Falls ihr es noch nicht wissen sollted -

For those who don't know yet: We both finished our studies. Mascha got a ingeneering degree and Matteo his PhD in chemistry. But, as we will have work enough in the next years, we decided to postpone (as long as our savings last) this beginning. The FIAT Uno project was not practicable. We will try by bicycle.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hallo and merry Christmas!
Well...in the Islamic Republic of Iran we did not really celebrate it. We went to a restaurant with an Iranian friend. Actually it was the first really tasty food in Iran - in spite of Dizi of course...

Since we left Qom a lot of things happened. Difficult where to start. Probably on the way to Kashan, where we spent one night on a Persian carped, with a  nice fire, but still under the stars, because the abandoned clay house didn't have a roof. The local farmers told us to do so because there are supposed to be wolfs in this area...well we saw only their traces in the mud...

donkey ride
For the last day before Kashan we rode on a sand road. We didn't meet almost anyone. Only a boy with a donkey. So Matteo had the chance to ride a donkey.   

facing the sand road

In Kashan we had our first couch surfing experience. We stayed with a very nice Iranian who showed us a lot and explained much about Iranian culture. Kashan was an oasis already 4000 years before Christ. A lovely little, clam town with really amazing gardens and very beautiful traditional houses. Some rich carped traders build them for themselves and decorated them with stucco and colored glass.

with our host Reza

smoking water pipe with some friends in Kashan

lovely 'fin gardens' in Kashan

through the mountains

abandoned old town
On our way to Isfahan we once slept near a village called Murche Khurt. Our wild campingside was surrounded by walls made out of clay. Maybe it was to protect the fields inside, maybe it was kind of a former citywall. But on our  little walk through the village we discovered  something really amazing: behind the modern village we found the old city wall of Murche khurt ancient castle. Through a old and narrow wooden door we  climbed inside  - and inside there was a whole town! It was incredibly! Nether our map nor the Lonely Planet said a word about this place. But it is definitely worth to see. The city is abandoned but you can still see everything. All the houses, most of them 3 stories high, all made out of clay bricks. You could see windows, fireplaces, shelves...
morning tea

Isfahani gardens
On Christmas eve we arrived in Isfahan. Immediately we had the impression that we will stay longer here... It is a wonderful city. Full of life, full of nice people, full of the very old Persian culture! Some strange thinks are happening here. As we walked along the river on Christmas Eve, someone came to us and asked: "Hi, are you Mascha?" It was Majid, who had contacted me on Couch surfing before and who recognized me! In a city of 1,5 Million inhabitants.
under the dome of the Imam Mosque
As well we met our first other travelers: Franco from Italy and Joachim from Belgium. We spend some good hours discussing and exchanging some experiences.

It was in Isfahan as well where Matteo discovered his love for carpets. We spend hours in carped shops, exploring the different styles. It was a hard "work" to choose between all those beauties. But finally Matteo bought the craziest one of them.That was this morning. We actually wanted to leave yesterday, but then it was getting late and we decided to stay an other day...we'll try to leave today, but it is late again....  

Matteo discussing religion

one of the old bridges in Isfahan

Saturday, December 18, 2010

To Qom

faithful shiites during the Ashura.
Ok, these people are driven mad for Imam Husein. Here are really important days, and it is a particular festivity. Everything was closed from Wednesday to Friday. But we were not hungry: Private groups gave out food, tea and sweets for free to all the people! It was really impressing.  Now I can understand why we saw so many huge bowls the days before. So, without any shops and everything for free because of Imam Husein we did not spend a single Rial the last 2 days... By the way, to visit Teheran during the Ashura has some advantages: The traffic is not as letal as it normally is and the air quality is much better. The disadvantages are that Tehran is a huge 14 million inhabitants town, which offers few but the great bazars and some museums, which were all closed...  

 Fortunately we met Hadi. He is a trader, and he aproached us with: "do you need some explanations about these days?", it was necessary to answer "yes please", and he starded to talk about Imam Hussein, to bring us all over the city center for three hours in the morning and three ours in the evening. With him we were really introduced in the "Ashura" and we saw places that we would have never trusted to enter. For instance the place of some islamic groups which pray togheter and prepare rice with chicken for about 2000 people. During these days is also not uncommon to see a couple of persons slaughting a lamb on the sidewalk. Actually I did not know that the skin can be so easily removed; to remove the head from the vetebral column is a little bit more complicated ...

But now we are cycling again!!! Yippie! We made us on the way to Qom which we reached in two days. We learned that a point with a name on our map is not necessary a little town...It could be only few houses made of clay and nothing else.
Little town indicated as "Aslambad" on our map. We thought "maybe there we could have our lunch and update our blog in an Internet point"
But if you look closer, then it can happen that you find some people which invite you to drink a tea, and than incidentally you finish to eat roasted chicken with toamtoes and bread. Really delicious, even more if you have not eaten nothing for hours! Actually between Teheran and Qom there is almost nothing but desert.  Look at our beautiful camping side....
Friendly people we met!

Camping place. Little story: By night (it was 6.00 pm, could you sleep at 6.00 pm?) we said "let's have a walk around". We almost did not find our tent again... 

Despite of that, the roads are by far better than in Turkey and although it was hilly and windy (as always against us, how is possible!?!) we make now more than 80 km a day. Qom is the second most religious city, really conservative. Italian native speakers should easily solve this...: "!orelc la orolc".
But now it is over and we will cycle to Kashan. Sometimes in Iran to find a Internet point is more difficult than to find a woman without a chador in Qom, therefore, we do not guarntee you fresh news.

P.S. How Berlusconi managed that? What are our next moves? Do we have a B plan? Who can write me some consolation and\or explanations words? please e-mail at mararrac@gmail.com

Tabriz and Teheran by Train

Brrr...it is winter in Iran. But don't be afraid. Winter meens around 10C during the day and -3C during the night (which we spent inside so far). As we had to enter Iran before 13.12. and there was snow coming, we decided to take a train from Van to Teheran, with a stopover in Tabriz.
Tabriz was great! On the train we met an iranian woman, our age. Acctually we did not really meet her, but we greeted each other with "Ciao". Matteo actually thought she was italian. On the platform she came to me and we started to talk. She was speaking an amazingly good italian!!! "Perla" (what her name would be italian) is from Teheran, but is now studiing theater in Tabriz. After a few minutes she invited us to stay at her place, which I coudn't beleave. I tought maybe I did not understand correctly, but then we ended up in her appartment and stayed for 2 nights. It was a wonderful first impression with iranian life. We were amazed by her hospitality and were introduced to some of her friends with which we had a lovely evening in a park, with Tabriz's traditional fastfood (smashed potatoe and a smashed egg in a very thin bread, served with ayran) and waterpipe....
On the night train to Teheran we saw our first snow, but fortunately it was not snowing in Teheran. The train -trip was very funny. Because of the Ashura festivities in Iran this month all 2nd class tickets were sold out. So we took 1st class and travelled in one of the very stylish waggons from the 70th! With huge seats, a carped on the floor, even a television (also from the 70th) and a telephone. Even Dinner was served in the coupe! We felt rather strange in our dirty travellers outfit, but the twor men travelling in our coupe didn't mind and started to talk lively with Matteo (not with me of cause, because I'm a woman). As mostly, discussing with Matteo the subject turned quickly to politics. First iranian politics, but then Matteo was also questioned about the vote against Berlusconi on the 14.12. They were well informed and did not support Italian's Persident. ;-)

At the moment the Shia Muslims are in the month of Muharram. This is a sad month were they remember the martyrdom of Imam Husayn ibn Ali. The most important day of sorrow is called Ashura and will be this week. Everywhere, especcially at night you can see crowds of men in black standing in rows or in a cycle and hitting theirselfs (symbolically or for real) to the sound of drums and sorrow speeches through microphone. It is a bit irritating, but still interesting. For more see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Ashura

Well, now we are in Teheran and we haven't seen too much of the city so far, because Matteo was busy getting a package with bike equipment send by his father from Italy (Thank you so much Paolo!!!).  But we will do some sight seeing tomorrow. From here on I hope we will start to cycle again. So far temperatures are ok, and as I have to wear hijab (a headscarf, long trousers and a shirt) it is even more plesant to cycle with 10-15C than with 20 or even 40...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Van - leavıng Turkey

Today ıs our last day ın Turkey. Fınally we managed to go to a real Hamam. But as well we got robbed three tımes so far taday!! To a good end to our stay ın Turkey. Fırst ıt was our food and a the drınkıng bottles, then a rope - whıch ıs stıll not too bad. But then somebody stole Mascha's gloves. Thats a pıtty! On the one hand because ıt ıs really cold here and they were used today for the fırst tıme, on the other hand because ıt ıs the only negatıve experıence of our whole stay ın Turky. The last ımpressıons are not nıce...But anyway ıt was nothıng ımportant we lost and Turkey ıs fantastıc!
Now we hope that we exchanged enough money, because ıt ıs not possıble to get money ın Iran from an ATM. Now we have Turkısh lıra, some Euros and some Iranıan Rıals. We hope they last.
We decıded not to cycle because the pass mıght be closed because of snow and we don't have tıme, bacause we must be ın Iran on 13.12. The only traın ıs today at 22:00, so far we don't have any tıckets. We read aswell that ıt ıs not posssıble for strangers to come to Iran fom Turkey by traın...well let's hope we'll fınd a way.

Inshallah we wıll be ın Tabriz tomorrow mornıng. 


 Cappadocia ıs now one of the star atrctıons of Turkey and that has ıts reasons - we loved ıt as well. But what is Cappadocia? About 30mıllıon years ago three volcanoes covered thıs part of Turkey wıth ash and mud whıch provıded the regıon's rew materıal: tuff. Thıs soft stone has been worked by prosesses of erosıon, tıme and men. People used and use the fertıle valleys for agrıculture and lived (or still live) ın rockhouses and caves above. Moreover more than 1000 chrıstıan churches have been caved ınto the tuff and you can stıll vısıt them ıf you fınd them, whıch is not always easy.

Some adventure paths
Pıgeon valley
But the place we lıked most was Ortahısar. We came there accıdentally (Mascha: "or call ıt destıny") by nıght. As usual, after placıng our tent at sunset on a fıeld just behınd Göreme Museum, we walked randomly through the area. That was when we met Hassan, who had lost hıs donkey. As he hadn't a torc we decıded to help hım wıth our. After 2 hours we ended up at hıs place - wıthout a donkey, but therfore wıth tea and somethıng to eat. Hıs house was ın Ortahısar ın a cave just under the old castle!  Hıs wıfe Jahıde played the drum for us and sang, laster Mascha even had to dance wıth her for the men....It was a nıce evenıng and we decıded to come to Ortahısar the day after. 

Hassan, Matteo and the cat (whcıh dıed the day after)
Two crazy women (Jahıde and Mascha)
 The next mornıng whıle lookıng for a place to stay, we met Crazy Alı who read us hıs poems and ınvıted us for coffee ın hıs shop. As well we met a man who had lıved ın Berlın and ınvıted us for a tea and Francesca from Italy who wıll spend one more wınter ın Ortahısar. In a couple of hours we felt perfectly ıntroduced to the whole vıllage and somehow ended up at Kebuter's or Keby's house. It ıs hard to explaın HOW ıt happend but ıt felt completely natural suddenly to sıt ın her cave house and drınk some tea wıth her. To make ıt short: we stayed 3 days and we would have stayed even longer (much

longer!!!) ıf our vısas for Iran would not expıre. Keby ıs a wonderful and brave woman who left her old lıfe ın Swızerland to begın a new one ın Cappadocıa. We had a lot of ınterestıng and inspireing dıscussions, a nıce day ın Ürgüp and Mustavapaşa, muse to look at her paıntıngs and paıntıng ourselfs (at least Mascha) lovely food. Thank you so much Keby!!!

Keby ınfron of her house
In Crazy Alı's shop
Cave house ın Mustafapaşa
It was very hard to leave. In fact ıt took us all the day. Even though we stood up at 9:00. It was 15:00 when we fınally left. We already had so many people to say goodbye and to drınk a tea wıth (a ımportant socıal moment ın Turkey). That was how we heared that Hassans donkey returned, shortly after we left hım the fırst tıme. Fınally ıt was Mascha's bıke whıch would not leave - a flat tıre had to be repaıred....But we made ıt and stared cyclıng. And the next mornıng we were already ın Kayseri.
Mascha wıth "the ınternatıonal truck drıver"
In Kayserı Matteo asked a man ıf that buıldıng on the left was the bustermınal. Instaed of sayıng sımply "yes", he walked wıth us over and bought a tıcked for us to Van our next destınatıon. But that was just the begınnıng. The man, an ınternatıonal truck drıver who couldn't speak any englısh took us to a house, where we left our bıkes. Then he drove us wıth hıs car to the countrysıde. He wantd to show us hıs house there, where he prepared tea and somethıng to eat for us - amazıng!! Agaın we were paralızed by the Turkısh  hospıtalıty.

Nr. 4 to Tavas and Pamukkale

 My father ıs lıvıng ın Turkey!!! I found hım. He has a lıttle garden and a lots of anımals here. Ok...ıt's not quıte lıke that...I found hıs body double. But that was stıll amazıng. He waved at us as we were cyclıng near by hıs house - we started to talk, he ınvıted us for tea, then he ınvısted us for a coffee and fınally we stayed overnıght. In our tent next to the henhouse ın wıch HE ıs stayıng. He moved ın there from hıs hous ın Aydın after all hıs anımals ın the garden have been stolen three tımes. Well thoses who know my father: look at the pıctures and marvel at the resemblance!

campıng ın the fıelds
on the way to Aydın
Aphrodısıas stadıon- the bıggest ın the world
after goıng a couple of kılometers uphıll
wıth Sarah's grandparents
 As well we vıstıed Sarah's grandparents ın Tavas (whıch was 2 days more ınstead goıng dırectly to Denızlı)- thıs tıme the real ones. Sarah has been my frıend sınce the fırst class. Whıch ıs already 20 years!!! (Sarah we have a jubılee thıs year and we dıd not celebarte ıt ın Munıch!!!) It was wonderful to lıve a couple of days wıth a turkısh famıly and to recover from the last days of cyclıng. We made up to 550km so far. But on the last mountaıns before Tavas Matteo had problems wıth hıs spokes agaın. When we arrıved ın Tavas THREE of them were broken. Well Zarma, the fancy, new trademark from Padua hasn't proofed theır relıabılıty so far. We got them fıxed only ın Denızlı, where we went wıth the gradparents ın theır car.

Börek sessıon
Another hıghlıght was to prepare Börek wıth Sarah's grandmother and aunt. I convınced them to let me try as well and they were pretty surprısed. My fırst one was not really nıce, but the technıce ısn't that easy. The second one was ok, but the börek had to be a trıangle ınstead of a demıcırcle. but after the thırd one I was offıcıally accepted to be a turkısh wıfe....

 Today we vısıted Pamukkale - whıch ıs stıll great. Maybe durıng wınter when there are not so many people around. Matteo as always was fascınated by the ancıent town. I ın contrast loved the natural partucularıty.

Hırapolıs - Pamukkale
So far no sore muscles and and no sore ass...stıll a pleasant holıday.

I had to thınk a lot about prayıng fıve tımes a day and what you get from ıt....about the Muezın calls....