Silk Road 9


mi ruta de la seda » 2010 » September

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2010

09.30

Paddling has always taken me to marvellous and remote places. This time it’s a lost corner of Iran that does not appear in travel books. I’ve come here because a few years ago I saw some pictures of Iranian rivers and since then those images had got stuck into my mind, with the absolute intention of coming one day, so here I am, in the Armand river. may be the best white-water river in Iran.
Even it’s an ideal river, it’s so remote that no many kayakers come, it’s a river where rafting is done but that kayak is not very popular yet, in fact in all the country there are less than ten white-water kayaks so some of the rapids have not been kayak before by anyone. Yes, that’s it a first descent, one of the things that a kayaker can wish more, being the first person running a rapid.
In the countries that there are more kayakers, the first descent are simply or are so difficult that nobody has dare running them, or so lost that nobody has found then. For example, this spring some kayakers in Spain has done the first descent of the Ausin river Pyrenees, which is quite rare as there are not many rivers to discover.
In our case it’s simply such a far away place from the big cities and as there is not many people kayaking that nobody has kayak it all leaving it to Heydar and mi.
For not boring the non kayakers, the video is more a video about the river, it’s landscape and people. I hope you like it. don’t expect difficult rapids it’s just grade IV. Here you have the video, tomorrow I’ll publish some pictures.
REVISAR NOMBRE HEIDAR
The music is Iranian, this time I haven’t used traditional music and I’ve used rap music. For a long time I wanted to get some Persian rap and for the video it’s great. The first song is from Hichkas, one of the best rappers. The second, when Heydar is going by the long rapid in high speed, is from Cheshma roo mam(at least that’s what the name of the song says).
If  anyone wants, the river can be done in raft, and in spring with more water it has to be great for it. The company Iran Rafting prepare trips, they are the people that has provided my the kayak and guiding and are real professionals.
Uploading this video has been a total pain, I’ve gone internet café by internet café(here called CafeNet) to try and upload the 170 megabits. Between the blocked pages and the speed it constantly cut and after three days trying you finally have it available in YouTube.
More tomorrow.
Fernando
Remar siempre me ha llevado a sitios maravillosos y remotos. Esta vez me ha llevado a una esquina perdida de Irán que no aparece en ninguna de las guías de viajes que he visto. La razón se llama Armand, quizá el mejor río iraní para las aguas bravas.
De momento os pongo el video, mañana os pongo alguna foto. Más que un video de piragüismo es un video sobre el río y su paisaje, aunque también remamos un poco, espero que os guste.
La música es rap persa que conseguí de Heidar y su hermano, hay una escena musical muy interesante y reivindicativa.La primera canción es de Hichkas, uno de los mejores raperos, con Namayande, Quf y Eshragh. La segunda, cuando sale Heidar bajando un rápido largo atriple velocidad es

Paddling has always taken me to marvellous and remote places. This time it’s a lost corner of Iran that does not appear in travel books. I’ve come here because a few years ago I saw some pictures of Iranian rivers and since then those images had got stuck into my mind, with the absolute intention of coming one day, so here I am, in the Armand river. may be the best white-water river in Iran.

Even it’s an ideal river, it’s so remote that no many kayakers come, it’s a river where rafting is done but that kayak is not very popular yet, in fact in all the country there are less than ten white-water kayaks so some of the rapids have not been kayak before by anyone. Yes, that’s it a first descent, one of the things that a kayaker can wish more, being the first person running a rapid.

In the countries that there are more kayakers, the first descent are simply or are so difficult that nobody has dare running them, or so lost that nobody has found then. For example, this spring some kayakers in Spain has done the first descent of the Aurín river Pyrenees, which is quite rare as there are not many rivers to discover.

In our case it’s simply such a far away place from the big cities and as there is not many people kayaking that nobody has kayak it all leaving it to Heidar and mi.

For not boring the non kayakers, the video is more a video about the river, it’s landscape and people. I hope you like it. don’t expect difficult rapids it’s just grade IV. Here you have the video, tomorrow I’ll publish some pictures.

http://www.vimeo.com/15449365

The music is Iranian, this time I haven’t used traditional music and I’ve used rap music. For a long time I wanted to get some Persian rap and for the video it’s great. The first song is from Hichkas, one of the best rappers. The second, when Heidar is going by the long rapid in high speed, is from Cheshma roo mam(at least that’s what the name of the song says).

If  anyone wants, the river can be done in raft, and in spring with more water it has to be great for it. The company Iran Rafting prepare trips, they are the people that has provided my the kayak and guiding and are real professionals.

Uploading this video has been a total pain, I’ve gone internet café by internet café(here called CafeNet) to try and upload the 170 megabits. Between the blocked pages and the speed it constantly cut and after three days trying you finally have it available in YouTube.

More tomorrow.

Fernando

//

2010

09.25

P9021763 Iran

I won’t get the next bus that has this banner.

Sleeping nine hours in a night bus may not be good. I was frozen and got a cold because the artic cold of the bus was like a NASA designed test to check the human resistance to cold. I have a running nose and my thigh is sore, but I’m in Esfahan. And it’s ramadam.

It’s not a surprise, I knew that my three weeks in Iran, were on ramadam, but due to days It was unavoidable, moreover, I had a curiosity to live a ramadam in a Muslim country. During half a second I thought on following it, during the other half of the second I insulted me. It’s summer and it’s way too warm for not drinking water.
Esfaham is a lot more touristic than what Jolfa and Tabriz were so people look at me lessr, or at least, with less surprise face. Even thought they also stop to say hello, ask me if I need something or welcome to their country. Eight people stop me during they day because I don’t count the ones that just say “Hi”.

It’s not a surprise, I knew that my three weeks in Iran, were on ramadam, but due to days It was unavoidable, moreover, I was curious to live during ramadam in a Muslim country. During half a second I thought on following it, during the other half of the second it insulted me. It’s summer and it’s way too warm for not drinking water.

Esfaham is a lot more touristic than Jolfa and Tabriz were so people look at me less, or at least, with a less of a surprised face. Even thought they also stop to say hello, ask me if I need something or welcome to their country. Eight people stop me during they day and I don’t count the ones that just say “Hi”.

P8301613  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

I go around the Imam square where you can see more of the buildings that make the city a masterpiece of Iran, what was the jewel of ancient Persia.

P8301578  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

In 1047 the Seljuk made Isfahan the capital. If you remember about Erzurum, the Seljuk were the ones that constructed most of the monuments there. The empire covered from the west of current turkey to the very west of china. so you can see how big their empire was. After the Seljuk the Monguls completed decorating Esfahan as it is today.

P8301585  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

Inside Imam mosque.

P8301599  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

The palace of Chehel Sotu. Byron said; “Isfahan among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment for humanity”

P8301566  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

In the Imam square you can rent a bicycle for free to see the city, even with the way Iranians drive, riding a bicycle is an extreme sport.

P8301564  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

When they pray they put these stones between the ground and the forehead.

P8301559  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

In the Imam mosque, the most wonderful of Isfahan. The are several days in ramadam where the congretagion go to pray all night. The patio is usually empty but it’s full of rugs and sun stoppers, the picture of a perfect mosque get’s spoilt.

P8301617  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

Can’t be clearer. “Down with USA”.

P8261180  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

From top of the palace.

A guy sitting on the grass says hello. He’s got an unusual face and awakes my curiosity, I sit next to him. He’s got a Spanish book in his crossed legs and we talk in Spanish a little bit., he’s been studying for a short time and he manages well. We change into English to talk more comfortably. He turns out to be Afghan. In Irán there are a lot of them, they are the cheap labourers and the ones that do the more mundane jobs, the ones that the Iranians don’t want, they mainly work in construction.

He tells me that it doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, they don’t let you work in anything else. He tried to work as tailor but got caught and he got a fine, I guess he was whiped but I don’t ask. He makes a synopsis of what happens in his country, he’s 21 and knows the story of his country perfectly, he talks with a matureness and clearness that impresses. He says that his people are tired, that nobody was able to invade them before but now they are tired of fighting, that if they wouldn’t be tired the story would be different and they would not be invaded. He says it’s the first time that the etnics are divided. He’d like to go back to his country but there is no job, there is war.

We go back to the language thing as it’s less tragic. As it’s difficult for him to find books in Spanish I give him my e-mail, I tell him to send me his mail and I’ll send him some books. I haven’t received it yet, but I’d love to send them to him.

P8251133  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

The buildings are great, seems to be taken from Aladdin, but the light was horrible so I’ve edited the colour so the pictures look a bit more like what it was.

P8251113 Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

Coram verse that was hanging from the fences of many government buildings.

I’m hungry but everything is closed, so I go to a hotel. The restaurants in hotels, bus stations, airports and others are open. Travellers are excused from ramadam as well as kids, sick people and pregnant women. On the way a man that looks like Javier Bardem says hello.

– Hello, Where are you from?

– Spain.

Rest of string of common questions. What are you doing here? Where have you been?…

– Where are you going?

– [In low volume voice] I’m looking for a place to eat. [Nobody understands but I find it funny talking like this.]

– You can talk in a normal voice, In Iran it’s no problem. You are a foreigner, you are travelling and you can eat. If you want I can take you to a place were you can buy food and the you come to my workshop and eat there and relax.

-….OK!

– It is nearby, it’s a typical food, aubergine paste with curry.

– Sounds good [I thought curry was only indian]

– The bazaar is quiet now being ramadam. My job is to restore an old nomad rugs. My father restores furniture and my mother paints. I’m told I look like Javier Bardem.

– Yes I had already realized [wow, he knows!]

– And like a French comedian that is already dead.

– I’m not very into French comedians, sorry, but they are normally kind of a bit tasteless…

We continue like that for a while until we buy the food in an open place in a main street, they only serve food to take away. He takes me to the workshop, brings out a spoon from somewhere that I use to eat not looking too much into it. He goes to do something and lets me there between the rugs. I make a video as the situation is peculiar.

The curry paste is very good but a bit heavy, takes me a while to eat it. When I finish he takes me for a tour around the Bazar-e Bozorg that is over a mile long.

P8251122  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

He shows me this man that paints the fabrics with a printing technique, after painting them he washes them in the river so the colour is permanent. He’s got a certificate indicating that his traditional way to do it is cultural world heritage.

P8251121  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

We stop in a workshop where different herbs and other things are grinded for tints.

P8251123  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

This pink colour is achieved boiling pomegranate powder in milk.

After a while we say goodbye, I tell him thanks for helping me eating something good and I continue my way. I go a mosque that is closed because it’s ramadam and the schedules change in a way that there is no way to know. I chat with a guy that sells rugs. He’s nice, we talk about sex, women, Spain, Islam and he invites me for a tea. I tell him that there is no absolute way he’s going to sell me a rug and he tells me that it doesn’t matter.

It’s hot outside and in the shop it’s cooler. Two other Spaniards are inside talking with the other seller that has very good Spanish. We have the tea, the seller teases us as much as he wants, he’s got a girlfriend in Barcelona and he doesn’t stop joking. He tells us that Esfahan people have the fame of being mean and that it’s said that they don’t buy eggs because you through away the shell(and they don’t like throwing things away). I think he finds it funnier than us, maybe because we are all from Spain and we understabnd the stingy thing.

I promises to buy a carpet from him if he’s got one with a Pokemon, he laughs and offers me a nomad one.

Two hours later I go with the Spanish guys to see the bridges of Esfahan.

P8251153  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

Iranians are the picnic kings. Give them two square meters of grass and they’ll bring out the mat, some food an the teapot. This women invite us to have something but we had to wait a few minutes for the sunset, we are in ramadam.

P8251146  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

From the distance this looks quite like south east Asia.

P8251154  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

Getting dark.

P8251155  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

It looks perfect from the distance, doesn’t it?

Esfahan was known for the teahouses in the river and in the bridges, it was a place to meet people and to relax. Many have closed now, it doesn’t seem to be a very proper place, young people can look to each other and smoke a water pipe. There are less and less and as it’s ramadam they are closed until the night. I miss some of Isfahan.

On the bus coming back to the hostel I talk with an Iranian man that lives in Scotland. He’s been living there a few years. He studied there and got married to a Scottish woman, they lived in Iran for a few years but they came back to Inverness. He thinks his sons will have more opportunities in Europe. I ask him I he practices ramadam. He tells me that it’s stupid, that he of course doesn’t do it, that not eating and drinking for 15 hours in summer doesn’t make sense.

Apparently after ramadam there are a lot of liver and kidney illnesses coming up and that its  not drinking under 40 degrees has no medical logic. He tells me that many people do not do it(which I had already realized) that people are bored of politics saying one thing making no sense and doing another. It’s the bad thing of joining religion and politics, when politics go wrong, religions suffer. He pays my bus and we say goodbye.

The day finished, I met so many people that I didn’t even see half of what I wanted so I had to come back to do the same route the next day.

Next day when it was mearing lunch time I bought some bread in another bakery with an irresistible smell. Even tourists can eat, it’s not very nice to eat in front of people that are fasting so I hid in an alley to eat. The can and I eat the bread on the sly.

Later on, I met Heydar, my new Iranian kayak buddy. We had dinner and I slept in his house as next day we were going to the river.  Yuuuupiiiiii!

P8301636  Iran, Esfahan, Isfahan

I spend the last day of Isfahan with Heydar’s family. A total pleasure being with such a charming family.

The next post will be a video about the Armand river.

Fernando

2010

09.21

Radical Islamists and dangerous killer terrorists. We travel with our prejudices. And the Iranians one as “the badies” is one of them. But Iranians are famous for something else, the one they have had for centuries, of being the most hospitable people ever on the earth s’surface. Because of their nomad past, part due to their merchant past, or for being cosmopolitan before New York existed. Iran is a country that during generations they’ve taken foreigners as a treasure brought from Allah.

Even last few years, maybe 20, or even lees, 10 years, have not changed this rooted tradition or changed the soul of Iranians in a sudden way. The outside policies of the government, doesn’t necessary have to match with the psyche of the normal people. I hope to find kind people, honest, generous, and over all, hospitable. I want to talk with the people to see if my image of Iran coincides with  the truth.

After crossing the border, with nothing special to highlight, I take a taxi to Jolfa. It costs me 10 dollars, a bit expensive, but I want to stop on the way to see something so its worth it for me. The Iranian phone company wishes me “A memorable stay”. I’m in the Aras river valley and I like the landscape.

P8220830 Iran, Aras

The pictures doesn’t show the truth of the landscape.

The taxi driver tells me his name, it sounds like “Cerda”(Spanish for female pig), it’s easy to remember, I repeat his name often, I find it funny. He likes takewando and he talks really good English, he’s got a Peugeot similar to the 407, he’s paid 1000 dollars for it, I’d wish he had only had 500, because he takes me at 140 kilometres per hour in the bends and I’m not very comfortable with it. To complete my sickness Cerda asks me about what music I want to listen to, Iranian or European. I tell Cerda that he should play what he prefers. He tells me he likes European and after hitting “play” horrible electronic music that would have been prohibited in the “bakalo route“(early 90’s drug oriented route of discos with repetitive music) for being too repetitive.

P8220840 Iran, Aras

We stop in a village with adobe houses, on the ground you can find ceramic pieces. My ears and stomach rests.

P8220846 Iran, Aras

In case any time you have wondered how they know where Mecca is when they are not in their places, here is the answer.

I meet three Turkish in the hotel and we go for dinner together. As it’s early we go for a walk around the little village. An army pick up stops next to us, we continue with our conversation and our jokes. The guy in the right seat, which is the man with a higher rank talks to us, I understand no word, but the Turks get to talk with him. Seems that the guy wants to know if we are illegal, it has all the logic in the world, I must be the only blond person in the world, I have a blue backpack and a camera hanging from my shoulder, the ideal way to be unnoticed if you cross the border.

We are told to go to the pick-up. He goes to the headquarters. They ask for our passport that is in the hotel, I realize immediately it’s the first time in all my trip I’ve left the passport in a hotel. They talk with my new Turkish friends for a good while. The guy that drove the pick-up laughs a lot when the colonel, or whatever he is, is not looking. He realizes how absurd the situation is. The colonel get’s in the headquarters and we wait outside talking with the rest of the soldiers, they are doing compulsory army time and they are bored as hell so to talk with a foreigner is the best thing they’ve done in weeks.

A border policeman sees us thought the gate door. He stops to talk with the idiot general. He goes to get our passports and takes us out of there, he excuses us and takes us to the restaurant we wanted to go to. All the of this has taken over an hour, it has not given me any nervousness as I was seeing it so absolutely absurd that I knew it was a matter of time, one of the Turks says he’s suffered a bit, he’s a judies and Ahmadineyad(believe it or not I’ve spelled it properly at the first time) doesn’t like them too much.

The chicken kebab taste is good and my idea of Iranians still has not changed.

P8230853 Iran, Aras, caravanserai

I stop in the Khajanazar caravanseray, here there’s a view from the outside with the Aras river mountains in the sides. I try to see some wild goats, but I see none all the way. The next canyon is more red than the Colorado canyon.

P8230848 Iran, Aras, caravanserai

Inside you can see the different compartments that used to be rented to the travellers and the holes where the horses or camels were held.

P8230908 Iran, Aras, Stephanous

Before continuing I come back to the Aras river valley. I stop in the 10th century St Stephanous church, it became part of UNESCO in 2008. In Iran there’s quite a community of Armenian Christians and there is a cathedral in Tehran.

P8230911 Iran, Aras, Stephanous

Plant with kind of meaty fruits, I found it curious.

I get a shared taxi in the direction of Tabriz, as there’s a seat left we go around the center a few times to see if we find another passenger to leave. The driver shouts “Tabriz, Tabriz” from the window. I, to his total surprise, help him shouting “Tabriz, Tabriz”. Neither of us is lucky for a while.

Tabriz has given me an instant rejection, another middle east city, that noise, that chaotic traffic that doesn’t let you cross the roads, the monotonous colour of the construction, so many people… Georgia and Armenia were more organized, cleaner. I need to adapt again to this, but bit by bit. I don’t feel like staying here, and decide to stay here to see the two things I want to see of the city and go to a small village to sleep. I leave my backpack in the tourist information office and go to the Kabud mosque.

In the street three different people stop me to say hello and welcome me to their country. One of them tells me that his government doesn’t let them have the freedom that if we have in my country.

I’m surprised, girls have the scarf, all, it’s compulsory by law, but they have it more in the back than normal. You can see they have a head,  some even have their hair loose on the back and it shows out under the the scarf. In Syria and Jordan you don’t see this.

 

 

P8230950 Iran, north, norte, Tabriz

I go to see the Kabud(blue) mosque, an earthquake destroyed the work of 25 years that it took to decorate this in an intricate type with blue tiles. At the exit a young says hello. He talks fantastic English, he tells me that tomorrow he’s nothing to do, that we can meet and he’ll show me the city. It’s summer, he’s bored and in that way he practices English. Unfortunately this time I can’t change my plans I have to meet people in Esfahan to go paddling.

P8230932 Iran, north, norte, Tabriz

I see the Azeri museum, it has not much but in the ground floor there are some modern bronze statues, somehow tragic but cool.

P8230957 Iran, north, norte, Tabriz

I go to the bakery, the smell of bread has been in the air for 100 meters. I try to buy bread done here, but they don’t let me. The man gives it to me, also some sweets. He asks me to send him the picture so I’m going to do it as soon as I finish the post or I’ll forget it.

P8230994 Iran, north, norte, Tabriz

Tabriz bazaar has come to be part of UNESCO this last year, so I go around.

P8230986 Iran, north, norte, Tabriz

It’s quite an old one and very well preserved. It’s lunch time and there’s not many people.

P8241059 Iran, Kandovan

I go to Kandovan, a place similar to Cappadocia. By the time I left Tabriz I was adjusted to it, but continue with the plan of sleeping in a village anyway

P8241028 Iran, Kandovan

Some chimeis are still used as houses.

P8241088 Iran, Kandovan

This is my room of the day. The carpet and that’s it. I’m going to sleep on a Persian carpet!

I eat in a restaurant with a half Iranian, Azeri family but that they live in Tbilisi, I didn’t have it very clear. The father is Iranian, but he tells me he can’t leave here (because he doesn’t like it). I talk with them for two hours, the older girl has good English, she tells me that she doesn’t like wearing the scarf, the mother is resigned, but doesn’t like it too much. They ask me tons of things and they invite me for dinner.

P8241035 Iran, Kandovan

In Kandovan they have a basic life.

P8241074 Iran, Kandovan

Seems people don’t like tourists too much here, I think they are bored of people coming to take pictures of them. I’m as discreet as I can and I leave early. When I was already leaving this man offered to get into his house.

P8241084 Iran, Kandovan

Some spices.

P8241087 Iran, Kandovan

Donkeys and non-black chadors.

P8241110 Iran, sunset road

With this I go to the centre of the country, to Esfahan, the city that promises being the most beautiful of Iran. The city of the sunset colours and I get ready to sleep. It’s been a long day.

See you soon.

Fernando

2010

09.18

I just have three days to cross the country, I want to spend three weeks in Iran and my Iranian visa gives me 24 days, doing a proper visit to Armenia will have to be done some other time. I’ve done a simplified list of what I want to see: Yerevan, Ararat mountain and one of the monasteries on a mountain cliff.

I start in Yerevan, seems that I go from capital to capital. It’s not bad, but not too interesting, could be a good place to live for a while but not to visit, I’m not very excited.

P8200729 Armenia - Yerevan

It’s flag. Here the buildings are done in grand style with rows of columns and huge arches.

P8200738 Armenia - Yerevan

I buy from a man with a lot of golden teeth the coolest ice-cream, I don’t feel like eating it at all but had to try it and take a picture with it, in the back a Lada car.

P8210750 Armenia - Yerevan

A bible in a hotel is something that doesn’t surprise anyone, but in a hostel a bible per bed is something that everybody in the hostel was surprised about. It’s one of the most Christian countries in the world, there are lots of churches and crosses everywhere, the drivers cross themselves every minute, Christianity came in the year 40 and stayed.

P8200748 Armenia - Yerevan

Different from the Georgia, and nearly as alien, this alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD. I’m in the market, smells fruit and bread.

P8210759 Armenia - Yerevan

Soviet memories, some yearn for it, during two days in Yerevan I’ve felt how this missing feeling is still alive. Mendeleev, the Russian president, has come for a visit and the city has taken to it. Never in any place have I seen so many police in the street, every 30 meters there was a police car making sure all was in order, shouting over the speakers for parked cars to move. The places for the visit were surrounded by police and hundreds of Russian flags decorated the city.

P8210751 Armenia - Yerevan

The English poet Byron said: “There is no other land in the world so full of wonders as the land of Armenians”. He obviously said that before this street was built, an attempt at doing a luxurious fifth avenue with Armani shop included. The flats aren’t less than a million Euro. It could be a Gotham recreation, Batman’s city. In a country full of needs having destroy a neighbourhood of old houses to build houses for Armenian emigrants that come here a week a year doesn’t makes sense to me.

P8220786 Armenia - Yerevan

I have a collection of signals of “High voltage. Dead danger”.

As tomorrow I cross to Iran and there alcohol is prohibited, I go for a beer with Ferran, the Spanish guy I met in Tbilisi the other day, I’ve met him here again.

Next day I wake up early, before leaving I want to get money out of the cash machine. In Iran foreign credit cards dont work, so I need to have enough money. I already have, but want some extra 400 euros just in case. I get dizzy, I try to get money out of the ATMs and it’s like it does not recognize my credit cards. My backpack is heavy, it was supposed to be easy, getting money on the way to the bus, I had taken money with no problems the day I arrived.

I look for a place they call my bank, they say the cards are supposed to be fine but they have no record of me having put it in an ATM. Maybe they be de-magnet? That’s bad! Finally, with no faith, I try to get money out of another ATM and it works. I get my money, change it to dollars and go to search for the bus. It’s late, I don’t think now I’ll have time to arrive in Iran, I’m hungry, I’m sweaty and kind of in a bad mood.

I wait to see if the taxi fills up, to kill time I play Backgammon in the cell phone, I loose three games 5-0, diabolic machine, so much technology for nothing, it could realize I’m a bit down and let me win.

P8210760 Armenia - Yerevan

I ask the taxi driver to stop for a moment, I want to enjoy the view. We go near where the oldest shoe has been found a few months ago, In case you didn’t heard about it here you have a link. These are lands where at the time had some of the most advanced civilizations and part of the progress and invention have continued to our times.

P8210765 Armenia - Yerevan

Finally I see the Ararat mountain at 5165 meters, a symbol of Armenia. It’s said that Noah’s arch got suck here after the flood, Genesis says it. In clear days you can see it form Yerevan but I had to wait to go south to see it. I was dying to see it.

Werner, a Belgian guy I met in Sarajevo told me that the view was better from Armenia than from Turkey, I like this volcanic panorama. It’s a bit strange that such a sacred symbol for Armenias is in the country next to it, moreover because the border is closed, but history is like this, seems that Stalin divided Armenia in a few pieces and Armenia lost quite a lot of it’s former territory with Ararat mountain becoming Turkish. Ani the old Armenian capital is in turkey as well but this was lost nearly 10 centuries ago.

It’s a country with a complicated situation, Turkey doesn’t want to open the border on the west and in the east, the border with Azerbaijan is also closed. The independence of Nagorno Karabah caused a bloody war. If we change the names of the leaders and ethnics, history is repeated from what I found in the Balkans.

P8210782 Armenia - Yerevan

My taxi companion, kind of cocky, they were offering vodka to the driver on the left.

P8210781 Armenia - Yerevan

A drink they have, It’s like Bitter Kas, but it’s not bitter, it’s very sweet and the color is different, conclusion, it has nothing to do with Bitter Kas.

P8220793 Armenia - Yerevan

Fence on the border.

P8220797 Armenia - Yerevan

I spend the last day at a mountain pass in the pass way of the Marshrutka, with my backpack as a seat. When I arrive I take a self-portrait.

The ambiance is sordid, the landscape arid, the ground dirty, the fence spiky, the taxi drivers are bored from not having clients. I change some money and cross walking this no mans land, I cross the Aras river bridge that divides the Caucasus from the Middle East.

As you see I haven’t seen much, from my list of three things the monastery is left but as I’m so eager to cross to Iran I don’t mind. I have to move, again I get into the axis of evil.

See you soon.

Fernando

2010

09.16

A few days ago it was my birthday. I was born in on September 11th. I had always liked the day, September is a beautiful month, with cooling weather and with beautiful light because the sun is already fading. Moreover I like the name, SEPTEMBER, sounds good.

In 2001 seems the date got dirty, I was eating with my parents in a Thai restaurant, Thai Gardens, in Madrid, the curry in coconut milk hottest of the menu was making my eyes cry as I had to blow my nose while I was drinking water to cool down the heat. A short Argentinean man that was eating with two very pretty girls told us, he had been told by phone, it was a bit late and only our two tables were left. We didn’t pay too much attention to what he said, he seemed a bit inventive.

One hour later, in a puzzle shop where my sister wanted to buy one, the shop-keeper invited us to go into the back part of the shop, and in that little rounded TV in the corner we saw time and again how the planes crashed into the towers and how the towers collapsed.

Each person has his story, where were they when they realized. Mine was at my birthday with Thai curry flavour.

I had left work early to eat with my family but meanwhile my co-workers were in the office. They got to know about it and they were watching TV on the Internet.

Waited to watch it, instead of going home, they were eating the pastries that I had taken in the morning. An ex-co-worker reminded me for years “watching the twin towers and eating your pastries”, as it was my first year at work, I bought an awful lot of them so as not to be short so they had them for a while.

If when I was 12 I’d have been told that in 20 years I’d have my birthday in Tehran I’d probably had put a face of  Where is that?, but here I’ve finished, not going out of the house all day until 8 pm to go for a walk and an ice-cream. As you see I’m a bit delayed in the blog, I have to tell you about Armenia and I’m already in Iran, but I didn’t want to write too much about Iran being here, maybe I’m too cautious, but…

I haven’t had presents either, except maybe the one given to myself. In a few days I’m going to Turkmenistan, the eight days there are going to be more than 1000 euros, so I prefer to see it as a present, but I’ll tell you why this cost when I write about the country.

Ah, I’ve got another surprise present. The Kanu Magazine, a prestigious white-water magazine from Germany, has published one of my pictures from Montenegro in double page. Aitor had a contact, he sent the pictures and they’ve published a picture from each of us. Here you have it.

Tara Montenegro Kanu Magazine

With my name in the footer. I’m proud.

Here is the link to their page. It worth walking 50 minutes under the sun up to the bridge and back to the river to get the picture.

So even happier with my trip and my blog. From the trip there is less left, from the blog I’m happy because practicing it takes less effort to write and I think it’s better quality. After nine years writing documents explaining alternatives in a practical and objective form and documents with instructions step by step, writing a narration is a bit difficult, I have had to un-square my head.

There’s very little to tell you before arriving to where I’m living in Iran… which is great.

I leave you, this was going to be a short thing to tell you about my far away birthday and it’s become an enormous text.

See you soon!

Fernando

2010

09.14

Had to happend somewhere…. can’t connect my laptop and some characters have been changed by the computer in internet cafe, mainly in the Spanish version, hope it’s not too annoying to read….[I’ve already corrected it, but leave it as history.]

Georgia - Tiblisi - P8089954 (800x449)

The musical tastes of drivers here are very varied, this one has played Jean Michelle Jarre while driving as fast as he could. I’m going to Tbilisi, to see what’s there. The bus is cool, but it is not the one I got, a pity!

Georgia - Tiblisi - P8130549 (800x450)

On the mountains we let cows cross everywhere, we see bees getting out of their coloured houses and conifer forests, now, in the main road that crosses the country I just see ex-soviet abandoned factories. When the USSR fell also the economical structure fell, and even today it has not recovered totally.

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I was not liking Tbilisi too mucho, I was walking through Rustaveli(a Georgian writer) street and I was just seeing buildings like the Opera House, the parliament, the academy of arts, the palace of  ”idon’tknowwhat”, the street was a typical soviet one owithexaggerated proportions and being Sunday; empty. I find an insipid place.

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They are making big efforts to open up internationally, here is an example, in English so visitors have it clear. Looking at their internal policy there are still a whole lot of things to do, but I guess we have to look at this as one step.

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I go to eat in a good restaurant, it’s the good thing of being in a cheap country. I have views of the river, elaborated food and I spend 15 Euro. As a starter I ask for lentils done in this pot. As a main dish I ask for pork which I find tastier than ever as I’ve been two months not eating it in Muslim countries. I have to confess that I’ve been close to get into a Sushi restaurant as I miss some Japanese food.

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Local beer. It rains, I have to wait until it stops, what can i do?

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Kala neighbourhood, the historical area. Things change, the alleys give me more than the street made by a ruler. The city climbs up the hill with buildings made of timber and balconies all over.

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I get into every alley, in the main streets there are a lot of restored buildings but I want to see the old ones as they used to be.

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I take pictures of the halls.

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Of the doors.

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Of the stairs.

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One of the streets is fully restored and with cool cafes. I sit down to prepare some of the post. Battery finishes, that means I’ve been three hours! I close the computer happy for having a draft of the post and I continue walking rested.

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The area is very nice, they’ve respected their own architecture mixing it with a varied architecture of western style, It’s a pleasure being here.

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Here the crosses don’t neccesarily have perpendicular arms.

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Tbilisi is on the same latitude as Rome, Barcelona, Boston or Chicago, but I find it like New Orleans, it’s also true I’ve never been there so maybe it does not look like it that much.

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I would have preferred a sunset with more colours for this typical picture.

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The carrot soup is more normal but on the right the aubergine filled up with nuts is a very Georgian dish.

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Cool car.

I stay in a hostel called Dodo, It’s a good place with Internet and a rope to hang the washed clothes. The second day the power goes, I ask a girl that works there and she says; “no, it’s not broken, it’s the Russians that are bombing us”. I like the black humour of recent history.

Here I meet Ferran, a Catalonian guy that is travelling in the Caucasus, he tells me that he works in Teheran so he invites me to his place. I hope to overlap days with him there, I’d love to visit the city with someone living in it.

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A more twisted balcony than others.

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A bridge that takes you to the area where the cool cafes are.

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We may see it as an old fashion message, but here they are re-living all the cultural movements in fast forward, next to it there was a painting about Parkour(a movement that is kind of like the skate people jumping and doing tricks in the urban morphology but just with sport shoes).

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What an scary dentist!

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Roofs of the Tbilisi baths. It’s name comes from here, hot water, there are 30 springs.

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Silhouette of a Georgian church and the antenna of the city. I’d have personally installed something more discrete but here they even light it up at night like a Christmas tree.

And I leave the country where Stalin was born, where the wheel was invented(here and Mesopotamia) and where the centauries myth was raised(as was the first place where a man riding a horse was seen for the first time). During Soviet times they had four million visitors a years, now it’s a lot less because in our heads war and conflict still resound with it even it’s a totally peaceful land, I think it’s people are bored of war, like most of the places I’ve visited that have had a recent war.

I’ve felt good here, I’ve eaten well and I’ve seen a lot of interesting things. Once more I’d would have stayed longer. With the trip to Svaneti I’ve been two days more than what I initially planned and as I’ve accumulated so many extra days during the trip, the three weeks I wanted to spend in Armenia are going to be three days only.

Soon from Armenia.

Fernando

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