Tehran: Palaces, parks and sweets

We base ourselves in the South of Tehran in a hotel that barley deserves the one star that it has (but it is conveniently located). Tehran is one of the larger cities in the world with all the problems that come with it such as pollution, smog and especially bad traffic. We are lucky that we are here during a long weekend and many Tehranis have fled the city making moving around slightly more pleasant.

We are determined not to let us hinder by any of that in our explorations. We quickly figure out the Metro system and in contrary to the city buses we are even allowed to sit in the same coach. In the city buses the front is reserved for men and the back for women. This is a concept difficult for me to understand but since we are guests in the country we comply with it.

So what is there to see? We visit palaces of the last two schah dynasties the Qajars and Pahlavis. Once we have digested that we have to pay 5 to 10 times more for the entrance than the Iranians we actually quite enjoy ourselves looking at some nice Qajar architecture and getting an idea in what kind of luxury the last Pahlavi schah was living.  Which leads us to the next sight: A museum that used to be a prison under Mohammad Reza schah who ruled until the islamic revolution in 1979. With wax figures and a lot of red paint the torturing of the prisoners is vividly illustrated. All the wax guards are wearing ties a symbol of Westerners and how the Schah’s people were dressed back then. Additionally a picture of the Schah and his wife hangs in every room to make clear who is responsible. While for sure the visit in this prison museum is a sobering experience it also feels a bit ironic for reasons I do not want or need to further explain. To round off the history lesson we also drop by the former US embassy in which the hostages were taken in 1979. We cannot go inside but get a feeling for what happened looking at the infamous anti America graffitis.

We are hungry and once again on the search for a restaurant. After passing many shops that sell all kind of things (and most of them are closed as it is a holiday) we finally find a fast food restaurant serving the typical Iranian pizza with ketchup. It is hardly gourmet food but better than nothing. Afterwards we treat ourselves with some sweets and relax in one of the parks of the city. The next day we explore a bit of the surroundings and walk on the foothills of the Alborz mountains. Using the chair lift reminds us to snowboarding in Switzerland (which we miss).  Back in the city we visit an art gallery which is a place where young and liberal Iranians meet and we get to talk to some which gives a new perspective of the country. We finally also manage to find better restaurants with innovative concepts and interiors. We are happy that we were able to see that part of the country too.

It is time to go home to the dreary hotel room where more duties wait for us. As we have been travelling for almost nine months now some of our clothes start to fall apart. We renew them as we go but we have also become proficient in sewing and repairing our socks and T-shirts.

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