Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Tehran is a huge, noisy, city.  I think the population is about 15 million.  The traffic is horrible and crossing streets through the constant stream of traffic is scary.  (The locals just step out into the traffic and cross a lane at a time.  I started tagging along with them when they do this because I figure they know what they're doing.)

Fortunately Tehran has a good, but very crowded (and very cheap) metro system for getting around the city.  My hotel was near Imam Khomeini metro station in the city center.

Weirdly, there's a Christmas tree in the hall in the hotel in Tehran

The morning after I arrived in Tehran I went to pick up the train tickets I will be using for the rest of my time in Iran.  According to what I read, trains fill up very far in advance, so I booked these a couple of weeks ago.  The travel agency is up in North Tehran.  Looking around there, I saw a Mercedes dealer, a Porsche dealer, lots of people of both sexes wearing stylish clothes, and a medical office building with lots of plastic surgeons and orthodontists.  It's the wealthy part of the city.

Constant flow of traffic in North Tehran

Cappuccino in North Tehran - cost about the same as it would at home

Mercedes dealer in North Tehran

Which reminds me of something: dealing with money is a nightmare in Iran.  First of all, the numbers are so big.  Yesterday I changed 100 euros which converted to nearly 4.3 million rials, or about 43000 to one euro.  But lots of countries have had problems with inflation and dealing with it wasn't so bad.  What makes it bad in Iran is that when people speak of prices, they often speak not in rials but in "tomans".  A toman is 10 rials.  So if something is 9000 tomans, it is 90000 rials.  I read somewhere that usually toman amounts are used in speech, but rial amounts are used in writing.  But that's not always the case, I have found.  Also, in some contexts, when you ask the price of something, people will often respond with a number like "five" or "ten".  That number usually means that many thousands of tomans (or that many tens of thousands of rials).  So when I asked a taxi driver in Tabriz to take me to the bus station and I asked him how much, he said "five".  Which, in this context, means 5000 tomans, or 50000 rials.

Later I went walking around in the Tehran bazaar, close to where I was staying.

Yesterday I went to Golestan Palace, a former royal palace, also close to where I was staying.  It's pretty big and there are several buildings that you can go in, but each of them has a separate admission charge.  So I just got a ticket for admission to the gardens and to the main museum.  Very impressive (they liked mirrors - a lot) but no photography was allowed inside.

Then I went to Laleh Park, a large, beautiful park in Tehran.  There are lots of places to sit in the shade there.  Right next to the park is the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.  It was closed by the time I got there.   According to what I have read, most of the collection was locked away during the Ahmadinejad years.  When I go back to Tehran next week to get my flight home, I may go there and see what kind of state it's in now.

Last night I got the overnight train to Esfahan, so that is where I am now.  It was packed with six people crammed into my compartment and some school group (they seemed like 12-13 year olds) taking up much of the train.  It arrived in Esfahan a bit earlier than I had hoped - about 5:15 AM.  So not having any place to go to right away, I sat in the waiting room for almost two hours.  I did not book a hotel in advance in Esfahan because usually they don't reply anyway.  But this time I should have, because Esfahan has a shortage of inexpensive places to stay.  The place I wanted to stay was full, and I ended up staying in a very nice (but pricey) place.

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