Jumat, 12 September 2008

Cycling in Iran, Meet The Iranian People

By Peter Vanderlans

Few believe me until they travel there. Iran is a magnificent country. People are extremely friendly. It seems the difference between politics and people couldn't be bigger. After writing about my canoeing and kayaking experiences, I started reading about my Iran experiences. In most of the areas where I traveled, there was not much water, especially east of Esfahan.

I was at my bicycle at the time, crossing from north west to south east, from Turkey to Iran. It was a journey of about 6 weeks and parts went through complete empty areas, deserts. Not everybody can handle cycle in a desert for a few days but I loved it. From Bam to Zahedan was 550km or so and it was wonderful. In other areas I found lots of hospitality. Believe me, there are no countries in the world where you find more hospitality then in Iran. Example?

Usually around 1 pm I was looking for lunch. And many times local Iranians invited me to join them and the family for lunch in their houses. It always went this way. First enter the house to the guest room, drink some strong black tea with sugar rocks and then move to the living room for lunch.

In the living there were seldom tables and chairs. A table cloths was on the floor, dishes came in and everybody tucked in and eat. Most of the time, men, women and children were around and women usually didn't wear the scarf which is outside mandatory. Believe me, Iranian women are beautiful.

After the lunch my host would offer me more tea but once I would make a suggestion to leave it was always answered the same way. "You can't go sir, dinner is almost ready" (remember it was still only 4pm), but there was no way I could leave. Chatting, walking around in the garden, meeting friend X and family member Z and time was flying.

By 8.30 pm dinner was finally ready. At 9.30 my host usually told me where I could sleep by rolling a mattress on the floor and telling me where to find the toilet and bathroom. "What time do you get up? 7am? Good, I will come with breakfast!", was the usual comment I got.

At 7am sharp he would knock on the door. Then we would go to the living room and having breakfast with fresh warm breads, cream cheese, apples, homemade yoghurt, and, as always the black tea with sugar rocks. Btw, you don't put the sugar rocks in the tea, instead you dip them and suck the sugar! After breakfast the host usually came up with fruits and more breads for on the way. "Maybe you will not find a place to eat"! Well, I was always able to find a place to eat and many times I had to refuse the food they wanted me to bring as I couldn't carry it all on the bicycle.

That is also Iran, that is the story you seldom hear. But that is also the story that tells you that people are people, everywhere. And Iran was one of my favorite countries to travel, Living there is a different thing though.

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