placeswetravelled

Hey! Welcome to our travel blog! We are Anna and Bertram and we intend to run this blog for our family and friends to update them on our travels.
Living in: München, Deutschland
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  • Day229

    Toller 2. Tag in den Bergen. Nach einem bisschen Sportklettern gestern sind wir heute in die fantastische Mehrseillängentour „Die Schönheitskönigin von Schneizlreuth“ eingestiegen. Es war herrliches Wetter und die Tour ein Traum!
    Bewertung: 6.

  • Day190

    We arrived tiredly but safely in Düsseldorf on Friday, 13.04.2018 and immediately started to meet family and friends. We started with an afternoon and evening with Ingmar and Swetlana in Hilden and were driven home by Anna’s parents.

    We had a great long weekend with the following activities:
    - yoga on the terrace
    - jogging in the Ansberg woods
    - bouldering in Dortmund
    - cooking and eating
    - presents
    - travel talks

    It feels good to be home again and be able to share in person all the experience we have had! :-)
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  • Day186

    Last day in Iran

    April 12 in Iran

    Today was our last day in Iran. Apart from meeting a friend in the city, we had only one sightseeing target for the day: the Azadi Tower. Built in 1971 it is very much part of Tehran’s skyline as well as witness to a number of protests and momentous events in Iranian history. It was a focal point during the 1979 Islamic Revolution as well as during the recent protests in Iran. It marks the west entrance to the city (before the new international airport was built, all visitors to Tehran would typically see the tower as they entered the city coming from the airport).

    We also visited Fatima, co-owner of our first hotel in Tehran. We got to know her when we first stayed there three weeks ago and now wanted to see her again to tell her about our travels. We had a great chat with her - as hotel owner and manager, she sees a lot of (western) tourists and told us about all the many questions people ask her that they are uncertain about before they visit Iran. (Like: can I eat something in my room during Ramadan? Can my boyfriend and I sleep in the same bed even though we are not married?)

    We returned to Ali and family for the 6-months-birthday party of their daughter Lena and one last (short) night before flying back home. ✈️
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  • Day185

    Caspian Sea getaway

    April 11 in Iran

    We drove “to the north” today, to spend a day (and the night) at Leyla’s apartment there. For Tehranis, going to the north is really a weekend getaway at the Caspian Sea. Still, the drive is quite long, and so we spent about 4 hours to get there and ~6 hours back in the car (including a breakfast break).

    Both days we got up early (6 and 7, respectively), to have the most of the day, and consequently it was quite tiring for us. Particularly if you consider that dinner was had at about 11:30pm and even later on the second day.

    We enjoyed looking at the scenery as we drove north from Tehran. Immediately north of the city, the Alborz mountain range begins and the road winds through various canyons and past rivers (yes, we saw our first river with water in it in Iran).

    As we discovered, in “the north” there is actually not all that much to do. Swimming in the Caspian Sea was really out of the question - the beach is much too dirty to be inviting and there is no real beach culture given Islamic law. People really just go there to look out onto the water. Well on our visit, it was quite foggy, so instead of looking out, we spent some time having lunch, playing ball games and football with Leyla’s 6-year-old son. Back in the flat we made some attempts at Acro Yoga and also visited the jacuzzi and pool at the top of the apartment. (Each flat tenant can book some time and then the pool area can be used exclusively by them. That way, no female covering is needed.)

    We finished the evening with corn 🌽 barbecue and after another short night, we drove back to Tehran for our final day in Iran.
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  • Day184

    Today was a great day :-)
    We travelled from Qazvin to Karaj to reunite with Ali and his family here. We met him, his daughter and his wife in Natanz in our first week in Iran.
    Ali actually lives in Mehrshahr - a beautiful suburb of Karaj (which is itself a satellite city to the nearby Tehran). We first had tea and some self-made kashk-e bademjan (smoked eggplant) and then we went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It is really very different to most parts of Iran we have seen so far. Many tree-lined streets, nice cafes with outdoor seating, and we even stopped at a pomegranate juice shop :-)
    We then sat down at a very fancy cafe that had little booths set on top of a giant aquarium with fish in it. Really very cool :-) The group got progressively larger with more relatives dropping in and finally we returned to Ali’s apartment for dinner and lively discussions and storytelling about our experiences in Iran. A big part of the discussion was about what we thought of Iran and the image the country has abroad. Recounting our travels (not just in Iran but also in all the other countries we visited on our journey) made us realise the privilege we enjoy to be able to travel so much (both that we can afford it financially but also that our German and Austrian passports allow us to travel most everywhere without restrictions).
    Visiting Ali and his family is certainly a highlight of our Iranian travels. Having seen many mosques and traditional houses and ancient Persian ruins, it is now really nice to spend some time with an Iranian family and get to know them better. We were treated with enormous hospitality. Anna was given a beautiful ring as a gift and - but only to borrow - a nightdress to wear for sleeping :-)
    Tomorrow we will drive north towards the Caspian Sea to spend a day there, before finally returning to Tehran and heading home to Germany.
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  • Day183

    Visiting Qazvin

    April 9 in Iran

    Originally, our plans for today were different: we intended to go hiking in the supposedly beautiful hotspot of the Alamut valley. We decided differently - here is why and what we did instead :-)

    We arrived awefully late yesterday (23:30) and had the first bad experience with Iranian bus travel: the bus was quite expensive (more than 2x what we expected...), the driver smoked inside the bus AND stopped about 4 times during the 6 hour journey to smoke some more. Then they objected to us leaving the bus to pee while they smoked. And the best part: the bus did not stop in Qazvin bus terminal but somewhere along the northern highway... it was really a shame. Luckily, we had experienced far better service and hospitality so far in Iran that we brush this aside as a one time thing.

    After hearing from other travellers and reading the tourist bible called Lonely Planet that going into the Alamut valley costs about 30 USD one way and takes 2.5 hours we were quite discouraged. Another day in the car for most of the day, only getting out for a couple of short stops and maybe a 2-3 hour hike? No thanks! We have great mountains that are accessible in Germany/Austria and we will do so once we get home :-)

    Thus, we visited Qazvin, a booming town 2.5 hours northwest of Tehran. We liked the old church and the park where men held chess competitions. But we especially fell in love with the old restored caravanserai: where camels 🐫 and their drivers loaded and unloaded goods for transport along the ancient Silk Road there was now a fine building with coffee shops and art and design shops. Very nice to spend the day. We also met Ali, a theology student and had interesting discussions about Islam and religion in general. The best thing was that he accompanied us to the neighboring mosque 🕌 and helped to decipher the kufiq script - see annotated picture.

    We finished the afternoon off with yoga (first Anna on her own, then Anna teaching Bertram) and had nice dinner nearby.

    Tomorrow, we will move to Karaj and meet Iranian friends from an earlier part of the trip.
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  • Day181

    Today was Anna’s birthday! To celebrate it - and to make the most of our last few days in Iran - we embarked on a big tour (by car with a driver). About 550km 🛣 and 4 highlights:
    - The mountain village of Kandovan, where houses and shelters for sheep are carved into the mountainside. The houses look a bit like the hats of the smurfs (but they are not white). We met a lot of shepherds and their animals.
    - The Armenian monastery of St. Stephanos, a christian orthodox church/monastery that is nicely settled into the mountainside ⛪️
    - The Araz River Valley and the border stretch between Iran on one side and Armenia/Azerbaijan on the other side. The valley is enormously beautiful, plus quite an attractive change to the desert lands of central and southern Iran. The valley also still bears the scars from the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and lasted until 1994. We saw a number of train-wrecks, abandoned villages and military observation points everywhere. Travelling on the southern (Iranian) side of the river - where we were driving - was, however, easy and without problems.
    - Babak Castle, a 9th century fortress of which some ruins still remain. 🏰 To visit the castle, we would have to hike up for about 1 hour. We were quite disillusioned when we started the hike, as there was fog and clouds everywhere and one could hardly see 10 metres. However, as we climbed up the mountain, we actually climbed higher than the surrounding clouds and were rewarded with amazing views down on top of the clouds 😊

    By the time we got back to the car it was already 7:30pm. The original plan was to drive to Ardabil, but this would have been another 4 hours. We were too exhausted and we didn’t want our driver to have to drive so long (+in the dark), so we got off at Ahar and left our Catalonian friend Martí and the driver to go back to Tabriz. We found a hotel and quickly realised that Ahar is not a city that’s on most tourist itineraries: the hotel manager speaks no English whatsoever and the check-in forms one has to fill in are also entirely in Farsi.

    To finish the day, we went for a meal that turned out to maybe have been the cheapest meal of our entire world trip: two beer (non-alcoholic AND with pineapple and lemon taste, respectively = no beer) and two falafel sandwiches for about 1.33 EUR. Cheapest birthday meal ever 😉
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