Today’s drive was from Isfahan to Shiraz which is the home town of our local guide Mehdi. On the way we stopped in Persepolis, “The City of the Persians”, which used to be the ceremonial capital of the First Persian Empire and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For my fellow traveler Andrew visiting this sight was one of the highlights of his trip. He studied Persian history and always seems to know much more about the places we visit than our local guide.
The entrance fee to Persepolis was only a few cents. While in some countries you have to spend a fortune to enter a sight, the entrance fees in Iran are very cheap and affordable for everybody. They also seem to have the same price for locals and tourists while in other countries you have to pay a special and much higher price when you are identified as a foreigner.
The ruins of Persepolis reminded me of ruins I saw in Greece. The city is very much destroyed and you need lots of fantasy to imagine how it looked like hundreds of years ago. Mehdi explained to us Persepolis was actually not a residential area but Darius the Great built it in the heart of his empire for celebrating the nation and the religious festival of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Less than 200 years later it was destroyed by Alexander the Great.
We spent 2-3 hours walking around the ruins of Persepolis. It was pretty hot especially when you are covered up completely in a long manteaux and a headscarf. About half time we stopped at a small café within the area of the sight and enjoyed some cold cherry juice and ice crème. We also met a couple of local people who were again very friendly and interested in talking to us. For me it’s really the people who make Iran such a lovely place on earth.
It also happened at Persepolis that Jason offered me a bet because he knows how much I like betting and especially winning my bets. He said: “I bet you I have your name tattooed on my ass.” He will show me the tattoo when we go out partying in Ashgabat in a couple of days. If he has the tattoo I will need to pay for the first round of tequila otherwise he will pay for it. I knew he will try to trick me with that bet and thought he will either use a permanent marker to put my name on his ass or he has a tattoo which could be interpreted as my name such as an alphabet or so. However, seeing his ass for a round of drinks sounded a good deal to me and so I entered the bet with him.
In the late afternoon we drove the remaining 70km to Shiraz where we stayed in a small hotel which was built and afterwards sold by Reza. He’s an Iranian guy owning the tour operator Uppersia we are using in Iran. It was also Reza who took care of all our invitations to Iran which we needed for the visa application process. He booked all our accommodation and provided us with a local guide who is with us during our entire stay in Iran. As a group of travelers you are actually not allowed to drive around on your own but you are requested to have a local guide with you at all times. Actually it isn’t too bad since Mehdi proofed him helpful when it came to directions in local places and translation services.
On the way to Shiraz we spotted quite a number of people having a pick-nick right next to the highway. Most of them had even put up a little tent to be protected from the sun. Iranians don’t seem to be bothered by the traffic and as long as there is a green piece of land they are happy to sit on it and have a pick-nick. We also spotted this when driving into Shiraz. It was a Friday night and as Friday is a free day in Iran (similar to our Sunday) there were many people out on the streets having a pick-nick. The parks of the city were really crowded and we even spotted people sitting on the green in the middle of a roundabout having their pick-nick. Probably it would have been fun to join them but we didn’t prepare for a pick-nick and so we had a less exciting group dinner in the restaurant associated with the hotel.