One of the destinations I had chosen before leaving on my trip was Esfahan. The city in central Iran is full of interesting sights. I did not see many of them, since there were a few more surprises.
Upon boarding the bus to Esfahan, I assumed that Iranians do not respect the assigned seats, but freely chose where to sit. As soon as I had taken my seat, the one next to me was taken by a young Iranian guy. The people boarding the bus and the resulting chaos, led to me keeping the seat I was not assigned. The bus driver simply sent the fellow, who was supposed to sit in my seat, somewhere else.
I was lucky of this turn of events, since it meant I could sit next to David, a 21-year old computer science student at the university of Kashan, on his way to his family. We discussed several things on the way and he even showed me the result of his latest programming assignment on his laptop. He also enquired about my accomodation. I showed him my list of acceptable hotels around Takhti junction in Esfahan. He then told me, that his cousin would pick him up at the bus station and that they would drive me to the Takhti junction. Of course I accepted the kind offer.
Our private taxi was waiting for us outside the bus station. Amin, David’s cousin, and a friend did not just bring me to the Takhti junction, but they even went to ask for prices in all the hotels, hoping they would get a better rate than I did. Unfortunately, the better rate did not work out, but the boys had a lot of fun asking for hotel prices. The cousins wondered why I had trusted them. I asked them whether there was a reason not and they shook their heads.
Once I had deposited my luggage in the hotel, I went out to discover Esfahan in the evening. While stroling through the city I had a chance to get a first impression of all the sights around the Emam Square. Nearby I found a small restaurant which served Kebabs. The employees and the guests were all focussed on the action on TV, since it was one of the finals of the weightlifting world-championships.
After dinner, I felt like eating some dessert, which I found a few doors down the road. In that place I became witness of Iranian joy of another title won in the weightlifting championships.
I had reserved Monday to visit some of the many sights in Esfahan. After a good breakfast, I started along some streets to enter the bazaar from the far side. I had had many reports stating that the bazaar in Kashan was more beautiful than the one in Esfahan. I personally think the bazaar in Esfahan beats the one in Kashan by lengths. Kashan was an older, nice and quite bazaar, no hectic, whereas Esfahan sports a much more impressive architecture and size.
I was spilt out of the bazaar onto Emam Square, where I started to tour the sights there: Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, supposedly the most beautiful mosque in the world, and the Ali Qapu Palace, from which one has a gorgeous view over Emam Square. Visiting the Emam Mosque, one of the main attractions of Esfahan, I had left out because of the midday prayers and the following events.
Since the Emam Mosque was closed for visitors during prayers, I would have had 10 minutes to visit the expansive building. I had no intention of doing so and thus walked down to the Zayandeh river. Only a few days ago the dams were opened, such there was water in the river again after 6 months. I took in the sight of the river and is bridges and decided to sit down at the bank of the river. Only moments I was by myself, before an older man sat down next to me. Mister Sattari told me, he was a retired teacher at a private technical high school for girls. In the meantime he is retired and enjoying his free days, while his wife works as the principal of said school. A few minutes into the discussion, he told me he was going to each lunch at the school and whether I cared to join him even though it was about 2 kilometers on foot. I accepted his invitation and followed him to the school.
We Ashreshte for lunch, a noodle soup complemented with beans and vegetables. The soup could be spice with a water-yoghurt mix. For dessert we had fresh fruits and a small piece of chocolate. We had a lengthy discussion in the principals office with Mr and Mrs Sattari and another teacher. After his midday prayer, Mr Sattari showed me around the school, where we met a class of 5 students working on linoleum prints. Upon returning to the principals office, I was asked whether I would like to have dinner at the Sattari’s home. I just had to accept this kind invitation. Mr Sattari and I then went for a walk along the Zayandeh river, before catching a couple of shared taxis to pick up his car at the mechanic. A soldier had run into Mr. Sattari’s car with his larger Chevrolet.
At the Sattari house I was welcomed like a head of state. Ms. Sattari had already been preparing the meal, fassangshun, chicken on a pommegrenade sauce. Once the meal was ready, Ms. Sattari’s brother and his family appeard at the door and joined us for dinner. The seven people were only able to eat about half the food of what had been prepared. It was interesting to observed, that contrary to the Kurdish family I had visited, everybody here was eating at once, there was no segregation of the gender.
We continued the discussion after dinner, during which especially Ms. Sattari was interested in the basics of my life. Later at night I was asked, when I would return and bring my girlfriend with me. Unfortunately I was not able to give them an answer, but if anybody plans to visit Iran, please get in touch with me, since Mr. Sattari would like to have a Swatch from Switzerland and I am sure we could organize something. He even offered to pay the watch!
Mr. and Ms. Sattari and their two nephews then drove me back to my hotel, which must lie at the opposite end of the city. I didn’t do much once back at the hotel because it was already after 10pm and the discussions were quite tiring. Content I fell to sleep quickly.
On Tuesday I rode a shared taxi to the bus station. The day before I had learned how they work, but I only managed to achieve the task at hand with a little help from the locals. The guy sitting next to me in the taxi was also headed for the bus station and even helped me buy a VIP ticket to Shiraz. After he showed me the way to the platform, where my bus was leaving, he had to run off to catch his bus to Teheran. On the platform I then met Muhammad Ali, a professor of mathematics and finances at a private university in Teheran. He entertained me until my bus left at 10:15am.