Record breaking Iran border crossing, cruising along the border to Azerbaijan, Kandovan cliff dwellings, overwhelming hospitality, Iran’s high society and the Great Bazar of Tabriz
Saturday, August 13, 2016
I hit the road from Dogubayazit (Doggybiscuit as it is known to travellers) to the Iranian border near Bazargan at 5 am, passing a 12km long, double lane queue of trucks waiting to be cleared through customs. Waiting times for these drivers must exceed a week or more. Not so on a bike, with no other vehicle around at all, getting stamped out of Turkey was pretty straightforward except for the little delay caused by the Turkish official who had a quick powernap with my passport and papers in front of him (see photo).
Then the huge steel gates to Iran opened and I was greeted by an Iranian soldier with a hearty, bone crushing handshake, “Welcome to Iran!”. Then followed what must have been a record breaking Iran entry, Carnets de Passage processed, Passport stamped, no questions asked, no luggage checked, all done in 15 minutes and out the other end I was. Following a great river valley along the Azerbaijan border I paid a brief visit to the castle-like Saint Stepanos Monastery, built in the 9th century. On the main road to Tabriz I had another car driving parallel to me for minutes, getting closer and closer, all at 110kmh, until the window came down and a ladies’ hand reached out to present me with a peach, all done at 110kmh! That was my first encounter (on this trip) with the overwhelming hospitality in Iran.
For the next couple of days I took it easy in Tabriz, sipping countless cups of tea with the locals, spend days in the World Heritage Site of the Great Bazar and thoroughly enjoyed the amazing difference to other bazars or markets I visited in the past, especially India. Here nobody actually tried to sell me anything, great!
In the bazar I met a local law student, Vahid Altin. The following day he and his father took me on a trip to Kandovan, which is sort of an Iranian Cappadocia, a century old cliff dwelling providing shelter from the Mongol hordes.
Hours later I was catapulted into the extreme opposite direction, a posh grand opening of a new café for the Tabriz high society. Lots of giggles and stares at the foreign creature from the female corner included.
The exact reason why male “though guys” here drink foamy lemonade out of beer jugs still eludes me.
Tomorrow I will be on my way to the Caspian Sea and the high mountains of Iran.
...and as always - check the Gallery for lots more, bigger, better photos in full Technicolor and Dolby Surround Sound!