Surprisingly the streets behind the border to the next major city Marand were in perfect conditions and the tires we just changed to more off-road suitable profile seemed too be the wrong choice. But let’s see what we’ll be faced with in more remote areas. Marand appeared on the map to be a perfect city to stop by for a chai, coffee and breakfast. We parked our bikes on the sidewalk close to a bakery. Before we took off our helmets, people started to watch, stop and talk to us. Here is an example of a typical conversation we gonna be performing many many times during our Iran travels:
Iranian: How are you?
We: Good, how are you?
Iranian: Where are you from?
We: Germany! Alman.
Iranian: Ohhhh, Germany, good, good!
We: Iran, good!
Iranian: Motorbike, BMW?
We: Yes, BMW!
Iranian: Ahhhh, good, good, How much?
We: Old bike, old bike. 1500 dollars…
Iranian: Mhhh, take picture?
We: Of course
Iranian: Iran good?
We: Iran, good, Iranian people very good.
One of the guys, Amir, who stopped by advised us to stay for 5 minutes, he would go to get some tea. In the meantime cars stopped, people got of and asked if we needed help or anything else. Amir came back with \na thermos of chai, walnuts, sugar, plus the fresh bread we bought from the bakery. That was our breakfast 🙂
Mahmut, the only guy with a decent English, signaled to help us getting a SIM card for our mobiles. On the motorbikes we followed him on his bicycle through one way streets and over sidewalks straight to a shop. They managed to get us two SIM cards with enough data for our time in Iran and it cost us 5 dollars. In every country it was possible to buy a data SIM card for small money and loads of data so far. Why are prices in Germany ridiculously high and coverage even in major cities is sometimes very poor?
We were asked more than one time if we’d like to stay at somebody’s house our at least have lunch. We denied and insisted to go to Tabriz to stay in a hotel to rest properly after the exhausting days behind us. Hard work not to accept and lots of appreciation to the people for the kindness and hospitality at the same time. Some detours in Tabriz city lead us to Azerbaijan Hotel were we aimed for some recovery time and a first impression of a major Iranian city and the climate. It is hot and as a natural reflex Jendrik put on a shorts to bring some clothes to the laundry service across the street. 3 minutes later he came back, the dirty clothes still in his hand and a scary look on his face. NOBODY wears shorts in Iran, even when it’s 60 degrees. People just won’t respect you and they showed Jendrik in a very dismissive manner. Lesson learned, we better do our homework before getting to another country. Tabriz is a vibrant city and really comes alive after dark. Too late for us. Totally knackered from all the action of the last 24 hours we had a dreamless night. Almost recharged, the first visit of a bazaar was mandatory.
We didn’t buy anything but relished the noise, the smell, the people and the diversity of the products. We watched out for a breakfast, as we didn’t make it in time to the hotel buffet and bumped into an English speaking guy from the tourist office who brought us to a breakfast place. We painted a picture of bread, scrambled egg, jam, cheese and a coffee. We got kebab, rice, Lavash (very thin bread) and tomato soup. No problem, it was more than enough. Next thing he talked about were the beautiful hot springs in Sareyn, 230 kilometers northwest of Tabriz. We painted a picture of hot springs evolving from small pools were you take a dip and relax in the sun. The perfect thing for us. Guess what happened…
The curiosity of people in Marand was surprising and overwhelming. What happened in Sareyn was not comparable with that. The first stretch of the most villages or small cities is usually designed as a camp ground/picnic area and are heavily used by Iranian tourists. Very heavy in Sareyn and we stopped right in front of this area…
As we got further into town we realized that this had nothing to do with a cosy and intimate atmosphere what we expected. Instead it was the number one holiday destination for Iranians and the city center looked like Las Vegas Strip with all its neon lights. The hot springs turned out to be, what we call Spa or public swimming baths. Not really what we wanted but still relaxing. The first time in Iran, we didn’t feel „different“. Iranians do wear swimming shorts and some even have tattoos. Women were in a separate bath, though.
Next thing on our agenda was to focus on motorbiking a little bit more, to get in the direction of the Caspian Sea and planned our route accordingly. As we passed a small village around lunchtime, Jendrik shouted suddenly. The reason was a BMW 650 GS same bike he sits on parked besides the road. The rest is easily told. Pawel and Beate from Aachen are in Iran with their bikes, started in Bulgaria, drove through Turkey and admitted to be off-road junkies. Good for us as we looked for some fun riding as well and we decided to continue side by side. Pawel already logged a route which seems to go on remote and small routes, maybe even unpaved. And he nailed it. We witnessed a magnificent spectacle and had an incredible ride through the clouds and the dark, but totally worth it.
We set up our tent in Mansuleh and shared many many stories at dinner. So much fun a a big surprise in the morning when we saw this picturesque little town in the mountains for the first time in the daylight. Again, totally worth it.