Day 251 & 252 | Kashan

Day 251 | Sunday November 20

At my next stop in Kashan I was supposed to stay at a friend of someone I met in Tehran. Last night I received a message that they had to get out of town. I had a look at the replies on my Instagram post and there were many people who offered me a place to stay in Kashan so I contacted one of them and 10 minutes later it was confirmed. I love the power of social media. He said he would wait for me at the toll gate at his city. I started driving and suddenly there was a split with 2 options: Kashan or Kashan. I decided to go to Kashan but I would find out this was not the highway but a smaller road. Probably it was the more scenic and interesting route . I arrived in the city without passing the pay toll so I sent him my location via Telegram and a few minutes later he, Saeed, and his sister and cousin picked me up. They all spoke very well English. I followed them to their were the rest of the family was waiting. We had lunch on the floor and they laughed a lot about my tryings to sit in crossed-legged just like them, my muscles are not so flexible anymore. Everything happens on the ground here and they laughed a lot when I asked them why they have a dinning table here as I thought it was just for decoration.

We explored the city and they brought me to Fin Garden. A historical Persian garden with a story. It contains Kashan’s Fin Bath, where Amir Kabir, the Qajarid chancellor, was murdered by an assassin sent by King Nasereddin Shah in 1852. Completed in 1590, the Fin Garden is the oldest extant garden in Iran.

Next stop The Tabātabāei House, a historic house. It was built in the early 1880s for the affluent Tabatabaei family. It consists of four courtyards, wall paintings with elegant stained glass windows, and includes other classic features of traditional Persian residential architecture, such as biruni and andaruni. The house is almost 5,000 square meters and has been very well renovated. The interior yards have beautiful gardens.

The house had belonged to a trader man in carpet field. the most important trade of Kashan is rugs and carpets and many of rich men are in carpets and textiles fields in this city.

For dinner they decided to change from the floor to the dinning table, a more convenient way to conserve the meal. Iranian food is similar to Turkish food. A lot of meat, kebab, chicken and bread. The breads are different tough, it are long flat beds.

Day 252 | Monday November 21

We visited the old bazar in Kashan, a 2 kilometers long indoor street with many small shops. You can buy everything here: from cow eyes to fans and brooms to carpets. Kashan is one of the 4 carpet capitals in Iran. They still make it all by hand here. The bazaar has a famous architecture, especially at its Timche-ye Amin od-Dowleh section, where a grand light well was built in the 19th century. The bazaar is still in use and is a few miles in total length. In the bazaar’s complex beside the main bazaars, there are several mosques, tombs, caravanserais, arcades, baths, and water reservoirs that each were constructed in a different period.

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Day 248 – 250 | Last days in Tehran and visiting Qom

Day 248 | Thursday November 17

We headed back to Tehran and in the afternoon I had another interview. This time with the guys from Radio Budio, a podcast about tech-related stuff. The Iranians really like that there is a Westerling here who gives some positive attention to Iran. What you see mostly on the news is bad stuff and not really true. The guys also arranged that I could stay at one of their friends and we went there with the crew for dinner and watch some movies.

Day 249 | Friday November 18

Good internet is a rarity in Iran and as I had a decent connection at my host and time (which is a rarity too the last weeks) I spend some hours working.

For lunch I went with Nima to a cafe were the guys from Radio Budio joined us. Some of their friends came by and said I was a celebrity etc. Cool stuff.

Today I was actually supposed to leave to Qom early in the morning but I still had my luggage at Ali’s place and he had some delay. He was supposed to return in the afternoon but it became evening and I stayed another night in Tehran.

Day 250 | Saturday November 19

Now it was really time to leave. I said goodbye to my new dear friend Ali. Even since before entering Iran he had been taken care of me and he made my stay in Iran so far very pleasant. He set up meetings with sustainable related companies and organized the presentation at the University. He has a girlfriend in Holland so I’m sure I will see him again.

Time to leave to Qom. Aidin, who interviewed me last week had a friend there were I could stay. The road to Qom was pretty amazing, I suppose you can call this already the desert and I had never been in the desert before. Sand blew over the highway. Some people had warned me not to go to Qom. It’s the most religious city in Iran and until just 3 years ago it was forbidden for non-moslim people and some areas are still not safe.

My host Leilli was a cool woman who welcomed me with some pizza and french fries. Iranians really love fastfood. She showed me the city and the highlight was the holy shrine, or more like holy shit! From the inside the building was decorated with mirrors and silver, it shined so bright it almost hurt my eyes. In the middle of the mosque was the cemetery of some special person. People were crying while touching the grave, a special moment to witness.

Leilli got tired and went to her parents place to rest. I walked around through the small alleys and old neighborhoods, very interesting to visit. Funny moment: a kid saw me taking pictures and they approached me to take one of them. Exactly at the moment that I shot the picture he sneezed and I captured him at his not most prettiest moment. Watch the picture below.

When it started to get dark I walked back home, the whole day I didn’t feel unsafe for one moment.

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Day 246 & 247 | Sustainability & Cars in Tehran

Day 246 | Tuesday November 15

Today started with a second meeting at NRI. The researchers explained me their renewable energy programs. They are in the progress of creating a battery car with a micro turbine inside. An interesting and intelligent concept. I interviewed them about the projects and how sustainability is being applied in Iran. Stay tuned for the video.

Tehran

The afternoon I had no appointments and finally some time to explore the city. Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 9 million in the city and 16 million in the wider metropolitan area, Tehran is the most populous city of Iran, the 2nd-most populous city in Western Asia and the 3rd-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

The majority of the people of Tehran are Persian-speaking people,and roughly 99% of the population understand and speak Persian; but there are also large populations of other Iranian ethnicities in the city such as Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Lurs, and Kurds who speak Persian as their second language.

There have been plans to relocate Iran’s capital from Tehran to another area; due mainly to air pollution and the city’s exposure to earthquakes. To date, no definitive plans have been approved. A 2016 survey of 230 cities by consultant Mercer ranked Tehran 203rd for quality of living.According to the Global Destinations Cities Index, Tehran is among the top ten fastest growing destinations.

Day 247 | Wednesday November 16

Another day, another interview. This time with Aidin from IranKhodro Magazine. IranKhodro is one of Iran’s 2 biggest car manufacturers (I have visited them both now) and they have their own magazine. Of course they write about cars. Aidin was a very nice guy and like most Iranians they tell me things like: it’s a big honor to meet you, I had the best day this month etc. It’s very heartwarming. Aidin took me for breakfast and wanted to shoot pictures after. He thought the car was dirty (which was true, the last time I cleaned the outside was in Norway) so we went through a carwash. The the car is 50 shades more blue now.

2 days ago at the office of Autoworld I was interviewed by a journalist, Pegah. Today we met again and she showed me her city. We went to Sa’Dabad Complex, this is a 300 hectare complex built by the Qajar and Pahlavi monarchs, located in Shemiran. Today, the official residence of the President of Iran is located adjacent to the complex.

The complex includes more than 180 hectares of natural forest, streets, qanats, galleries, and museums. The complex was first built and inhabited by Qajar monarchs in the 19th century. After an expansion of the compounds, Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty lived there in the 1920s, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, moved there in the 1970s. After the 1979 Revolution, the complex became a museum.

We arrived a bit late and only had time to see the Green House. An impressive building which was the resort of one of the kings. One room was completely decorated with mirrors and silver. The king didn’t had a bed in his bedroom because he preferred to sleep on the floor. He used to be a soldier and sleeping on the ground was common. He always had his boot within reach so he could take action when needed, a strong guy.

In the evening Pegah took me to her friends, about 20km outside of the city. We had a lot of drinks and this was the first time in Iran and probably since Istanbul that I had some alcohol. Good times.

Day 245 | More cars in Tehran

Day 245 | Monday November 14

With professor Afshar I went to the R&D department of Saipa. Saipa is Iran’s biggest car manufacturer. A representative came to the presentation yesterday and invited me to come over. They gave a presentation about the brand and their plans to produce their own electric car. The car will be an existing model which they would convert to electric. Some specs: 20 kWh battery, 150km range, topspeed 140 km/h. I was given a tour e around their facility which they call ERIC. They have areas were they simulate different environments, acceleration tests, quality control and more.

It was an interesting visit and great to see that there are companies who want to bring electric cars to Iranian customers.

In the afternoon I had a special meeting, I was invited by the deputy of the Iranian Minister of Environment. He heard about my visit to Iran and contacted me via via, interesting how things are arranged here. The meeting was at NRI (Niroo Research Institute). NRI has played a leading role in developing new technologies for the Electric Power Industry and is the major research organization affiliated to the Ministry of Energy of Iran. There were a lot of very interested professors, researchers and delegates who came to have a look at the car. Because I found out they are doing a lot of interesting things regarding to renewable energy I asked them if I could come back tomorrow for some interviews.

Than we headed back to the office and from there we went to the office of Autoworld, who published an article about me in their newspaper today. The owner wanted to meet me and we had some talks about the project. Every Iranian who I speak to wants to know how I experience the people in the country. Apparently they find it very important that the people here are friendly and welcoming, which is definitely so.

After the meeting the guys from Asbebokhar picked me up and they took me to the Milad towner. The world’s 4th biggest broadcasting tower. It’s 400 something meters tall and it has stores, restaurants and a museum. Unfortunately it was not possible to go to the top today as the level of pollution was to high. Instead we went to a pizza restaurant for dinner and after they brought me home.

Today was a crazy hectic day. Especially here in Tehran as the traffic is so busy and crazy and it exhausts me a lot. Im staying at Ali’s place at the moment who still takes care of me like a hero.

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Day 244 | A lot of cars in Tehran

Day 244 | Sunday November 13

One of the journalists who interviewed me yesterday was part of Asbebokhar, it’s a Youtube channel about cars in general and they wanted to meet me to make a movie about the car. I met them in a deserted part of the city were some buildings were destroyed. They had a big land rover and in this setting they wanted to show the differences between big polluting cars and electric cars. It were all young guys who published these videos on their youtube channel and are very active on social media. After the interview they invited me for lunch at a very fancy restaurant in the rich part of Tehran. I am really getting spoiled in Iran! The guys posted some photos about me on their Instagram account and within an hour I got 250+ new followers! So great. This is their account and also check out The Rick Kids of Tehran on Instagram. It’s a very interesting account about how young and rich people life in the city. It’s another world.

After lunch we drove to the office of BYD. It’s a Chinese electric car maker and they are planning to bring their EV to the Iranian market. They heard about my project and wanted to meet me. They explained that Taxi companies are interested in electric cars. Taxi’s drive about 200km a day and their car (the E6) can drive 400km. In the city are 5 million cars and of course this contributes a lot to the air pollution in the city, which is huge. I could testdrive the E6, it’s a big car and very heavy, 2.400kg but it’s silent and drives good. It also has a very flashy and futuristic display which looks like a Japanese pinball-machine.

Than I had to rush back to the city. The traffic here is very aggressive and dangerous sometimes. Drivers totally don’t care, they just go wherever they want without thinking about the cars around them and not even using their turning signals. Apparently there is just one rule here: fill in the gaps.

Professor Afshar invited me for dinner, I drove to the office of Ali and Mehmet and met the professor and 2 other ones of the university. The restaurant was very fancy. Between waterfalls we have a private cabin were we ate some delicious local food. Pure joy.

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Day 242 & 243 | Tehran

Day 242 | Friday November 11

Time to head to Tehran. It was over 200km and Ali arranged a recharge place at his family in Karaj. When I got there I had 37% left and it could be possible to reach Tehran. Because there were enough possibilities to charge the car in the chance I couldn’t make it I gave it a go. With 15% left I got to my address in the capital and did 211km on a single charge, that’s a record!

So finally I met Ali. Ali had been helping me to get from the border to Tehran by connecting his friends and family and he had made the first week very easy for me. We drove to his parents place were I was introduced to his family. Later Mehmet, a colleague of Ali came by with his kids. His 3-year old son called me ‘Bibi’ all the time.

Day 243 | Saturday November 12

Ali arranged a presentation at the K.N. Toosi University in Tehran, a technical university. I was welcomed students of the uni and professor Afshar who builded his own electric car already in 2010. The story behind this was a sad one: his mother died because of the air pollution in the city. He than decided to build an environmental friendly car while using only cheap and local parts.
All the students came to see the car and they even made a banner with my name and personal welcome message on it, how great!
In the big auditorium I gave a presentation about Plug Me In, how the first months have been, my experiences with the electric car and my findings on sustainability. It was the first time I had to speak for a big audience. I always hated to speak to audiences, for examples at school but now I kind of enjoyed it. I thought it was special that so many people came to hear my story.

After the presentation there were some interviews and I was introduced to the board of the university. Everyone was very polite and eager to hear my story. I found it’s also really great that even in Iran they find sustainable mobility important.

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Day 239 – 241 | While in Iran

Day 239 | Tuesday November 8

The last week I got behind with a lot of work and as I was alone in the house and with a decent internet connection I catched up with that.

Day 240 | Wednesday November 9

A long day awaited me, I wanted to cover a distance of 300km so I set the alarm at 7 and left at 8. My host in Maku arranged that I could charge halfway down in Miyaneh. A friendly guy was waiting for me there and showed me around. It was not a big town but I can enjoy all the small streets and people walking here. We went to a bridge which was destroyed during WWII by the Persians to prevent the Russians coming in. Here in Iran family relationships are very important so whenever I come in touch with someone their nephews, cousins, aunts all come by to meet me.

Around 5 the car was charged 90% and I thought it was enough to do the remaining 150km to Zanjan. Many people warned me that it was dangerous to drive at night but now there was no other possibility. It happens a lot that policeman stop me, every time I think they wanted to see documents or check the car but in stead they shake hands with me, ask me where I from and let me continue. Everyone is very friendly here. Driving at night was not that scary, the route I’m taking was the old Silk Route and it’s still an important transport route. I drive behind trucks so I have an extra guard and nothing weird happened.

A new host was waiting for me, Saeit. 32 year old guy with wife and 2 children. He wanted me to park in his garage but the ramp was steep. I still have a trauma from when I hit a bump in Russia and thought it was better not to try it. His neighbor didn’t had a ramp so I parked my car there. A few hours later he rang the door and told that his socket was melting, ai. This didn’t happen before. We left the car their and made a connection with the cable over the street to the garage of Saeit. While getting farther away from Europe I have to do more McGyver tricks to charge the car.

All the family of Saeit came by, we had some fruit, drinks and food and went to bed early as I was dead tired.

Day 241 | Thursday November 10

Saeit showed me his university were he was working. I still don’t know exactly what kind of job he is doing there but I’m sure its interesting.

Next destination: Takestan. 140km from Zanjan and when I arrived there I had 40% battery left, a top 3 record, it was around 20 degrees and mostly flat roads. I was early in Zanjan and wanted to discover the town on my own. In stead of going to the center I drove and walked through the outskirts and attracted a lot of attention with my car. Kids drove to me with their bikes to say “hello, howww arrr you?” and took a lot of selfies with me. In another neighborhood some guys approached me, offering me chia and thea. All the people are so damn kind here.

In the afternoon I got in touch with Ali who arranged a place to stay here. He gave me the address of my new hosts and I started driving there. While driving there was a car who was horning at me all the time and blocking my way. I thought he was some crazy driver but Ali gave me a ring and told me his cousin was behind me. 

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Day 236 | Khoy

Day 236 | Saturday November 5

Maku

Mr. Behrouz took me into town to get an Iranian SIM-card, now I can call and use internet on my phone. There are some restrictions on internet in Iran though. All the populair social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked so I use a VPN to connect to that.

To Khoy

After breakfast I started driving to Khoy, were I found a CouchSurfing host. The traffic here is crazy! Drivers pass you from all directions and there don’t seem to be much rules here. If a car is parked next to the street and wants to join the traffic he doesn’t use his signals and not even watch behind to see if a car is coming. He just starts driving.

My hist Shahin picked me up in the centre of the city. At his house he introduced me to his brother, father and mother. All very hospitable people who appreciated that I was here. Shahin guided me through his city. A very typical Iranian city were not many tourists can be found. The place is well know for the biggest sunflower-seed market in the country country, which gave the city the nickname ‘Sunflower City’ and the grand bazar.

Toilets

Something maybe worth mentioning: the toilets. They are the same as in Turkey but I didn’t mention it. They are weird holes in the ground and you need to squat the do your business. It’s a but uncomfortable when you are not used to it but and hard to keep your balance. There is no handle to hold on too and with the wet ground im sometimes afraid that I fall into my own… you know what. This kind of toilets are more hygienic because you don’t sit on a toilet seat I still try to avoid them. Restaurant and hotels usually have regular ones.

Khoy

Around 200.000 people live in this city and it’s the capital of Khoy County. People here speak Farsi and Turkish. Khoy was named in ancient times for the salt mines that made it an important spur of the Silk Route. Khoy is located in the mountains, so the weather is very cold in winter and cool in summer. Spring weather in this city is very pleasant. The city is located in the vicinity of mountains such as Chelekhaneh Mount and Avrin Mount (The highest mountain of West Azarbaijan Province).

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Day 235 | Entering Iran

Day 235 | Friday November 4

I ended the latest blog on this day before I crossed the border. As I’m out of Iran now I will share all my experiences so from here I pick it up again.

Border Crossing
Crossing the border was actually an easy process. To be honest, the easiest border I had ever passed when there was a check necessary. I arrived around 7pm and it was a little dark. I was afraid that they would got a little suspicious with all me gear and weird stuff (battery pack, cables) in my car. The guard was calling with one hand and smoking a cigarette in his other hand. He asked me to open the rear door, looked at it, closed the door and said it was ok. I had to go inside of the building for passport control and carnet de passage formalities. This was the first time I had to deal with this. A carnet is a document for which I made a deposit of 5000 euro. For the country this is a safety that the car will be exported from the country. If I would leave the car inside the country I will lose the deposit. I got an entry stamp on one form and if I leave I will get another stamp. When this was done I got a temporary car insurance and everything was good. The whole border crossing process took me about 45 minutes.

Into Iran
I’m in touch with Ali for a while. He’s the friend of Madelon, a woman who found me via social media. She had been giving me some tips about traveling through the Middle East and got me in touch with Ali who lives in Tehran. He had been looking for hosts around the country for me and helped when needed. A friend of Ali, Behrouz was waiting for me at the border with his son. We drove to their house in Maku which was just 15km away.

Maku
Behrouz is owner of a oven factory and apparently had been doing very good business. His house was stunning. I could park the car in the garage which had underfloor heating. My car was still full of ice and snow so perfect that it could melt here.

Behrouz’ house had 5 floors and with an elevator we went to my room, which was very impressive. The bed was lit by many colorful lights and I had a private bubble bath, impressive. With the elevator we went to the first floor were the living area was. On the third floor he had a swimming pool but I didn’t see it, unfortunately.

In the living room his wife, 2 daughters and cousin were waiting. I wanted to greet the woman by shaking their hands but they couldn’t do this. A bit uncomfortable situation but thats their religion.

They showed me how hospitable the Iranians are. I got treated with fruit, thee and more delicatessens.

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Day 237 | Tabriz

Day 237 | Sunday November 6

Sightseeing

Shahin my hosts took me for a tour through the town. We visited an museum which showed artifacts like pots, pans, cutlery, guns and more stuff from the old days. The city is very vivid and feels authentic. Not many tourists visit this place. My plan for today was to go to Urumieh but a friend in Germany who arranged a place to stay there told me there was a miscommunication and they were not home. It was not a big problem as I wanted to go to Tabriz tomorrow and I could reach that from both Khoy and Urumieh. My host already let me know that he would appreciate it if I would stay another night so it was all good. 

Day 238 | Monday November 7

Around noon it was time to leave. My next destination was Tabriz, 170km from Khoy. While it was a challenge to drive distances like that the last days in Turkey it was very easy now. Temperatures are around 15 degrees and while there are some mountains the most parts are flat. The scenery is stunning, a lot of sand, mountains and old clay buildings pop up next to the highway.

My host

On CouchSurfing I found a guy who could host my, Sadiq. 34 year old banking guy. He just started hosting people 2 weeks ago and his first guests were a Dutch couple who are traveling from Holland to Singapore with a Land Rover. We have a similar route but it would be hard to catch up with them as they do long distances one a day.

Sadiq is really cool, making jokes a lot. He didn’t drink one zip of alcohol in his life, most Iranians never did and it’s almost impossible to get even a beer in this country. We were talking about tequila and he said “yeah I have seen this on TV”. Unbelievable, I know things like Barack Obama or Mars from TV and he tequila… Sadiq took me to a local restaurant, we sat on a thing that looks like a bed, with pillows and everything, and is close to the ground. Like in Turkey meat and bread is the most common food.

Tabriz

Tabriz has 4 million citizens which makes it the most populated city in the Iranian Azerbaijan, one of the historical capitals of Iran, and the present capital of East Azerbaijan Province. Located in the Quru River valley between the long ridge of the volcanic cones of the Sahand and Eynali mountains, Tabriz’s elevation ranges between 1,350 and 1,600 metres (4,430 and 5,250 ft) above sea level. The valley opens up into a plain that gently slopes down to the eastern shores of Lake Urmia, 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the west. With cold winters and temperate summers, the city is considered a summer resort. Tabriz is named World’s Carpet and Crafts City, it is also appointed as the exemplary tourism city in 2018 by Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

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