Wednesday, October 17

Turkey-Iran, Day Twenty-Two: From Mashhad To Tehran

I aborted my plan to catch up on some well earned sleep while my friend revisited the shrine for another pilgrimage, and instead followed in his footsteps - except instead of heading to the shrine itself I diverted to the museums enclosed in the complex. It was a decent enough way to spend some time and definitely value for money. It was also the most eclectic collection of items I've had the pleasure of visiting, one which consisted of curios like coins and stamps, to historical religious items (including some of the previous shrines used for Imam Reza), to archaeological pottery and sport and nuclear propaganda and more typical fine art - it even had a sea life exhibit. The effort and love put into the collection was admirable, but I couldn't help but think what it would have been like with the right resources to back it.

After bidding farewell to the shrine and its complex for the last time, I swung by the Bazaar Reza, whose unique selling point was its layout - a single 800m stretch of shops and stalls that you can't help but walk the length of.

And with that, our time in Mashhad had come to an end. Less than 24 hours after we had landed, we were back at the airport to catch our flight to Tehran.

The whole risk with the Mashhad plan was sacrificing our time in Tehran - it meant that we had no nights to spend there and since we were landing around 2pm pretty much just half a day to explore the capital. That said, our flight was late that night (or more correctly, early the next day), and after checking out the things we wanted to do in deciding the Mashhad plan we were confident we would cover the main things. Truthfully though I suspect we were well travelled out and by that point didn't really mind missing out on a few things at this point of the trip - especially after the win that was Mashhad.

The first casualty of our ambitious schedule was Golestan Palace, which had already admitted its last entries five minutes before we reached there. The Grand Bazaar was a bit of a washout too, and not a patch on those we had seen during our travels. At this point we were struggling a bit to fill the day - lest our time in Tehran become a glorified transit.

We decided to check out the Milad Tower and reached there just as the sun was going down. The view was just about worth it, with our birds-eye view confirming what we had heard about the horrendous Tehrani traffic.

We did think about heading to the Water and Fire park but faced with the aforementioned horrendous traffic, by that point we were well and truly spent and even unenthusiastic about more tourism. Instead we made the more appropriate decision to spend a few hours in Football House to watch the Iran vs Bolivia match. It was a great place to chill and gave an insight (cough) to Tehrani culture that we didn't see on the tourist trail.

By that point we knew we were done. The only thing left was to grab dinner. We picked Burger Zoghali, enjoyed some decent food and then headed to the airport for our AM flight home.

And that was it. Twenty two days, three countries, thirteen towns and cities and almost fifty mosques and shrines later and I was heading home. I've been lucky to have been on some epic trips but my tour of Turkey and Iran (via Baku) was special for a variety of reasons: from the historical baggage of a cancelled trip, to the range of things I saw and did, to having different company in each leg. It was always going to be an ambitious journey but I think I managed to just about pull it off and can only think of a few things I would have done differently, while at the same time the list of things that went far beyond expectations is pretty long. The synergy between the different countries and towns only served to enhance one another - each of the countries I visited just wouldn't have been the same on their own.

But for now, I'm looking to go home. Twenty two days is well past my limit... and that's especially in the context of the imminent travel to come.

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