We had a perfectly planned route through Iran, but it was back when we still believed we will be able to enter from Turkmenistan. Entering the country from a totally different side turned our plans upside down a bit. So far the question we asked ourselves in every land was: where can we find something worth seeing, but in Iran the question is rather: which one out of all those amazing things can we still squeeze into our plan. The country is packed with tourist attractions and you would need at least a year to really see it all, so the choice was not an easy one. We decided to do it step by step and see where it would lead us. And the first step was Masuleh, described by many as Iran's most beautiful village. It sounded promising.
The road leading there was already worth the ride, as the views were truly amazing. And the village itself was supposed to be even better. Small houses in the mountains, one built on the roof of the other, all as colorful and picturesque as you could only imagine. We wanted to take a long walk to explore all its narrow streets and then camp somewhere outside the village. Well, we didn't really get too far... We have only managed to take a few steps and a few photos before our attention was drawn by a group of young laughing people, who were definitely having a good time. They were trying to take a group photo, so we offered our help. And once again before we even noticed we were sitting together, drinking tea, smoking water pipe and discussing our plans for the next day. Masuleh, as pretty as it was, was left behind and we drove with our new Iranian friends back to their hometown Fuman.
There is one thing that most Iranians never understand and that is our willingness to sleep in our cars. We think about Karossi as our home now and we'd rather sleep there than anywhere else, but we never managed to properly explain it to our Iranian hosts. They always insist on us taking one of their rooms and don't even want to hear about any cars. But the thing is, staying in a car is simply more convenient for us, as we have all our stuff there, so we don't have to waste any time packing and unpacking it. And we really feel at home there. Maybe it would be easier to explain if our cars were not in such a mess as they are now. We still didn't manage to wash them after our terrible drive to Aktau and the inside is fully packed with all the souvenirs we bought so far, so for an untrained eye it may look like a total chaos. As our friend Soheil put it: “So you say this is like a house for you? And you'd rather sleep here than in my room? Then please, clean your house!” :) But at the end he turned in and allowed us to stay in our beloved chaos.
Since the next day was a holiday we all decided to take advantage of the perfect weather and visit the nearby castle. The day was sunny and bright and we had a few hundred or maybe thousand steps to get to the top. It was a long climb and the scarf on my head did not really make things easier. But since we were climbing in an excellent company, the time went by faster then we could expect. And I have to say the view on the top of the hill was worth every minute of the climb. The ruins looked absolutely amazing. And what was even better, our Iranian friends prepared a surprise picnic! Iranians are famous for their picnic culture. On a nice sunny day you see families eating everywhere you look. And it's not just a sandwich or a few fruits. There are salads, cold dishes, tea, water pipes and we saw a few people doing some serious outdoor cooking, too. We absolutely loved it! Being a part of an Iranian picnic was my little dream since we have entered the country, so I was happier than ever. We were all sure, that was the best day of our entire trip! But when we said that, we didn't know, that the best part of the day was yet to come...
The moment we decided to climb down again the weather started getting worse, so our plan to visit a nearby lake was soon forgotten. But we were not really sad, as we got invited for a dinner instead! As you already know I love visiting Iranian homes. Especially I like the moment when everyone enters the house. Head scarfs are falling down instantly and you can finally see the girls hiding behind all those long clothes. Sonbol always said “Iranian girls are sooooooo beautiful” and I have to say, after all we have seen, we could not argue with that! And if you ever see them dancing, you will quickly understand why dancing in public is so strictly prohibited in this country. Those girls would make Shakira blush within few seconds!
I also have my second favorite moment, the time when food is served! You just seat on a nice Persian carpet and see all those exotic dishes appearing right in front of you. And this wonderful smell... Sometimes I feel like I could just sit like that and watch it all for hours. But that would be an awful waste, since those dishes taste even better then they look. And on that evening we had a real feast with many dishes, including olive paste, an amazing egg plant stew and a dish that has become one of my personal favorites ever since, the fesenjan, chicken with walnuts and pomegranate sauce. What can I say, Sonbol was right again, “Iranian food is just sooooooo good”.
We didn't felt like leaving Fuman at all. But we already spent nearly a week of our precious visa time in Iran, without really getting far from the border, so we decided it's time for some heavy driving. We wanted to drive to Esfahan, ready to see the biggest architectural attractions of the country.
But first we wanted to visit the famous Iranian caves. Lonely planet didn't really sound too optimistic about them, but we learned not to trust them long ago. And once again it was a great decision, as both caves proved to be awesome! We headed for Katalekhor first and we were the only people around. The cave was great and since we were alone the guide offered to take us through a less traveled path. He did not prevent us that it will be totally dark and slippery and that we will have to balance between all the stalagmites and stalactites in order not to destroy them, but it was fun. And before we reached the end we were sure we want to see the other cave too. Alisadr cave is supposed to be the biggest water cave in the world and from what we heard it attracts quite a lot of touristsTp . But we haven't seen any crowds, just two Iranian families and us. Most of the trip is done with a boat and we found it absolutely amazing. As far as we are concerned it was definitely worth a detour, no matter what our beloved/despised guidebook says.