- to the family. There we stood, couldn’t and didn’t want to say no, but to go to an Iranian extended family without knowing any rules of conduct or having a common language would be against Martin’s and my limits. But hey, that’s what we were on our way for. So get into the turmoil! So we visited Davoud and stood in front of his family’s estate. A multi-storey house with shop, workshop and living rooms. We got a small guided tour through the shop and the workshop where several employees made bronze chandeliers and decorations. The hit in Iran, the more splendid, the better. Afterwards we went up to the living room. In Iran, wealthy families always have two living rooms. One for everyday life and one for special occasions. So we were a special occasion. We stepped into a huge room in which there was nothing more than many chairs standing in front of the walls. These were of course golden and covered with the most beautiful brocade. We hardly dared to sit on it. We were welcomed there by the woman of the house, Davoud’s Mama. Conny reached out her hand and bowed friendly. A short time later the sisters arrived with husbands and children as well as the somewhat too casual brother. The joy about foreign guests was oversized and Davoud translated like wild between all participants from Farsi into English and back again. Then it was Martin’s turn to greet them and shake hands with her mother. A resounding laughter from all corners of the room. Surprised looks on our part. Our friend explained: “Iranian women never shake hands with a stranger (only husbands).” So Martin was the first and started to reddish out of shame, laughter and room temperature. But the family was incredibly friendly, open-minded and cheerful, so that that was understood as a little joke on the side. The evening continued with wild conversations from one to the other, thousands of questions to us and Davoud’s translation skills. Sometimes we felt sorry for him because he hardly got a break.
We sat there and told until deep into the night and at the end of the evening Davoud’s dad welcomed us into the family. He said such wonderful words that we might have had one or two tears in our eyes. Around four o’clock in the morning we were able to leave under protest. We were offered the guest room but we insisted on Ernst as Laika was still there. The parents had taken us so much into their hearts that they (although dogs are unclean to their beliefs) were willing to let the dog into the house. We appreciate this offer very much, but we could agree that we stayed with Ernst in their garden. We were escorted there, but not only by our friend, no the whole family (who was still awake at four in the morning) sat down in two cars and accompanied us there. We were invited for lunch the next day, but we already knew that we would spend the whole day there, so we agreed on a breakfast. Unfortunately the plan didn’t work out to let the parents decide the time and so we sat the next day at eight o’clock in the morning (yes, only four hours later) on a picnic blanket between wild roses and other wonderful smelling flowers with Davoud and his parents and let this wonderful day begin.
We thanked them a thousand times for the friendly acceptance into the family and the evening and promptly got an escort service to a garage. Davoud’s mum seriously made friends with Laika, although she actually has a lot of respect for dogs and she and Conny talked with gestures and mobile phone photos. In the afternoon we were ready to leave for Tehran city centre. But we were not allowed to leave until our mum gave our fluffy a small, homemade pillow as a present. Martin and I were screaming because of cuteness!
We drove with Davoud to Tehran and he showed us the Niavaran Palace, where the royal family lived before the revolution 40 years ago. Beautiful, modern and yet royal!
We finished the evening with him and a friend over a dinner at the Darband. In addition we climbed a very long staircase up to a mountain. At the side every meter of this way was lined with restaurants with all kinds of delicacies. Next to the river, above the river, in the river that flowed through the gorge, stood these big carpet sofas, small plateaus, laid out with a carpet on which one sits and eats together. We went uphill for about a kilometre until there were fewer tourists and chose one of the restaurants. We ordered Ab-Goosht, a Persian national dish, from which we heard that we needed instructions to eat it. Fortunately we had Iranians with us who explained everything to us. In principle it is a kind of goulash, served in a stone pot. First one pours the liquid out into his bowl and then crushes with a kind of supplied pestle the solid components that remain in the stone pot. It is really delicious, but you would never think of eating it yourself.
We actually visited the Iranian capital because of two things. On the one hand because of the visa application for Turkmenistan and on the other hand to find a workshop again. Especially the first part was extremely important, because without Turkmenistan visa we would have had to make a big detour around the Caspian Sea and we would have had to hurry to get out of Iran, because our visa was only valid for four weeks, the country is big and serious, you know 😉 So we had to be at the embassy on time and wait for audience. Yes, it was really so. The embassy was located in a city villa, in front of which some people were already waiting. But nobody was let in. But not bad for us so we could have a short talk with Ursel and Janosch, who we met in front of the embassy and wanted to go in the same direction. The world of world travelers is very small! You meet them all again either in front of the embassies or in the laundromat 🙂 A hatch on the side of the house was opened at will and one could, as if kneeling on a confessional, present one’s request. The fact that outside there was a main road and inside one only spoke to one in a whisper did not necessarily help. So like the squirrels we squatted in front of the hatch, hoping to understand at least a few words. Well, luckily. Fortunately we had already informed ourselves before, and we knew what we had to fill in and how long it would take. We suspected the guy was saying something like Tuesday and walked away shaking our heads. The following Tuesday we called an ominous number, said our ominous number, after a band announcement had also said something ominous. And lo and behold, we were connected to someone ominous in person, whom we should call back again. But after some back and forth he told us that our visa was ready and we could pick it up. Phew, everything had worked out. The days of waiting we spent between Teheran and Maschhad, because in the latter it was possible to pick up the visa. But more of it, next time.