Iran is full of Iranians!
Tehran is full of very dour Iranians. They aren’t a happy bunch at all and I suspect the reason is the view. Those mountains, the browny, fudge ones ?. Yeah they resemble large pooh and who would want to spend the day surrounded by them ?.
Tehran has a glass museum. It is not a museum made of glass for the literal autistics amongst you but a museum which displays glass. It’s okay. It has a carpet museum. No it’s not made of carpet *sigh* but since Persian carpets are famous it makes sense to have a museum in which to display what are, admittedly, pretty amazing examples. It also has a pretty average Museum of Archaeology. I like museums, I like archaeology but I am guessing they don’t get many visitors so it’s not the cleanest place.
But writing the exhibit names in dust on the display cases was fun. Who knew that writing the word “urn” so many times could give such simple pleasure. And an allergy. To dust.
Tehranis seem to live under the cosh somewhat. Perhaps it’s the nature of living in the capital. An added weight or responsibility that bears heavy upon them. All I know was that I was glad to leave a somewhat sad city behind.
We drove for 13 hours to the north-west town of Hamadan. Rain, heavy in Tehran, became more sporadic as we travelled through, at times, spectacular countryside to our destination.
I recall many of our hotels quite vividly and the one in Hamadan really stood out. Built less than 20 years ago, it was already decrepit and moth eaten and the walk to my room took me on a rather large detour via the outer Hebrides!. Seriously, if I’d walked any further I’d have changed time zones. I was at one end of the gardens, miles from everyone else and no doubt out there to keep my evil influence away from the others.
And my room was, to use a phrase, interesting!
A lumpy mattress too small for the bed frame, a sheet too small for the mattress that’s too small for the bed frame and a door so badly fitted that not only could you slip a note under my door but a limbo dancer as well!
Our evening meal was not good. Our food in general was excellent but unappetising mutton curry and a grey yoghurt dip did little to raise weary spirits.
Hamadan, though, is lovely. A quiet, clean town with spacious streets and a mild climate and an ideal place to stroll into a girls school playground to view a family tomb. Or not as the case may be as, taking photos of said tomb when you have hundreds of young Iranian ladies who cannot be photographed, is a bit tricky.
Our journey took us next to Bisitun. Through stunning scenes of snow capped mountains and gentle rolling hills we travelled until they gradually eroded to a flat plain from which the rock of Bisitun reared, like a bucking horse, from the landscape.
Bisitun is famous for its extraordinary relief which depicts Darius 1st victory over several rebel kings including the pretender to the throne, Gautama. First studied, in perilous fashion, by Sir Henry Rawlinson in 1834 who descended on a rope from the top of the mound in order that he could decipher the script and discover the key to the ancient Akkadian language. He was either very brave or very foolish. Or both. And, given the weather in this part of Iran, he got flaming wet doing it!.
Rain seemed to haunt us wherever we went. It followed us to the reliefs of Tag-E-Bostan and I ate my Iranian chicken sandwiches (excellent) to the gentle rhythm of dancing raindrops. Then it cleared and a blazing sun appeared casting a fierce golden glow over the reliefs in their hidden alcoves and imbuing the stone with a vitality and warmth. My trousers steamed in the heat as the water evaporated and I stood, basking in the warmth, giving off a consistent stream of steam.
We detoured to Kermanshah. A traditional and quiet Iranian town at our disposal was a great shopping opportunity if you like bazaars. I don’t. I find them bizarre and all the will you, won’t you and the haggling isn’t for me. I feel pressurised, or guilty about buying, or not buying, tat, or perhaps it’s not.
I then blundered into a funeral. Look, there’s a message. Don’t let Patrick off on his own. He can’t read maps, he is rubbish with directions, you know that at home he occasionally leaves the sitting room, turns right instead of left and ends up sleeping in the bath not the bed!. Don’t let him out of your sight!
But they did. Then I did. And two dids don’t make a didn’t!
I left in confusion. I was confused at a large number of elderly Iranian men deep in thought in a stunningly gorgeous tiled room and they were confused by a confused Englishman out in the midday sun!.
But a gentleman came out to see me. His father had died and it was the wake that I had blundered into. I apologised. He apologised. He offered me a chair. He arranged for tea and cake to be brought out to me.
And when he’d seduced me with that, he made me join the Iran National Trust!
Of which, more, later…..