The city of Shiraz is primarily famous through the ancient city of Persepolis, the capital of the first Persian Empire. The city itself however also sports quite many attractions, especially gardens and parks, as well as curious students.
There were no big surprises on the bus ride from Eshafan to Shiraz. For the first time, I used the bus ride to write a blog post. This activity raised the curiosity of a little girl, who wanted to know what I was writing. Due to my lack of Farsi and the other people’s lack of English, we could not exchange more than a “Hello” and “How are you”. Nevertheless, the girl wanted to know more and kept asking questions. Eventually she understood, that there was no information to gained from me.
The bus was very comfortable, being a VIP connection, which means, that there are only 3 rows of seats and I had the corresponding comfort. There was only one stop of 30 minutes for lunch during the 7-hour ride from Esfahan to Shiraz.
After a quite night, I went on the big city tour to discover more of this popular city among Iranians. First destination was the citadel of Karim Khan, der first emperor of the Zand dynasty. The citadel is still in very good shape, except for one of the watch towers which could enter competition with the tower of Pisa, due to the sewage system below.
Directly in front of the citadel the tourist information office is located. They provided me with a city map and the information where I could book a tour to Persepolis. The information that the Prs Travel Agency offers tours was very good, especially since I get a guided tour for less money than the transport only offer at the hotel.
I continued my tour across the many bazaars in the city. They all are adjacent, but carry different names. Directly at the entance I took were the carpet shops, which gave a nice first oriental expression to the bazaar. Of all the bazaars I have seen so far, this one is definitely the most beautiful one. The consistent architecture is enhanced by the silence and the multitude of shops. Even though seeing bazaars in the meantime is no more a surprise for me, there are always little details and differences to be discovered. In Shiraz the jewel inside the bazaar is the handicraft bazaar with its small courtyard, which has a completely different atmosphere than the rest.
After visiting the bazaar and the adjacent mosques, I caught a shared taxi to the Quran Gate at the edge of the city. In the meantime, you can call me mister shared-taxi! The system is quite simple: shared-taxis drive up and down the major roads, most of them in Shiraz are old white Peykan cars. Whenever one of these cars is honking next to you, just hold out you hand, the car stops and you hop on. Just don’t forget to confirm the destination. The driver then indicates that the desired destination has been reached. The prices depend heavily on how much experience a driver has with tourists. The best is to have a young driver, who is not that familiar with tourist. In that case the price is much lower.
From the Quran Gate, one has a great view across the city, which lies on a plain embedded among mountains. I visited the gate and the surrounding installations, including a coin museum, before starting my walk back to the city. The first destination was the Jahan Nama Garen, built by Timur the Great, and apparently copied in the city of Samarkand. I will have to try the Jahan Nama Garden in Samarkand, once I get there. From the garden it is just a short walk to the tomb of the poet Hafez, one of the two very well known poets of the city, the other one being Saadi.
From the tomb of Hafez, I took another shared-taxi to the Eram Garden, the largest and most beautiful garden in Shiraz. The worst part about the garden: tourists pay five times the entry fee of the Iranians, whereas students of the local university get in for free.
In the Eram Garden, I again was approached by a young couple of English literature students. They just wanted to talk and to brush up their English. They spoke English really well, considering they were in their second year of university. They then gave me confirmation for the school system in Iran: 12 years of elementary and high school are mandatory. Then everybody enters the concours, the large competition for a place in a state-run university. The students then are assigned a university depending on their wish and on their ranking. In case all public and thus free spaces are used up, the students following in the ranking can apply for private university. In these university, tuition has to be paid by the student. For everybody not achieing the score for a public university without the money for a private university, there is nothing left than to go to work. Apprenticeship is unheard of in Iran.
For dinner, I decided to go to one of the traditional restaurants in Shiraz. Restaurants are usually not easy to spot in Iran, since most of the times, they are located in a buildings basement and the sign above the entrance only reads in Farsi. Even more difficult to find are restaurants which have their entrance at the end of a dusty passage. This was the case for the restaurant Sharzeh, which was pointed out to me, by the owner of a nearby shop.
The menu mainly consisted of kebabs, but also offered a few other dishes. I decided to go for Shekari, chopped meat of different kinds with peppers. The sides consisted of three times potatoes, prepared in three different ways: French fries, hash browns and mashed potatoes. For starters I had a salad from the salad bar and some sort of mash with the typical Iranian bread. Eating works quite different from what I learned, when i was a kid: the silver wear one gets are fork and spoon. The fork servies to fill up the spoon and helps to “cut” larger pieces of food. Even meat is just ripped apart, but not cut in any way. Additional tools for eating are the hands, since Iranians love to stuff their food in bread and eat the bread with their hands. It thus happened to me, that children were laughing at me, because I ate a piece of meat with a fork…
After a good nights sleep with a full stomach, I had to be at the Pars Travel Agency at 8am to catch my tour bus to Persepolis. The decision for the easy way of getting there was worth the price, since the guide explained just enough for me and had a very good balance between Farsi and English, also to support the majority of local tourists. Luckily the German lady who was on the tour with us, left us at the entrance of Persepolis. She was quite picky and complicated…
During the tour we were honored with the second rained on tour in 8 months. Good for the local people, who had been waiting for rain for quite a while, bad for the tourists visiting an open air museum. Even the tourists from Teheran remarked, that the do not need to travel 1000 kilometers to see rain like in Teheran.
Persepolis was the first capital of the first Persian Empire and the remains only let one guess the size of the palaces, which once stood in this place. Apparently the halls were 18 meters tall. Each emperor built his own new palace, such that Persepolis now covers 135000 square meters. The entrances to the palaces show how the different people of the empire honor the kind with gifts.
After Persepolis, we visit the nekropolis of the kings, a few kilometers down the road.
In the afternoon, I among other things bought I bus ticket for Yazd. Apparently a good idea, since the buses for Yazd on Friday were all sold out, such that I had to take a night bus for the first time during this trip.