# December 2012

After having changed the plan, it became much easier to me to think of the winter as I don't need to go further during December, in which the days are really short. Simultaneously, I can say I've already done more than one third of the way and Iran was my least line in this trip. I'm pretty happy that I've reached this point anyway. Still there are a lot of things to see in this region so this month will be certainly dedicated to this aspect. As usual, I'm quite looking forward to it.

## Tehran

What? Still Tehran? ... yes, sorry, I'm still staying at the same family's place. I hope they know how thankful I am...

Since Friday is the day of rest, the week-end starts on Thursday but the most of the embassies have a day off on Friday and Saturday to make a communication with their own countries easier. So I could not go to the embassy of Japan on the first day of December. And since Farzad, one of the nephews of Shadi, had his courses at the university only in the evening, we could have a sight-seeing in Tehran with his motor bike.

The first object was the famous (?) Azadi Tower. I don't know who built this thing nor when nor why but one thing I can say is that compared with arc de triomphe in Paris, it's very hard to get to the space in the middle, though the structure was pretty much the same. (For those, who have tried to run to the space in the center from outside, it's not more difficult. Those, who have never been there have probably no idea what I'm talking about :)

There was a museum under the Azadi tower. As you can see, the entrance fee is 120,000 Rials, but I asked Shadi later to translate it and it turned out that it's 20,000 Rials for Iranians. Very nice strategy exploiting the fact that the most tourists cannot read the Iranian numbers...

Then we went over to the bazaar in the south of the city. This is the place where you can buy everthing such as Soni, Adidos, Windovs etc. I took the photo at the entrance and if you are just standing around inside, you will be run over by a cart within 30 seconds.

On the other hand, there was also the Iranian tradition still living there, as you can see on the photo. The Persian carpets. This was just a corner of a big space, completely occupied by carpets. Accordingly, I also noticed that the floor of Shadi's place (I say "Shadi's place" because she invited me on couch surfing but it's not that I ignore Omid and Armita or anything like that, don't worry :) is covered with carpets and her mother's place is also covered with carpets. This is obviously also the reason why you have to take your shoes off before entering the apartment every time in Iran.

The pictures on the wall are made of the same tissue as the carpets. I don't know how they do it but the Iranian beauty is something we should not forget.

There was also a very famous museum near the bazaar. Actually there are two museums in the same space. One of them, the national museum, was closed. So I visited the other one, the bastan museum. According to Shadi, this museum is not popular among the politicians because it's showing Iran before the Islamic era. Hmhm how old are these objects? ... 5000 years old. lol is there anything in Japan which is older than them? Anyway, Iran has an incredibly long history so there's no surprise in fact.

On the way back home, I tried to buy something small and the shopkeeper failed to say the price in English. Obviously he found it too difficult for me to understand numbers in Farsi. In this moment I could have understood the price but anyway, there was a young guy next to me and we talked for a while. He spoke very good English but again, this was the first time for him to talk in English. I asked him why he spoke English so well. He said, he liked it. However he did not want to say what exactly he liked.

On the way back home there were two police officers who caught me violently. When I showed them my passport though, they immediately said I should forget everything, without apology. Here, again, the Japanese passport. I don't know what they were expecting.

Following day, I went to the Japanese embassy to get the invitation letter for the Uzbekistani embassy and I went directly to the Uzbekistani embassy. According to other bloggers, the embassy of Uzbekistan was open until 11:30 but when I arrived there I was told that it was until 11:00. I arrived 5 minutes too late. At the entrance, they asked me:
I'm Japanese.
The door opened, I went upstairs.
"Good morning, sir"
Sir? hm, I'm not that old but ok. I don't really care about this kind of stuff.

The lady, maybe directly the ambassador, handed out a piece of paper on which all the documents required were written. I know that as a Japanese citizen, I don't need an invitation letter from an Uzbek. However, the price written on the paper drew my attention: $105... "For Japanese citizens it's$15"
I was stunned.

On the way back home, I could finally take the photo of a typical gas station in Iran. I don't really understand how it can happen but there's clearly not enough gas stations in Iran and every gas station looks like this. And what's more, there were a lot more cars in the space not captured in the photo.

In the evening, Vahid contacted me again and we had a short driving in the city with his car. I did not take any photo but Tehran still has some calm places such as parks and small rivers etc. We bought a piece of labu and walked along a small river. The air was cold. The silhouette of the moon was not sharp. They told me that in this season the wind brings pollution to Tehran. It's allegedly not directly related to the development of Tehran but it's getting worse every year. I did not perceive anything but they say it can be very harmful.

The next day, I went to the embassy of Uzbekistan again by taxi as I didn't have so much time. It was 15km away and took about US$4.20... Well, the Iranian rial lost 60% of its value since the beginning of the year so it's not really a surprise that the taxi was so cheap. In the afternoon I went to change the money as I didn't have any rial anymore. The biggest problem of the stock exchange in Iran is that there's the rate determined by the government and the real rate. The rate you can see in the Internet is the rate of the government, which is for instance 1 USD = 12,280 IRR now. And now I know that the real rate is 1 USD = 29250 IRR, according to what I was told yesterday. In normal banks it's always the government's rate but you can never buy USD or EUR. You can pretty much only sell it. Therefore, it's not everywhere possible to change money. In the evening, finally I started to update this website again, because in this moment I was planning to go away the following day. And I cooked gratin, to celebrate my visa? I wanted to go to Qom, a city near Tehran. They told me that there are a lot of conservative muslims in this city, but eventually it turned out that I couldn't find any host there. I didn't do anything in the morning and in the afternoon, I still couldn't decide what to do, when Armita spoke to me and asked me if I have time to play with her. Hm, okay, it doesn't make sense to continue to ponder it. I went downstairs with her. In the end, it was simply too late to go away. A decision making is something horrible. By the way, don't forget to look at Armita's unproportionally big feet and make your own version of the story... In the evening, Shadi asked me if I wanted to go to Bandar Abbas because her mother bought a ticket for a whole compartment to have a private space, so for six persons. I simply said yes without much consideration. She looked a bit surprised (in spite of the fact that SHE asked me if I wanted :) The departure was three days later. In this case, I don't need to think about what I can do while waiting for the visa. It's of course a nice thing. Anyway I don't need to decide myself so it's good. In fact there are not so many things to see in Tehran but as I was interested in the local life, I decided to go to Tajrish, which was located in the north of Tehran. It's classified as a different city but it's still a part of Tehran though 15km away from Shadi's place. Since I also wanted to listen to podcasts, I decided to walk there. I left the house at 10am and came back at 8pm. It happened to be a very long day trip in the end... But I could see also a lot of interesting things on the way. At noon, I bought a packet of "chocolate brotchen" as shown in the photo here, though the one I bought was from the previous day so it was for half price, so like$3, well, no, sorry 30 cents... Anyway I was eating them on a bench in a street, in front of which there was a company and there was just one guy who came out of the company. He did not speak English but he tried to talk to me. In the end, he invited me to his company. Fortunately all the coworkers spoke English and we had a small conversation and I could get an ordinary lunch there. If I really try, I can come out without paying a cent in Iran, I have the impression...

In some parts of Iran it looks pretty much like Europe. The northern part of Tehran, which is at the same time the richest part, is especially the case. Don't the people here want the traditional style?

I simply wrote that I'm going to Bandar Abbas, yet there is one huge problem: There's only the mother of Shadi, Shadi's sister and me. Well, they are funny, I think it would be a very nice trip with their personalities but maybe they are too funny to speak English with me. If my expression was not clear enough, here's the elaboration: they don't speak English... Omid promised me to give a book for survival English to Sharereh, who is by the way the sister of Shadi, but will it be enough to communicate? I think the best solution would be I study Farsi. With this in mind, I seriously started to learn Farsi, using wikitravel but I still cannot read anything. Hopefully it will help a little during the travel. After all we will be away for one week and during this boot camp we'll probably spend most of the time together. Please look forward to the result which will probably come out next week :)

On the last day remaining we went to the Armenian christmas market held by the embassy of Armenia (as far as I understood). I don't really miss this Christmas culture (though a cup of Glühwein in Germany is something special) but it's still nice to see its opulence.

It was raining outside. The problem with the pollution hopefully will be solved, at least for a while, though I'm not in Tehran anyway :)

Since it was the last day before the trip to Bandar Abbas, I spent the whole afternoon for updating the website. All the family members were at home but the problem was I hadn't updated this website more than two weeks. When I started to write down everything, my blog was still in Qazvin, where I don't know how many days ago I was. Up to Tehran it was okay since I stayed in every place for a day or two, but I've been here already more than ten days. I had to ask everyone, what we did in this and that moment. No one could remember anymore... Therefore, you may have noticed this blog has a lot of vacuums or vacua or whatever. Anyway, I'll go to Bandar Abbas tomorrow so see you next week!

## Bandar Abbas

So, before starting to tell the story, I want to say that the ladies on the photo are the protagonist of this travel. It started when I was at Shadi's mother's place, she asked me whether I wanted to go to Bandar Abbas, a city just above Dubai, UAE. I said spontaneously yes as I didn't know what to do while waiting for the visa for Uzbekistan. First I was planning to couch surf but they then said the grandma wanted to invite me. Hmmm, can I be that impudent and shameless? Well, as always I was a VERY nice couchsurfer example and I said yes without hesitation. So, we decided to go to Bandar Abbas together, also with the sister of Shadi, Sharoreh.

In the photo you can see a well-ordered version of a queue waiting for the gate to open. What gate? you may asked. I don't know exactly why but apparently every railway station in Iran has a gate before platforms and there's a security check. And I wrote it's well ordered but as you can see, there's just a chaotic crowd in front of the door. This is namely much better than other versions I saw where the people were simply crashing into the gate. This is something I never really understand in Iran. As a person who has lived in Japan and Europe, I would have created a queue as it goes in total faster and clearly there's no need for panic. I would have said the same thing for the traffic. Well, maybe they don't really care about that in the end.

It's a wonder that they put rails in the middle of a desert but in many places there was simply nothing. I had also a photo on which there's even less stuff going on but I don't know if it's really interesting to see a photo of literally nothing. The journey to Bandar Abbas took around 18 hours. With 18 hours, I can probably go to Japan and come back from Iran.

By the way, neither of them spoke English, though Sharoreh was kind of trying to articulate some words but we needed a radical solution at this point: I decided to learn Farsi. Anyway I'm going to stay here in Iran for a while and I know that there are a lot of people interested in talking to a Japanese they see for the first and probably also the last time in their lives. And Farsi is also an Indo-European language. As I know how the Romance langugages, Germanic languages, ancient Greek and Russian work, it cannot be so hard to understand Farsi, was my first thought. It turned out that the language itself was pretty easy, though it was very hard to understand the ultrasonic Farsi the grandma spoke. However they were both amazingly patient and with a lot of pantomime I did not have any stress in the whole travel.

I was not sure what kind of trip this kind of people would have. After leaving the train, I immediately realized that they simply take a taxi the whole day and ask the driver to flesh out interesting objects. It's been a while since I had something like this, as my parents were not so intersted in going to new places because of our dog and the cat, though the cat would not really care about that.

As I said, Bandar Abbas is just above Dubai, which means it has a completely different climate than Tehran. I don't know how warm it was there but I could a very strong warm wave directly after leaving the train. The endless blue sky, I had a very strong sense of déjà vu...

It might be better for you to read the wikipedia article before going into detail. You will know that the project of building a bridge between the mainland and one of the islands, Qeshm island, was a formidable project

Maybe I didn't write but my visa for Iran was for 30 days and since it's apparently something known that you should not do it in Tehran, I told them (or rather Shadi told them to be more precise...) that I wanted to go to the local police station. But first we wanted to have lunch. Then we went to the police station where my request was rejected as they told me that I should do it in Tehran. I would protest in this kind of case but as I did not want to bother the others I didn't say anything and we went back to the place where we had lunch and we had another lunch. I think this represented more or less the whole trip, together with the fact that we went to the hotel then and slept for a while.

Later on this day, we went to the Qeshim Island, a large island near Bandar Abbas, by boat. The standard transport is done by boat in this region. Each boat has a different size and different structure. You can sometimes watch Heidi, though you cannot understand anything because of the noise of the engine.

It's not exactly the region with concentrated oil production but in the sea we could see some places with pipes towering over the sea. It's a bit werid to see a very wide ocean with pipes jutting out of the sea and ships floating around. The grandma seemed to be excited about the saltiness of the sea water splashing around the ship.

As always I didn't plan how to present this trip here and now I explain why we wanted to go there first of all: Actually a son of Sharoreh went there with his wife to create a film since she is specialized in this domain. As they found the region so beautiful the grandma wanted to see it as well. And the island we wanted to go to was exactly the place where they had the film. On the first day, it was unfortunately too late to see anything so we went back to Bandar Abbas and stayed there.

Of course there were plenty of fish in Bandar Abbas. In Tehran it's not very easy to find good fish and Shadi hates fish. I can hate her for it :) However, the grandma and Sharoreh love fish. I don't know how it could happen in one family but it was the best situation to taste the Persian Gulf well oiled fish there. There were also some fish markets with the best aroma ever, caused by the heat and maybe the number of flies around?

Just behind the fish market I bought a couple of apples, for 2000 tomans per kilo, which is equivalent to around 65 dollar cents or 50 euro cents. And these apples were the pretty much the most expensive ones according to what I saw so far in Iran. What a paradise.

One of the biggest problems in Iran I hadn't expected was that it's apparently forbidden to travel with a person who is not a faily member. The stress started when we were in the compartment. The other passengers were looking at us as if we were igniting a nuclear weapon. The grandma said I am her nephew? or something like that, which means my mother or my mother is supposed to come from Iran. Do I look enough Iranian to be regarded like this? The problem continued when we were in the hotel. They did not want to give us one room so I had to have one room for myself. I would have been happy to put my tent in front of the hotel...

I didn't write anything about the personality of these ladies but they are the most optimistic optimists ever. Even if you don't speak Persian you can have a very funny time with them. And the grandma believes that Persian is pretty easy since it can simply be spoken intuitively. Nice. They sing whenever there's something triggering a song, like if you say "mama" they start "mamma mia, here I go again..." or if you say "it" they start "let it be, let it be" etc. (though they sing in Persian so exactly I don't know what they are saying but I guess it's something like this. And this starts all of a sudden so the conversation is sometimes cut in the middle, but they don't really care about this)

Following day, we got up early in the morning to go to Qeshm island again. The temperature was still so high but it was surprisingly dry. There's probably not much rain in this region in spite of the sea. For the first time in my life I saw camels. I think zebras and camels are the most unsophisticatedly looking animals in this category. It's nice to know that the protrusion is the storage for energy but it looks so dense... But their existence made me feel like being in Persia. Hm, I was in Persia after all though :)

Iran was under British occupation (as far as I know...) but still they drive on the right side (or rather on the wrong side in my opinion). Yes, on the right side, but in this crazy world sometimes something crazy happens and obviously I was the only person who was interested in this stuff. It's the Iranian mentality so don't feel too concerned if ever you happen to be in this region.

The first destination on the island was the place of remains from the 10th century? or something like that. There was no translation at the site and they said "one thousand" so I trust the English ability of the ladies and put it here as they said.

It stand directly at the sea (as every object on this island...) and it was surprisingly silent there. We climbed up to the top of the mountain and looked over the region. Sometimes we could see a car driving maybe a kilometer away but we could still hear the noise.

The giant object you can see in the sea is an oil plant. There are many of them in the sea. So, where's Wally, or the grandma, who did not want to come with Sharoreh and me. The right side of the photo is like a desert. It's interesting to see trees and grass only in this area and not on the other side of the road. In any case, there's not much green in this region. They are by the way trees of date, which you cannot see at all in Japan I think. I don't know if I had ever seen them in Europe but in Iran you can see them everywhere.

The guy standing at the poster and explaining the different sites on this island was the taxi driver, Vahim. He was at the harbor by chance and wanted to show us around. All the taxi drivers so far were actually pretty friendly. Maybe I can try it also in Japan. I heard that the Japanese taxi drivers are also very friendly but do not expect the clients to speak to them. It's interesting to hear this kind of stories from foreigners as they are so to speak the only ones who speak to the taxi drivers.

I have no idea how the story developed but the nwe went to the small Mont-Saint-Michel of Qeshm. This place, as you might have guessed, cannot be reached by car most of the day, only at low tide. In order to see what it looks like, we went there when we could not go to the small island. It's really interesting that there's nothing written on wikitravel, both this place and the remains. It was a beautiful place but somehow the sea water was stinking. Maybe because of the tankers. Maybe the Persian Gulf is everywhere a bit contaminated by industry.

So we wanted to see the same site later on this day and we drove further, to buy souvenirs. Like my own grandmother, the grandma wanted to buy souvenirs on the very first day, though we were staying in the region for one entire week.

Then we went to see dolphins. There was a boat service there.

There were some other elderly women. It was pretty hard to put them al on the boat but somehow we managed it. Everything works in Iran somehow, with a bit of Iranian mentality. As soon as the boat started there was the grandma who started to sing and everyone sang along. The problem is just, in this culture, they start to sing very quickly and everyone sings, but obviously no one is listening to the others and therefore some people become faster and others slower etc. Well, they don't really care. It's the Iranian mentality so.

The only thing is just the ladies threw away things into the sea so I think it will be a big problem for the Persian Gulf later... Fortunately the two whom I was with didn't do anything like this so I did not need to be stressed in the whole trip.

And I think all of you know what dolphis look like but here just one photo of them as proof. At one point I could also see a dolphin jumping out of the sea but unfortunately I could not make a photo of the scene. It was the first time to see a dolphin outside of aquariums but it makes you feel a bit strange to see dolphins in the strong smell of oil and the engine. Sorry it was YAMAHA...

I see the location of some photos but I don't know how this information is saved. If you are nerdy enough you can maybe find it out by looking at the properties of the photos.

After the dolphins we landed at a small island of Jazireh-ye Hengam which is located just below Quesm island then we fed fish in the sea. In this moment, I really felt like a Japanese tourist. I hope you know what I mean with this :)

And at low tide it looks like this at the small Mont Saint Michel, though there was no monastary on the island but a deserted (?) house. The fauna of this place was so interesting but I could not take a very nice photo so you must go there yourself. Probably you will find the entire region so interesting if you have never got out of Europe or Japan.

The sun was endlessly shining when we arrived at Chahkouh valley. I thought I would not need sun glasses during my travel as I didn't in the beginning. But at this point I had a very strong headache and I was almost only walking after Sharoreh and grandma. The grandma usually do not want to move a lot but on this day she was pretty active. It's very nice anyway that she's always in very good mood. Most of the time though it was impossible to understand what she wanted to say to me but it didn't really matter to her apparently. She continues to talk to me.

From the second day we rented an apartment because hotels simply make too many problems due to MY presence. One big problem was there was no chair and no table in the apartment, so we had to stay directly on the floor which led to excessive sleeping time in total. However, it had the good effect on me that I could learn Persian all the time.

It's by the way normal in Iran that there's not bed in the apartment, probably because of the Persian carpets. In Japan we sometimes don't have a bed either. Ours is called Futon and I think it's more or less known in the world, I suppose. I was a bit surprised at first but since you don't get inside with your shoes on, it's actually not that bad in the end.

What we call Turkish toilet in Europe is actually called Asian toilet in Turkey. I really hoped that Europeans are right but it turned out Turks were right... Everywhere in Aisa apparently you can find pretty much only this type of toilet. The only toilet which is worse is probably the one I saw in the Ukraine.

As we had now an apartment we were able to cook. So we went to a local fish market on the next day. The aroma is something crazy in this region. I think I never experienced it so much in Tsukiji... They told me there are also sharks but according to Shadi, Iranians cannot buy sharks because it's supposed that due to the fact sharks don't have scale in contrast to other fish, it's not good for health? I have no idea but foreigners can still buy them or something like that? Since there are a lot of things I don't understand in this country I cannot remember what the regulation exactly looked like. In any case, I wanted to say there are sharks in this region :)

Some women here are disguised better than the people in Tehran. In extreme cased you can see only the nose jutting out of the black cloth. Since the religious women are often pretty closed, it'll certainly be very hard to know their personalities. I'm just wondering how the young Iranian boys choose a wife without knowing her personality and the appearance. The only criterion is the nose?

Like it was the case in Tehran, the European quality was something prestigeous in Qeshm. I don't know how they get this kind of information but they know IKEA and obviously they wanted to buy furniture from IKEA. This was the smallest IKEA I have ever seen I think, though I could not recognize the furniture inside at all. Even though it's too clear, I checked the website of IKEA to know its legitimacy...

I took this photo in a shopping center in Qeshm. It's really interesting how much stuff is coming from Europe. Not only clothes or bags but also stuff like chewing gum or coffee filter. Before the beginning of the sanctions it must have been a crazy place here.

We then went to the northern part of the city to go shopping again. It's really a problem if you are traveling with women... Well, if you do not speak Persian, you are pretty much lost but if you speak at least a little bit Persian, which was my case, you will have a good time with the people there as it is apparently expected in a market like this that you negotiate the price and if you cannot express yourself the way you want, they will help you, like "3000 tomans, yes, ok? hmmm, ok 2800 tomans or ok ok 2500 tomans", while I don't say a word...

I can put an infinite number of examples if I want hihi anyway this is a photo of "carrefour" for clothes. This was probably also the smallest Carrefour I have ever seen.

This Carrefour was probably for men but it's not rare in Iran that the manequins are all men in the show window because if they want to put a female model, they must cover the head with a rag and I don't know exactly what they must do but I guess it will cause problems if the model has boots or so because in real life the women here in Iran cannot carry boots because it's too "sexy" according to the authorities. It makes me feel a little bit weird because as you know in Europe the models are always female.

Following day, we went to the market again, on foot this time. Wow I don't know why grandma wanted to be so active besides it was not that near. We took a taxi to go back though. The photo is a mosque on the way there. A very beautiful building which remanded me of Arabian Night.

In my usual life, like in France or Germany, I contacted my parents maybe once very 6 months or so. We don't agree on the media like they want an email and I want skype but anyway it's amazing to see how much this family contact each other. They telephoned with Shadi and Noshad at least 10 times a day, using their phones. Do you know how to answer a phone in Iran? In English you would probably say "hello?" and "moshimoshi?" in Japanese. In Iran, it's "Allosalaamchetorikhubi?". It's not that easy, Persian...

I saw a shark-like creature on the market. It's a shame that I cannot even recognize a shark despite my Japanese origin... Is it a shark? Shadi says it's a shark.

There were also some fish still alive there. Why is there no sushi restaurant?

During this trip we did mostly one thing in a day and the ladies slept in the rest of the day and I learned a little bit Farsi but on this day, we also went to the Portuguese castle on Hormoz island which was used in the 16th century. To be more precise, there were only remainings of the castle because it was heavily destroyed in a war? It was also forbidden to enter some places due to vulnerability.

Like many other places on this island it was so RED. They told me this color is used for paintings or as a pigment. There was one guy who explained us the history of the castle voluntarily. Iranian hospitality. And every time I think grandma is a very nice person. Since she saw I could not understand his explanations, she tried to make it clear to me. It unfortunately did not make the situation better but because I did not want her to give up as I'm now trying to understand a little bit Farsi, I did not say anything. Hopefully there'll be a day where we understand each other well :) She was a bit like my own grandmother though it's not clear whether my grandmother really understood that the foreigners who came to my place need to learn Japanese first before being able to understand what she wanted to say.

We could go onto the castle. The photo shows the view over the city next to the castle. It was amazingly silent. You may know this silence if you have ever been to Okinawa. Many places in this region reminded me of Okinawa as the population density does not really matter. It's calm and silent. And the life is very slow. With the sunset, the red color of the island became even more intense.

We had a different taxi driver on this day but he did pretty much the same guide. We drove through the island and I could take many pictures along the way. And you may have wondered how it could be so snowy on this tropical island. And after reading the previous phrase you may have come to the idea that it is salt in reality. The thin object at the left corner is an antenna of the car and accordingly, this is a street which can be used by cars. Maybe the quality of the road does not that crucial since there's almost no rain in this region.

As we had a very slow vacation, it's sometimes a bit difficult to see everything in one day. So we went back home for this day and came back again to the same island, Hormoz. You ca see the place to gather pigments on the photo. Probably you should see this place yourself. This place was so vividly red (though it will certainly very difficult to reach this place without knowing Persian hihi)

The guy from the previous day who did a very nice guide at the Portuguese castle, had given us his business card there so we visited his place there. He is working for enviromental issues? I don't know what exactly was his job but he had a lot of stuff related to Hormoz island. As I found the atmosphere of the village very nice, I took a video on the way there. Unfortunately it takes really a lot of time to update videos (in Iran) so you may need to wait for a while before you can actually download the video.

We had a little bit time before the departure so we visited another house on the island following the recommendation of the taxi driver. I was told that the pigments were obtained directly from the island. Nice.

So, as you may already know, I come from Tokyo. And consequently I am a person who cannot reall wait for something. The problem was though, we went to the pier and waited for the ship there. It was 11.30 am. At noon, I asked them when the ship was to arrive.

"It will come at 3 pm."

Wait, it is now 12 o'clock and the ship is coming at 3 pm? There's something wrong here, I thought. No, nothing is wrong. It was the moment that I strongly realized that I came to Iran...

While we were waiting for the ship to come, which eventually came by the way one hour later than scheduled, there were a group of schoolgirls who wanted to talk to me in English. Probably it was the first time to see a foreigner for them, since even in Japan I would never expect to see any foreigner on the southern islands so for Hormoz it's probably something extraordinary. They were all 17 and in reality they were not able to speak English but we somehow managed to communicate. It's very nice that everywhere I'm the first foreigner.

Following day, we didn't have anything to do again. So we went to another shopping mall on Qeshm island. Every time I find it very interesting that the female mannequins have scarves. In this region of Iran the restriction is probably not so strong but in Tehran the mannequins' hairs are also hidden. Anyway it's a bit funny to see the modern fashion with a bit of islamic taste.

And we come to the last day of our long trip. As always there was Vahim who came to the house we rented and we went to another part of the island to see the way of local house construction. The tower you can see on the photo is an air vent. In this manner they kept the house more or less cool. Grandma apparently wanted to say "cooler" but with Farsi accent it only sounded like the French word "couleur" which means "color" in English. It took probably more than 20 minutes until I understood what she wanted to say. I find her really lovely and patient by the way :)

There was a place called "Tella" nearby where historical wells were still existent. Please check out the video starring grandma again.

Anyway they collected water in these wells on this island and it was essential for life there since there is not much rain in this region as I've already said.

Of course there are some places where oil is produced. According to what I heard and saw there's a different village completely separated from the rest of the island. The poverty of the island perhaps also comes this separation? The wall on the photo completely presents the omplete separation by the way.

It was on the way to the next destination, a mangrove swamp with swans (though I'm not sure whether they were swans. It does not really depend on the language. I generally have no idea what many birds look like, maybe except for pigeons and peacocks). As usual grandma started to sing as soon as the boat started. You can see how much she was rocking yeah. I have the strong doubt that she has maybe five songs in her head and starts to sing them randomly, because to me all the songs she sing appear always the same...

Mangrove is something dying out in Japan due to contamination and it was my first time. Well, as someone coming from Tokyo, I had almost never seen forests in my life before going to Germany. Mangrove was something I had seen in a book. Anyway it's a wonder that I'm now traveling around the world without knowing anything about nature.

As my Persian was still so poor grandma still tried to make me understand some special words by pantomime. The photo with her scarf covering her face is the scene where she was trying to pantomime the word "tarsidan" which means to fear. This pantomime has the special name fantomime though I cannot see it anymore because I never forgot this word since then.

And so far was the last day of the trip and next day, we got up at 6:30 in the morning to go back to Bandar Abbas. The train was to arrive at 13:50 and we arrived at 10:00... I don't know how much these ladies loved to wait. At least I could go to buy some pomegranates to try to speak some Persian. I did the same thing when I was in France. In contrast to the case of France, it's easier to talk to the people directly because they like to speak to foreigners. In the train I just continued to learn some Persian. It's almost becoming an obsession.

Throughout the stay in Bandar Abbas, I eventually paid less than 20 €. The rest was compensated by the help of grandma. However, in this part of the world they don't really care about the money and still after the travel we are having a very nice relation as if she was my own grandmother. Both Sharoreh and grandma were really patient without showing any emotion of tiredness though I scarcely understood Persian. Hopefully there will come a day where we can understand each other without problems :)

## Tehran

And so was the boot camp also over and especially the good weather... When we came back to Tehran it was snowing. Considering that it snowed much earlier in Germany it's still like a paradise but it's still annoying. Armita on the other hand seemed to be very happy. Not only because of the snow but also because she had her "second" birthday on this day as Shadi promised her to celebrate her "birthday" on the first snowy day of the year. No wonder that she doesn't want to have siblings. I don't know how often I have had a cake in this family although no one has had anything to be officially celebrated :)

Following day, I went to the police to extend my visa since it was, as I had already mentioned, for one month and I noticed on this day that it was already over. Anyway I went there and filled the application, paid 300,000 rials (which is equivalent to 10 dollars) and whatever. I saw that some applications were rejected, mostly from countries like Afghanistan or other poor countries but mine was accepted without questioning. It's not only in Iran, but everywhere the same. Still I cannot really accept this order of the world.

Anyway, they told me at the end, I should come back in a week and took my passport. Wait, I should walk around without my passport in Iran, in a country where there's everywhere passport control? Yes, exactly. This fact simply implies that I cannot travel for a week and I have to stay in Iran because in other cities the control is a bit more strict.

Shadi and Omid told me that there's no problem so I eventually decided to stay at their place. I don't know how shameless I became.

The following day though, I learned from the King Eduard of Northeim that my effort in Lyon was recognized in Göttingen. So, officially I got my degree. So again there was a small celebration party at Shadi's place. Grandma tells me always there is no disco and no party in Iran so at least at home we should have something amusing.

I think you all know that facebook is forbidden in Iran because it prompted mass demonstrations in 2009. However, in reality it's not difficult to connect to facebook using a server in a foreign country. So in Iran, in fact, almost each and every person has an account on facebook and obviously the government knows it as well. So what to do? Easy, they create also an account. Following this motto, the religious leader of Iran apparently also created an account on facebook. Please check it out if you've got too much time. It's hilarious.

I don't know how much I was waiting for this day, the winter solstice. As a traveler who can move only while the sun is there it was really hard to accept for me that it's getting shorter and shorter. But the winter solstice arrived so I can have more hope starting from this day hihi. At the same time, this night is called Yalda in Iran and an unofficial celebration day. Shadi first told me that there was no party planned at her place so I contacted Vahid who told me that he was going to have a party at his place. So I invited myself to his place and we had a dinner together with his wife and his parents. We had fish!

Traditionally, the people do not sleep in this night (isn't it too long to not sleep?) but all of us were pretty tired and since it was still after midnight, I decided to stay at Vahid's place. It was anyway impossible to move for me anymore after the fattening action which takes place pretty much everywhere in Iran. I think now it's getting worse as I speak a little bit Persian.

Anyway we went to the place called shabdelajim (I think...) next morning because I told them that I was interested in the culture of Islam, something that cannot be seen so much in Europe, especially in France anymore.

It was forbidden to take photos inside but there was a tomb of one of the kings? The tomb itself was again in a glass box. Interestingly, though I'm used to it now, the place was separated for men and women. One half of the glass box was accessible by women and the other half by men. At the divider I could hear a woman weeping. I don't know how the people can be loyal to their religion but I find it pretty nice.

Directly at the mosque there was a very old market. According to Vahid it was one of the oldest in Tehran. So there were not only new stuff like western fashion stores (this expression is probably old and unskilled enough...) but also shops for scarves. I was actually looking for a place to buy scarves and exactly on the previous day, I was asking one person I met on the street, saying "Where can I buy a rag like yours?" ... I'm so happy that this person didn't understand what I meant (and of course I didn't want to express it like this. It was just ... due to my poor vocabulary :)

Since it was an old market there were a lot of traditional articles as well. It's also amazing to see a water pipe of Puma. I didn't know that this brand for sports was engaged in this kind of stuff.

Do you see the parrots on the photo? This guy with full of apathy is not selling the parrots. Actually it's a (non-islamic) tradition of Yalda (the day of the longest night of the year) to choose one of the poems written by Harfez, a great poet of Iran, after wishing something for yourself. At Shadi's place, I opened one page from his book randomly but here one of the parrots chooses a poem for you and you should read it. I could have done it for a good memory but all my wishes do I make true myself so I don't need this kind of stuff hehe.

At Vahid's parents' place we had lunch together and we drove through the city with his wife. Since she did not speak English it was a mixture of English and Persian but I am looking forward to the day where we talk only in Persian (and this definitely should come before I leave Iran). Though there's no KFC in Iran, there's something similar there. I think the desire of people does not really change in different countries. We had an extremely fat dinner there and after that we stayed in a small park in the north of Tehran. It was very cold but holding a cup of tea under light rain we talked and had a very nice calm evening.

Later, when I arrived at home (at 11 pm...) I found out that Shadi had a very bad day. It was maybe good that I was not at home the whole day.

There was one book for Persian I was reading when we were in Bandar Abbas. Fortunately I had read it though when we arrived in Tehran. And it turned out that there was no Internet at home (probably for the whole (Iranian) month). So I needed a new book for Farsi for foreigners or so. Usually I don't need a book like this after obtaining a basic language knowledge since I read directly normal books or newspapers or so. The problem of Persian though, is that they do not write all the vowels needed. Therefore, if you read a book in Persian without having a very good vocabulary you don't know how some words are actually pronounced. Therefore I decided to (at least) look at some books for foreigners.

In contrast to my expectation, the book I chose cost only 50000 rials, like \$1.60 (or 1€25). Nice to travel in Iran as a foreigner thanks to the foreign sanctions.

I know that Tehran is a big city but there are not that many places to see in contrast to Tokyo (though Tokyo is much larger). Since I'm just interested in the way of living here so I just wander around the city and every time I'm excited about something like this for example: "Mash Burger". Oh yes the name starts with an "M". It's merely an accident that it looks like something familiar to you.

Shadi told me that there were three police vans at the entrance of a mall in the north of Tehran to catch women there who carry boots. I tried to see them but when I arrived there there was nothing anymore. The women are supposedly transferred to the next police station but she didn't know exactly what happens to them then.

In the climax of the year, of course we have something called "Christmas". For most of you reading this blog, I think it's a national festival. Have you ever made any thought about people who don't have this culture? In Japan, it's a festival for couples and those who don't have a girlfriend gather somewhere gloomy and celebrate the lonliness, though I really liked it. In Germany and in France foreigners (who don't have a partner) have an alien christmas party (last year for example I had a party in the flat of a guy from India with a lot of curry. I extremely enjoyed it though.

I should have been in Pakistan or India in the first plan but eventually I happened to be in Tehran. Probably I don't need to say it additionally but it'll be a very nice memory to have had Christmas in Tehran, as you can see here on the photos.

Iran is of course an islamic country so there's officially no Christmas but there was a lot of stuff going on in the city, just without referring to the word "Christmas". It was kind of funny to see the creativity of Iranians.

Following day, I went to the police again, to fetch my passport. Originally I wanted to go to the embassy of Uzbekistan but I could not make it in the end. Anyway, I could successfully extend my visa.

Hm? Am I now illegally in Iran? No, I have one more day so I'm now still legally here, wait, damn yesterday was the last day so I'm now illegally here. I have to extend it. Now it's okay I've got one more month. Wait, I will need two weeks more before going to Turkmenistan so I'll be illegally here again. Or maybe not?

... Visa is the most useless futility the humanity has ever created ...

Following day, I went to the embassy of Uzbekistan. Actually they had said it would take one week for the visa, as you might have seen above. It happened to be three weeks later that I went to the embassy in the end but they didn't have any problem because obviously they made the visa when I arrived at the embassy. I also wanted to go to the embassy of Turkmenistan but I didn't have enough time. So I went back home and decided spontaneously to go to Tabriz. Since Shadi had relatives there she contacted them and let's go.

## Tabriz

Omid helped me to buy a ticket for Tabriz. There's no credit card in Iran but you can find agecies everywhere. The distance to Tabriz was about 600km. Can you guesse how much it takes? As a reference, I would like to mention that the distance between Tokyo and Osaka is around 550km (?) and it costs about 165 USD. I bought a place of the first class. It took 7 USD. There's something wrong in this world...

As you can see on the photo, the compartment looks like this. There's a bottle of water and a small cake. Nice.

It's been a long while since the last time that I was alone on a trip but this time I was a bit better equipped since I speak a little bit Persian. And it turned out to be really useful in the train since I could talk with these guys directly in Persian. This is now also very important for me to know what those think who do not speak English. Maybe what I heard so far was biased by the fact that they spoke English.

One bad thing is that in this part of Iran the people speak Turkish instead of Persian (but almost everyone speaks Persian as well). For those who don't know exactly what the configuration looks like: Turkish is an Asian language coming from Central Asia such as Turkmen or Uzbek and therefore does not have anything to do with Persian which is on the other hand a European language like French or English. The funny thing is that there are some features you can recognize also in French or German, especially I can see features that existed in Old German but died out in modern German.

At 7 (?) in the morning I arrived in Tabriz, which means the train took more than 12 hourse to go 600km... It's probably not the fastest train I have ever experienced. But independent of the speed of the train itself, the train must stop at some stations to allow muslims to pray. It takes every time about half an hour, which does not appear to be very efficient to me... I don't think it's very easy to pray five times a day.

From the railway station I went to the house of the relatives of Shadi by taxi. I could again talk with the taxi driver in Persian. I have to say this is the ultimate pleasure to be able to be a part of the society (in my case anyway), even if it's maybe not so far at the moment.

Here you are, a cousin of Shadi, Aslan. He runs a perfumerie in Tabriz, doing his military service at the same time. When I arrived at his place, there was only his mother and his nephew in the house, both of them didn't speak English at all. NICE!

This city is at the altitude of 1340m and is the coldest city in Iran. How nice that I'm visiting it in the middle of winter.

While I slept just after my arrival, Aslan came back. We then went to his perfumerie.

Directly on the first day, there was a birthday party of a friend of Aslan. I was as a kind of special guest there. Again, for most of them it was the first time to speak to a foreigner. Especially it was the first time for all of them. "I" was the tourist but the others probably made much more photos than me.

According to Islamic laws it is forbidden for muslims to sing or dance, especially for women. In Iran, probably therefore, women cannot sing at all in public in general, though they may sing if the audience is completely women and there's no recording and no camera. However, young Iranians seem to like to dance and to sing very much.

Here on the photo you can see only a few persons but I think there were more than 50 people there. The guy dancing in the middle was the birthday boy.

At the party there was nobody carrying a scarf. When the party was over though, at midnight, I found it very interesting that the girls at once look completely different with scarves. Later I found out that it does not matter which origin a woman has, once she carries a scarf, she looks like an Iranian. At least I could not recognize one Japanese girl whom I met later on the street.

Aslan usually has his military service everyday but the following day was Friday so he didn't need to go there, but he had his work at the perfumerie in the morning but his friend, Afshin, voluntarily showed me a large park in the west of Tabriz.

In the middle of the lake in the park, there was a small island and on the island, you can see a small restaurant. Such a nice place but it was just a restaurant? I asked Afshin. He told me that it was a disco before the revolution but now of course anything like that is completely forbidden so they simply transformed it into a restaurant.

And here's a photo of Afshin, when we had a waterpipe there. It was probably under 0 degrees. Hmmm, the coldest city of Iran.

There were many people in the park and there were some girls who wanted to talk to me in English. It is by the way something you have to say with a bit of caution that you come from Japan. The people here in Iran think that Japanese are able to do everything so they expect us to speak Farsi and all the languages exsisting in the world. Maybe they should know that there are in reality not so many people in Tokyo that speak English. These girls seemed to be excited anyway.

On the other hand, those who have been in Japan or know Japanese people, think I don't speak English at all. I didn't learn English in Japan but it's nice to see the reaction of these people :)

The skyscraper you see behind us is the most expensive hotel in Tabriz with alleged five stars. It costs around 60 dollars per night. It would be a paradise if all the five star hotels would cost 60 dollars...

And voici one picture of Afshin. Do you see the beans in fron of him? This is a small canteen where everyone eats exactly the same stuff. So if you enter it, you don't need to order anything first of all. You can get exactly the same beans as the others. This is something very typical to Iran. It doesn't matter in which bazaar you are, you can find labu everywhere. They don't sell anything else, like pop corn or hot dog or anything like that. They eat the same thing. The thing is also, I would not have any moment in my life that I really have the desire to eat these beans or labu. I still don't know why the people still want to eat them so often.

And this is IRAN. It's really hard to find a book store here in this country, especially if I compare it with Japan where in each department store there is at least one book store, but you can for sure find a store for wedding dresses. Probably even two or three. They are obviously more important for the daily life in Iran than books.

According to Shadi, there are really people who wear something like this in the street but since it's not allowed to show so much skin because otherwise it's too sexy and allegedly there might happen to many things that I cannot describe in my blog they must put some kind of tissue over it.

Following day, Aslan had to go to the military service but his father took me to the state museum of Tabriz (?). He wanted to speak English (as many Iranians do) but it was rather a good occasion for me to speak Farsi. It is the year 1391 this year in Iran, but of course Iran has a much longer history, like 7000 years or so? In this museum at least there were objects older than 7000 years. It's really a long history especially if I compare it with the Japanese history which has just started in my eyes...

Again a special place. This time for smoking. Of course you don't need to order at all. You get a water pipe and a cup of tea automatically. The people come there only to smoke and to drink tea and when they finish, they go away. Is it so much worth going there by whichever means?

Since we were in the city center, we went to the bazaar of Tabriz as well, which is something very popular among tourists because of its size and 1000-years history. Tabriz is rather Turkish but this market looked exactly like the market in Tehran, though for me there's almost no difference between Turkish and Persian culture.

It's probably the hangover from the era of the extreme rich Persian empire that they still sell so much jewelry.

At noon, we went to a similar canteen as the previous day. This time it was the Persian speciality, Ab gusht (=water meat, thoguh as in French it's reversed so rather meat water, with water in the sense of broth). You get a plate with a small pot and bread with onions. From the pot, you put only the soup into your bowl and you let the bread soak the soup after tearing it in pieces. You eat this first and then the remaining ingredients though they should be smashed. This is also something you should try if you happen to go to Tabriz but if you don't know how to eat it you will certainly embarassed. Probably Iranians around you cannot stay away in this case. As always you don't need to order anything. They will anyway bring ab gusht.

1391 is starting from the year in which the prophet Mohammad was born. But there was a religion before in Iran which is called Zoroaster (as many of them have probably heard of the name). It also comes from Iran but now the government does not like it so it is strongly recommended to convert to Islam. Anyway, this is the sign of Zoroaster. You can see it sometimes in Iran. It's by the way also interesting to listen to the opinions of Iranians about this religion, if you ever get the chance to talk to Iranians directly.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, Tabriz was the most developed place in Iran, like the first newspaper, the first electricity (according to Afshin) This is the model of the first train in Iran. Since there was no engine at that time so they simply used horses.

In the same evening I went to buy the ticket to go back to Tehran. If you should go to Iran and buy a ticket for the train, you should do it at least two days in advance. Otherwise it might be too late. In my case, in the first agency they told me it was too late. Without thinking it would be still possible to find a ticket we went to another agency because the first one told us that they are not selling tickets for bus. But fortunately we could find a ticket in the second agency, that told us that it was exactly the last one. Since the birthday of Shadi was the first of January. I really did not want to miss it.

There was pretty much nothing to do the following day so I just stayed at home and went around with the father of Aslan. I could have returned to Tehran the previous day, I thought.

So, in this moment something terrible happens: It turned out that Shadi's birthday party was on this day, probably because of the leap year and the Iranian calendar, there was a difference between her Iranian birthday and the gregorian birthday.

In total, I was in the train, in the moment of the transition of the year, with three muslims who were not interested in the Gregorian calendar at all. And I missed the birthday party of Shadi, which would have been really nice together with the fact that it was the New Year's Eve. What a nice way of celebrating the new year.

And of course this page is now also over. I thought it would be the shortest page on my page because there was no cycling planned at all. In reality it became the longest one with a lot of fabulous photos. Simultaneously, I experienced a world that I had believed to have known really well. In reality, I have to recognize that in spite of the development of modern technology, there are still a lot of things I don't know, even if I am in most cases not aware of my ignorance. The most important thing is that you don't even need to look for hidden things in Iran. There are so many surprises and new discoveries without looking for them. I think at the end of the experience in this country there's something I need to do. One more month remaining. I'll continue what I can do for now :)

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