Iran: Caspian Sea to Tabriz

The Caspian Sea area was a late addition to our itinerary, spur of the moment really and from Dorud we easily found a bus to Tehran and then another onto Ramsar. It was a long day of bus travel but worth it. The mountainous road from Karjat to Ramsar is incredibly scenic, but I have too few photos to attest to this since the bus couldn’t stop on the winding road. Many cafes and restaurants line the twisting road and there are several towns along the way. My regret is that we did not hire a car and driver so that we could stop, take photos and soak up the beauty of this incredible road trip.

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We didn’t have a hotel booked in Ramsar and since we would arrive late at night, I asked a young girl on our bus if she could ring and make a booking. Her English was quite good and her Farsi, perfect. She was travelling alone, having spent a couple of days studying at Tehran University and was now returning to her home and husband in Tonekabon. She offered further help to us when the bus driver decided with only 4 passengers left on the bus, he didn’t want to drive any further. We four were quickly shoved in a taxi for the leg to Tonekabon where this young lady teed up another taxi to drive us to Ramsar. She kept reassuring us, ‘I will look after you.’ And she did. Honestly, we have been overwhelmed at the generosity and kindness of the Iranian people.

We woke up to this view the next morning. Green as far as the eye could see. We stayed at the Ramsar Grand Hotel and really enjoyed our stay.

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The contrast between the dry, desert of west Iran and lush north Iran is quite stark. We spent two days in Ramsar which is an easy town to walk around. I admit though, I was underwhelmed by the Caspian Sea. It was an overcast day and this may have helped form my opinion. But on our long walk along the edge of the sea, we found it a bit lacking. I certainly formed the impression that water views are not held in the same high regard as they are in Australia. It is the forest that is highly valued and there is a number of hikes and cabins in the mountains. On another note, I did read that the Caspian Sea produces 95% of the world’s caviar; all destined for export.

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While in Ramsar, Trump made his big announcement to withdraw from the nuclear deal. I can tell you that breakfast the next morning with predominately Iranian hotel guests was a sober affair. The Tehran Times seems to be the only English newspaper we can get our hands on, so when we find a copy, we devour it.

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From Ramsar, we taxied to Rasht, which is bigger and livelier than Ramsar.

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Hot out of the oven – soft, date rolls.

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Rose petals!

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Coffee time in Rasht, just opposite our hotel, the Pardis. Again, a comfortable stay with an extremely helpful staff who booked us into our next hotel.

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The drive north to Ardebil was a sea of green and we lapped it up. Most road signs are written in Persian and English.

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Hard to believe, but this is rice! Not long ago, we were in the desert.

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Azerbaijan border on the right side in photo below.

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Along the way, our driver stopped at a roadside cafe for some fresh cooked corn, chay and a bit of a smoke.

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Green, green, green!

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Ardebil was an interesting town, quite spacious with its parks, lakes, wide streets and footpaths. Snow was still on the mountains.

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We met this young man when he called us into his shop to try some black halva which is a mixture of wheat germ, honey and seeds. It’s served warm and is very sweet but, Iranians love their sweets. In the course of the conversation, he asked us if we knew how he could migrate to Australia!

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Our month long Iran trip ends in Tabriz, centre of the Silk Road!

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In Tabriz, we are spending a couple of days relaxing in the lovely Kaya Laleh Park Hotel, and shopping at the famous Tabriz Bazaar. It’s a huge bazaar with lots of alleyways and of course, we got lost – but that’s the fun of shopping in an Iranian bazaar.

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The Tabriz Bazaar is famous for its carpets and I bought this nice carpet from these two incredibly respectful Iranian men. Of course we had to take chai and talk for a good hour before we looked.

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Just a word about my hijab – it rarely stayed in place, even with a couple of bobby pins. No one, not even the police when we walked past them ever pulled me up on it. I think they could see I was trying!

We enjoyed the food scene in Tabriz.

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I’ll write one last blog about Iran, once I’ve had time to gather my thoughts and sort through all the incredible experiences we’ve had in this wonderful country. I’ll try to make it useful for anyone who’s thinking of travelling here.

Tomorrow, we make our way north into Armenistan (Armenia)!

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