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World trip - Anna & Bertram

October 2017 - June 2019
  • Day191

    Getting back to Munich

    April 17, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    We joined Anna’s brother Robert to the train station and all went to our respective homes. After some ~6 hours of quiet train travel we arrived back in our flat, exchanged keys with our subtenants again and received a couple of friends :-)

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  • Day190

    Reunion with Anna's family in Neheim

    April 16, 2018 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    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, 2018 in Iran ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    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, 2018 in Iran ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    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

    Reunion with or Iranian friends

    April 10, 2018 in Iran ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    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, 2018 in Iran ⋅ 🌙 10 °C

    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!

    April 7, 2018 in Iran ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    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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  • Day180

    Lazy day in Tabriz :-)

    April 6, 2018 in Iran ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    We did not anticipate much action on this Friday in Tabriz but were positively surprised that the UNESCO World Heritage Bazaar was up and running. After roaming through it, we made our way to the newer and supposedly hipper suburbs where we went for lunch, coffee, and dinner - what a feast! :-) Even though the restaurant called Barcode (lunch, dinner) was a more chic restaurant, the waiters barely spoke English and Google Translate could have done a better job as well (see picture :-)). But we got nice food and that’s the main point.

    It was more difficult to get back into the city center than anticipated: the subway was already closed when we got there at 19:57... but we asked a helpful young man at the station who directed us to the bus station where we hopped on a random one but got lucky and were dropped off next to our hotel’s street.

    After driving in a car for parts of every day in the last 4 days, it was nice just to chill and read our books.

    Tomorrow we will likely have a longer journey ahead as we will hire a driver to go around the north and along the Aras river valley to the East.
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  • Day179

    Flight from Shiraz to Tabriz

    April 5, 2018 in Iran ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    We spent a leisurely afternoon in Shiraz, drinking coffee in the square opposite the main mosque and bazar. After saying farewell to our travel companions we made our way to the airport.

    We took the metro to the airport, confident that the airport is at the final stop of the main line going through town. However, somehow the metro planners thought it would be ok for the airport stop to be about 800 metres away from the airport terminal building. So we walked the last distance for about 10 minutes.

    (Fun) fact about the airplane seating plan: to avoid unmarried men and women from sitting next to each other, the rows on one side of the aisle alternate with all male/all female rows after one another. Alternatively, couples can sit on the other side of the aisle where there are only two seats...

    Not so fun fact: after the flight I read on Wikipedia that our airline (Iran Aseman) had a fatal accident only 2 months ago. Most of the Iranian airlines are not licensed to fly to Europe due to their poor safety records. Sanctions on Iran often mean that spare parts cannot be obtained and force Iranian airlines to operate old airplanes, resulting in more frequent accidents. Ours was a Fokker 100, the last of which was built 1997 after which the company went bankrupt. At least the food was good! :-)
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  • Day179

    Hiking in the Zagros mountains

    April 5, 2018 in Iran ⋅ 🌫 15 °C

    After a brief morning visit to the pink mosque, we got in two cars and drove off the the southwest of Shiraz for our hike including spending the night in the village or with nomads.

    We reached the village near Kaserun after ~2 hours and prepared the lunch - marinated chicken kebab and vegetables to be freshly grilled on the mountain. The hike was not too difficult and overall it was more a picnic than a hike in German-Austrian fashion :-) The lunch took about 2 hours including collecting fire wood, starting the fire, drinking tea, grilling kebabs, eating, drinking more tea. Our group was really nice, the two well know Catalans and a couple from Munich being with us.

    A great aspect of it was, however, that the girls did not have to wear any Islamic dress during the hike - freedom! It was so nice to feel the breeze in hair and neck....

    We arrived back in the village quite late and, thus, changed the original plan: no sleeping over at the nomads but sleeping at our guide’s home. Anna went for an our of yoga before we got great dinner by his mother. Soon after dinner, everybody went to sleep.

    We visited the nomads on the next morning (today) and has tea with the woman as the man had climbed up the mountains with their ~200 goats. Luckily, they had a couple of young goats still at the camp 🐐 so cute! In good Iranian-nomadic fashion, we had another cup of tea before driving back to Shiraz.
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