Second day in Kashan

Second day in Kashan

Exploring the beauties of Kashan, Iran

February 14, 2015

7.50am

I can smell baked bread. They make this round bread about 50cm large, thin, baked in a round hoven, sometimes with fennel or sesame seeds, they buy 2 or 20 pieces, carry it around in their arms, with no waste of plastic or paper. Then they offer it to us for breakfast or dinner and we love it. For the sandwiches we have at lunch they use a bread similar to baguette, but soft and chewy.

Fin’s Garden

2h15pm We’re back to the hotel to drink a cup of tea and rest a bit. Today we had our share of walking. We went to Fin’s Garden, Bagh-e Fin, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where’s there’s a magic source of water, because they can’t tell where it comes from. Here Amir Kabir, a Prime Minister that annoyed the wrong people, was first kept prisoner and then killed, while he was bathing in the hammam.

While we were waiting for the bus to go back to town (the gardens are about half an hour by bus from the town), a shop keeper gave me a terrible perfume (here rose water is quite popular, but the one he gave me was particularly old) and in exchange he asked for a pen from Italy. It was an exchange I did happily.

Bazaar in Kashan

Back to town, an elder lady that hold my hand for quite some time wanted us to take the taxi to the bazaar; I think she was disappointed when I told her we preferred to walk; I guess she hoped to be helpful.

At the bazaar, Ali (a “guide” of the bazaar; basically he catches tourists and takes them to see his “cousins'” shops) showed us his friend’s carpets, but the friend got upset when he heard Ali was offering the carpets at 50 dollars, while their cost (for tourists) is 100. Maybe Ali knew the price is 50 for Iranians; but I don’t think so; probably his friend wanted to negotiate a bit more. Anyway, we couldn’t have bought a carpet for any price. We are at the beginning of our trip, we would have to carry the carpet in our backpack for 10 more days.

Another sandwich, this time with sausage, and later here, at our super quiet hotel, because I couldn’t walk any longer. It’s also very hot, I wasn’t expecting it. My winter coat is too heavy, but I can’t take it off because I need something to cover my behind.

Traditional houses in Kashan

5.53pm We are at Abbasi traditional restaurant in Kashan. We had a mix coffee (basically nescafĂ©, that Luca likes a lot because it’s super sweet) and yogurt with cucumber and cumin. We ordered Massama Bademjan (aubergine) with Camel Meat and Abbasi Special Dizzi (ram, white beans, chickpea and onion). It’s probably going to be quite expensive, but it’s Valentine’s day! 😛

Abbasi is one of the traditional houses of Kashan.

Earlier we were at the Tabatabei, another house with beautiful plasters and mirrors; then at Hammam-e Sultan Mir Ahmad, a beautiful turkish bath, very well renovated, rich in majolica, one of the best of Iran; the roof has small domes partially in glass, to let only the right amount of light in. And here, the Abbasi, is a traditional house with 5-6 floors.

Almost all houses are doing some renovations. Walls are made in sand and straw and plasters are very delicate, they need costant maintenance.

Eating in Iran

With tea (called chai, like in India) or coffee they bring you spiced biscuits or dates. In Tehran I saw people taking dates from trays at the entrance of some shops; I thought they were stealing, but they were actually gifted. Where we had dinner in Tehran there were some delicious pralines, that were offered before dinner.

Tea for two in Kashan: tea, sugar and dates
Tea for two in Kashan

The Dizzi is served in a bowl narrow and tall; inside there’s a soup and the meat with chickpeas. You have to pour the soup in a dish, while meat and chickpeas are crushed inside the bowl. At the end the mixture is put in a plate and eaten with bread. Luca says he hasn’t eaten anything this good in his whole life. He was very satisfied.

We ate a lot and all delicious, all for 10 euro. It’s nothing, if you consider that in Italy you don’t buy a pizza for one person at 10 euro. But we have a 100 euro per day budget, and we have to pay attention to what we spend. Today it’s ok, it’s Valentine’s, but we can’t afford this every day.

Anyway, walking back to the guesthouse I found a banknote of the same amount of money… 10 euro, that here feel like 50!

Visit to Tehran

Visit to Tehran

February 12, 2015

At the end the Visa that worried so much me was not a problem at all. All thanks to Mousavi. We met Mousavi and Rita in Istanbul, while we were waiting for our second flight. They set in front of us and she was saying that she couldn’t stand any longer without a cigarette. She must have seen the kindness in me when I told her there’s a terrace where you can smoke. When she was back she started to talk to us. She’s from Milan, celebrating her 70th birthday in Tehran in a couple of days. He is Turkish born in Iran, has lived the last 25-30 years in Italy. She’s a former manager of a company working for hospitals (she knows all hospitals in Italy), widowed too young, has been living with a cat and Mousavi for the last 14 years. He trades in carpets and has a natural instinct for business.

We talked a bit of everything but understood little because they like to talk at the same time (ahah). They were really funny and nice, lovely people (after 5 years I still have nice memories of them, I hope they are good). Mousavi says that Iran is like Italy in the 70s, the country that made rich the Agnelli and Berlusconi families. He would like his son to move to Iran, to make the money that people with his initiative can make, but he’s not eager to. The daughter moved to Tehran after studying in Italy, and she now has a sweet baby girl that drives grandparents crazy. He spends various months in Iran. Basically his life is divided between the two countries. He would like to move to Iran, but he went crazy for this blonde lady 20 years older than him and can’t stay away from her for too long.

Mousavi took us under his wings and when we arrived in Tehran granted for us. They asked for no insurance, no hotel booking or return ticket. There were other people requesting a visa and nobody had any problem. Plus Rosa and partner took us to our hotel on a taxi. It was a big time saving: with public transportation we would have spent little money, but it would have taken us a long time. They didn’t even want us to pay our share of the taxi fee, and we didn’t insist.

traffic in tehran
Dangerous traffic in Tehran: an elder man trying to cross the road among the running cars, that don’t really mind about the crossing lines

When we arrived at the airport in Tehran the air was full of flowers scent. When someone goes to Mecca on pilgrimage, when they are back they find the whole family welcoming them at the airport, at 4 in the afternoon or in the morning; everyone with flowers. It was a nice party and a nice sight.

At 7 am we were at the hotel; it took us some time to get there because the airport is 32km from the town centre. I had read somewhere that they drive like crazy, and we immediately had a confirmation of it: they do the turns at all speed, change line without looking at other cars, people cross the road in plain night with cars running fast.

At the hotel they offered the room in advance without waiting 2pm for the check-in, for half the rate of the room; and we accepted. To save money we took the room with shared bathroom. 31USD + 15 for the early check-in. Plus we had an extra breakfast (included in the early checkin). We slept for about one hour, had breakfast with eggs, bread, cheese, tomato and cucumber, tea and grapefruit juice. Then we went back to bed because we were really tired. We woke up at 12. First thing we did was finding a place to exchange money: 15,6 millions of Rial for 400 euro .We have three packs of banknotes that we don’t know where to put. Later lunch with kebab, and off we went to see as much as we could of Tehran because the other Mousavi (at the hotel) suggested not to go back to Tehran before the flight but to take a bus from Isfahan to the airport and we will probably do this.

We walked by the Park-e Shahr where people go to relax after work, in the middle there’s a long pool and if you look North at the horizon you can see the snow-capped peaks of Mount Tochal; skiing slopes (the fourth in altitude in the world) can be reached with a cable car departing from a square in Tehran. The slopes are full of wealthy young people on Fridays (their day off).

Park-e-Shahr e il Tochal sullo sfondo.

I went to the Golestan Palace. Luca didn’t want to go because he’s not interested and saved 2 euro for food. Well, it’s amazing. The garden alone is worth the visit, very well kept, away from the traffic and surrounded by sparkling palaces. I visited only the Hall and it’s amazing: some rooms are covered with mosaics from floor to ceiling and one has the ceiling decorated with plasters and small pieces of mirror. Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside (I saw someone doing it despite the prohibition, but I preferred not to risk to go to jail – there’s no kidding in Iran), if you wan you can buy a DVD. Or look for the pics on the web.

We scrolled around the bazaar. It was late (about 4 pm) but there was still a big chaos. In the areas outside the bazaar, that had already closed, there were people carrying super heavy carts and others searching in the rubbish for missed out treasures. People say hello all the time and they try to communicate despite their poor English and our zero Farsi (Luca is happy because he too can understand their simple English). Dinner with chicken and potato salad (with a lot of majo) and tongue, then back here at the hotel, to shower and rest our feet.

Bazaar in Tehran
Bazaar in Tehran