Cycle touring Iran, an experience I will appreciate and remember for the rest of my life. But let’s start from the beginning!
Iran, so as Turkey, was a set country from the beginning when choosing my cycle touring route through Asia. About no other country, I previously heard so many interesting and good stories from other cyclists. As in western media, Iran is mostly only reported negatively and in a political context, I wanted to explore and get to know the country on my own and form my own opinion about it.
On the 31.07.2019 I crossed the border to Iran in Astara. When I did, the border checkpoint was crowded with Iranian people going back to their country, most of them had huge bundled packages full of goods with them. I had about the same amount of luggage with me, just all loaded on a bicycle, so the attraction was guaranteed! I was then quite surprised when a customs officer called me and opened me a side door to be able to skip the crowds.
It was not only that, but when he handed me over my stamped passport, I also got a hand full of Iranian sweets and a happy “Welcome to Iran!”. “Was that just luck?”, I was not sure, but it was definitely the most welcoming entry to a country I ever had. On the other side of the checkpoint, once again, everything was new again, the Arabic script, the smells, the crazy traffic, and much more. It was great!
Less than 10 minutes later and as I was cycling through the Iranian Astara, a passing family in their car asked me to stop. They were super happy to see me on my bike and wanted to know where I’m from, where I’m going, and much more. A few minutes later in the conversation, I was invited to visit their home, to join them for food and even spend a night.
I was smiling and I realized that the sweets an hour before haven’t been just luck. There I became aware of all the stories I previously read about Iran “This is it, this is the unique kind of hospitality everyone wrote about”. After just a few minutes and as a stranger, I got invited to someone’s home, something which is hardly imaginable in Switzerland. It was a new experience to me, and at the same time it felt incredibly amazing.
Unfortunately, I had to decline the invitation because it was only 10:00 o’clock in the morning and cause, on the other hand, I already had a Warmshower.org- host in Talesch 80km away. The first few kilometers cycling in Iran were not only very interesting but also quite tough because of the weather. As I was cycling in northern Iran and along the Caspian sea, the temperatures have been still around 43 degrees but at the same time, it was also super humid. In some roadside shops, I was happy to see they were selling frozen bottles of water, which gave me ice-cold water for an hour or so. Also on the way to Talesch i stopped for the first Iranian Restaurant and the first Iranian Kebabs with salad and the famous and indispensable portion of Persian rice.
In Talesch it was Teymour and his family waiting for me. Teymour accepted my request the day before, even though his wife was returning home after surgery from the hospital on the same day as my planned arrival. Regarding these circumstances, I didn’t feel comfortable to cause them additional efforts while hosting me. Instead, they insisted on hosting me, which once again, showed me what importance hospitality has in Iran.
Together with Teymour and his family, I spent a wonderful 2 Days. We went to the city to buy delicious pistachios and dates, we made a trip to the nearby mountains to have some tea and freshly made kebabs, and we had a lot of awesome homemade food with all the family members which came by to visit Rooshanak being back from the hospital. As Teymour is a Ph. D. in teaching English and as he runs his own private English school, I was able to visit 2 different classes and answering questions about my bicycle journey. As luck would have it, it also turned out that our friends Matt and Jasi from Pedalpromise, have been hosted by Teymour and his family as well a few years back on their way to Australia.
It was my first experience being hosted by an Iranian family, and it couldn’t be any better![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]