It’s hard to prepare for Iran. It overwhelmed me, even though I had done my research. It’s hectic, difficult and everything is almost exclusively written in the Arabic alphabet. There are so many things which differ from other countries I’ve experienced so far. But, after a while, I was getting more familiar. When I started to get more familiar, I enjoyed it fully and came to love this special country.
In all honesty though, the people of Iran really made my stay. Through couchsurfing and random street chats I had come to meet some wonderful people. I was also made aware beforehand that generosity is probably the best thing you will experience in Iran. That is something I can’t disagree with. The route I took was mostly based on visiting people I met before, or was going to meet via couchsurfing. This is why I took a bit of an unusual route, but was able to witness the cultural and natural contrasts of Iran. But I have to admit that there is controversy in Iran as well. Most stories of the people I met struggle with Iran’s current regime in its own way.
Therefore, this short post is mainly focused on the people I met. I left out Iran’s beautiful divers landscapes and its outstanding architecture. If you want to read more about my adventure in detail, I would suggest to have a look into my Polarsteps (see ‘My Polarsteps’ link on the right side of the screen). I left out the names in case of anonymity.
The first person in Iran where I got the opportunity to have an good in-depth and personal conversations with. He invited me over to play pool with his friends, but I didn’t stood any chance. We could share many laughs although some of his friends hardly spoke any English. One used to say ‘calculated!’ every time I had a lucky shot. His family was very inviting and loving. They showed me how they made hand-made carpets and even played a bit piano for me. This warmhearted family made it hard for me to leave and move further.
In general, youth seems to struggle to find ways of expressing themselves and finding opportunities on the job market. Although being critical about their own country, they currently don’t find a role model in the United States either. Iran’s economy has been hit hard with all the sanctions given by the U.S.
Crossing the Elburz mountains, I arrived in Iran’s ‘jungle’. With rice fields, dense forests and a very humid climate, the Caspian sea coast is something entirely different when you envision Iran.
Not all young Iranians want to leave to country, or head for the capital to seek for a job. Some want to create their own opportunity in their own environment. Granted, entrepreneurship is not as accessible as in most countries. But talking to him, I feel he has a lot of energy and passion in the future he wants to create.
Further on the Caspian coast, I arrived in the vibrant coastal town Babolsar. This is not a place were you would find foreign tourists easily, or even where you would think of visiting Iran. But I met a friend in Armenia, who lives here. I was feeling like a prince staying at his place for a week. Coming from a small, rural village, this was quite the opposite. While I got introduced to friends who live in big houses in gated communities, It was a good experience to compare the different lifestyles, see the differences and similarities of people living in different social classes. In those communities women are free to cycle and also don’t always wear a hijab. One of his friends invited me over to his music studio where we could have a little jam session.
You don’t find that many female couchsurfing hosts in Iran, even more rare with such a free-minded, energetic and happy attitude. Being around her made me even feel hesitant at some times. She had some extra time showing me around the beautiful city of Yazd. It is an ancient city where buildings of adobe are made to resist to hot (sometimes above 50 degrees Celsius) summers. It is not hard to get lost in what feels like a maze. But with her impulsive and positive energy, we ended up in some great locations around town.
Musical expression is also something which isn’t appreciated by the current Iranian regime. Learning to play an instrument can be very hard if you don’t have a personal devotion. The hostel owner in Ghalat invited me and some friends over and performed on some of his traditional instruments. He later told that he is going to Shiraz and rehearse with his band in the apartment of a friend. I was lucky enough to be able to join this occasion of traditional Iranian folk music.
Finally I like to share some last photo’s which were taken at random. Although I’m not really into selfies, I found some pictures on my phone which I have in good memory. I hope to visit this special country soon again…