In the bus-city version Iran was much more pleasant. The bus quickly consumed kilometers, which would take me a good few days or a week to cycle. The landscape outside the window seemed to be stuck, behind each bend another wasteland emerged. Iran is a huge country.
All in all I was happy, that I don't have to fight on the road, because there is an uninterrupted stream of trucks.
With the distance from the Persian Gulf and driving north, as the altitude increased, the weather changed quite drastically. We entered the southern part of the Zagros mountain range. At the bus station in Shiraz I immediately changed my wardrobe and for the first time in a few months I put on covered shoes and a warm jacket on. It was 15 degrees less than 300 kilometers earlier and the surrounding mountains were covered with snow. After all, it was only the second half of February, and height about 1500 meters above sea level also it mattered.
I did not stay long in Shiraz, just two nights. Just in time to see some of the attractions of this one of the largest Iranian cities – famous Nasir ol-Molk – The pink mosque, Vakil bazaar - one of the largest bazaars in Iran and wandered around the streets.
The Pink Mosque is not really pink, at least from the outside. In principle, neither inside. The interior is small, just a few rows of carved columns. What everyone is excited about is colorful (pink?) glow, which brightens the interior – one of the walls of the mosque are large windows built with colorful stained glass. Colored glass creates a cornucopia of colors.. nice, but not as impressive as I imagined? I was a little disappointed, maybe I've seen a lot of architectural wonders, maybe tourists disturbed me. The work of art is the ceiling, lined with tiles forming a mosaic of geometric patterns and floral motifs. It can't be denied, Islamic art is a masterpiece.
I slept with M.. Yanki gave me contact to, cyclist from Hong Kong, with whom I was in touch. M is young, modern girl, cursing current Islamic rule. I want to leave , I don't want to wear it! She was out of the way with Hajab. A row of bottles of alcohol was placed on the shelf in the room - though apparently it's easy to get in the Iranian under-the-table market, but I only encountered it in Iran once. ONCE. Once in two months I saw not even alcohol in Iran, but empty bottles. Nobody ever drank with me or treated me with it.
Though the city didn't seem too intresting to me, for Iranians, Shiraz has some magical aura. Their greatest Persian poet was buried here, Hafez. He is worshiped and adored, his works can be found in almost every Iranian home. But I don't know Hafez.. maybe that's because, I don't like poetry that much. I did not go to visit his grave or beautiful gardens, Shiraz is famous for. I would probably do that, but the weather was unfriendly – how to visit the gardens, when it's raining and freezing cold? For this you need the blue sky and the sun. I also thought for a long time about logistics and visiting the ancient city of Persepolis, which lies 60 km from Shiraz, I gave up for a similar reason, however. It's hard, maybe someday.
I think to myself, that the reason why it was easy for me to let go, was that I really wanted to be in Yazd.
I arrived at the Shiraz station in heavy rain. Buses to Yazd leave frequently, one was moving in a moment and there were still a lot of places, but I didn't care that much, especially, that the hatch was full. The driver, however, seemed to insist, to take me - he therefore rearranged the luggage compartment yes, so that my bike could fit there. I have to admit, that I have a slight problem about placing my bike on buses. In China, no matter how you explained it, not to put anything on it after a while some packages landed on it.. I always try to pack my bike myself, to watch to secure it well and then look at the stops or something heavy are not pushing. This time though, there was little space, but we succeeded.
Taking a bike to the bus in Iran is not a problem. well , is super easy, I used it several times. Most often you have to hand something to the driver, but not always. 10 2-3 EUR should be just right (a ticket for you on a longer route costs 20-30 PLN) but I wouldn't pay any more, it stinks of bullying. Buses are big, air-conditioned and of good quality. ok – information for ladies - we sit at the back of the bus, there the windows are covered with curtains so that no unwanted male eye could see our charms. Ok, it happened to me once, but still. The driver claimed, that for that, that I will sit in the front, the police could fine him. But he finally let me sit down in front. In addition, the driver will make men and women sit separately. Which is good.
Yazd is really beautiful. it has some kind of a fairy tale charm 1001 from 1001 nights tales. A maze of rusty clay streets, colorful mosques, bazaar, small handicraft stores. The high walls create the desired shadow, badgirs – that is wind towers by the houses, an architectural solution that allows cooling wind inside the houses. Center of Iranian Zoroastrianism – religion in Iran even before Islam. Eternal holy fire burning for years. An aura of mystery and terror on the towers of silence, where vultures split the corpses of the dead.
I spent over a week there, before I decided what to do next. There are plenty of beds, they are usually hotels and hostels in adapted old houses with a climate inside courtyard, and the February was very favorable.
In summer, temperatures are deadly, now in February they were just right, nice twenty degrees. I dared to pull my bike out, I circled him in the narrow streets of the old city. I wanted to go further, towards the mountains on the horizon. I drove a few kilometers behind the turnpike Jazd, when again in the rearview mirror I saw motorcycles turning back at my view and gave up further exploration, because Unknown
Although I felt good, behavior of some young men, even - even boys were troublesome. Some smacking, bones behind the back, “I love you” and dozens of “hellos”. I have the impression, that in Iran there is some strange permission to accept this type of male behavior. I would really like to become invisible, than listen to all those offensive hello. The woman should be gentle, docile and endure what fate gives her. I talked to one of the girls working in the hostel about it and confirmed my suppositions. And this very thought puts a huge shadow on the whole stay and, what I think about Iran.
I also decided to extend the visa in Yazd, although it was more than a week until my original one expired. A visa for Polish citizens is obtained for a month, however, it is usually not a problem to extend it, even twice. As it was also in China, regulations and people make different rules, some places are better or worse, to extend the visa and it is worth getting interested in this topic earlier if you have in mind it will stay longer than a month. Yazd is considered a place, where officials approach the extension of visas most favorably in Iran.
The clerk was very nice and he treated me royally. My bright face was a pass to bypass the whole crowd of Middle Eastern foreigners awaiting there - Pakistanis and Afghans, who knows who else. Whether we want it or not, it is as it is. I don't remember the completed receipts, but all went quite smoothly and cost some miserable 10 dollars.
Iranians - despite this, that some of them hate Islamic rule – they are very proud of their country, religion, history, great buildings and your hospitality too. They care about it, that such a positive message would come into the world. They ask questions in a way, which requires a positive response, and rather such, which praises the country and the people. The clerk was no exception.
After ye another question about this, how much I like it in Iran, I couldn't answer, that it's all roses in every way. He seemed to be shocked. worried. I spent almost three hours at the immigration office, because I was asked to describe incidents in southern Iran in writing. I was promised, that my case (but not only mine) will be discussed at some important state level meeting, which was to take place next week. just to, improve the level of security and that nobody left with the least negative experience from this country. Because Iran is a hospitable country. Do not know, whether it happened, and if that helps anyone, how nice, that someone expressed good intentions and interest.
In Jazd, the emotions of recent weeks have cooled down. I missed my bike.
And for the first time in weeks it was there – - my bike, and, desert and silence. Joy and slight anxiety.
to be continued.