Arriving by bus in the middle of the night in a new city is a bad idea. You cannot really move anywhere because nothing is open and you cannot buy a map. When we arrived we had no idea how the city looked like or where its center was. Bad, bad organizing from my part and Roberto’s, but as usual we did not mind. “Let us just ride like the wind towards the city center.”, Roberto said. The problem was there is no apparent city center in Tehran, but we found out about that one week after.
Our first surprise was that it was raining. “In Iran? Raining? And I mean … it is July!” Roberto sounded very surprised. So instead of waiting for the rain to stop, we jumped on our bikes and enjoyed the freshness of the climate that was uncommon in summer.
We knew that we were in the south, so we headed north. We cycled for about an hour till we ended up in a calm street looking for a cofinet (Interet café) to contact our warmshowers host in the city. It was very early in the day, all shops were closed, including the food stands. Thanks to approximately 10000 asked persons we found a cofinet but they told us it was going to be open until 11:00 am. It was just about 8 am. So we decided to do the next best thing, look for food. We ended up in a very nice local breakfast shop that served us again: honey, butter, cheese, fresh bread and eggs in tomato sauce.
Hostless in Tehran
Next to us there were only men smoking water pipes without smoke. As I found out later they smoked non-flavored tobacco that does not have a strong smell. I felt a bit uncomfortable as the only woman, but the men around did not seem to care too much. They kept staring each at their water pipe or breakfast or at their breakfast-pipe.
After our great breakfast at a very cheap price we were determined to wait for the cofinet place. Sitting on the wet street bench waiting for the store to open a man in his early 30′s approached us in a very friendly way. He was wearing a vintage print shirt and spoke a little English. After some words he took out an atlas and asked us to point the place where we came from. After a couple of minutes talking with him he offered us to use his computer in his clothing store. We then found out that our warmshowers host had mysteriously disappeared. She had confirmed to host us and then deleted her profile and not answered our last mails. We were homeless.
When we explained to Ali our current predicament, he called his best friend Daniel. Daniel spoke perfect English and in no time they booked a very cheap hotel for us. Ali offered his warehouse to store our bikes and gave us a ride to the hotel to sleep. That same day we posted an open couch request in couchsurfing and within minutes Mortezar offered us his home. With that settled we went back to the hotel to get some sleep.
Some hours later, our door bell rang. Who may that be? I first got my long shirt and my headscarf on before I opened the door. To my surprise I saw Ali’s and Daniel’s smiling faces. They both came to see if we were alright and wanted to invite us for dinner along with their respective families. Of course we took that opportunity. Four hours later after getting a little lost in the city, Ali, Daniel, their wives Farah and Samira and their incredible kids Awolfa, Amin and Maryam showed us a very nice restaurant north of Tehran. We had mouth-watering kebab and smoked water pipe with melon flavor. After a wonderful time they gave us a ride back to the hotel where we slept a long time. The next day we arrived to Ali’s store and prepared ourselves mentally to cross half the city to get to our new house.
Friendly talks instead of arguments
We got on our bikes, double-checked our helmets, and glimpsed into the first street we would have to cycle on. Woooosh – a motorcycle rushed by – from the wrong direction. Somebody honked, another two cars rushed by and in between two girls crossed the street laughing and chatting, they did not deigning a single look at the cars. The traffic in Tehran was probably one of the biggest challenges we have ever made. In this chaotic order we somehow managed, with the help of a motorcyclist, to reach our destiny. But with the time we learned to adapt on the situation. When we left our bikes for public transport we needed to learn to negotiate with the taxi drivers. Many of them seek for an opportunity to get more money from foreigners. But once we learned their strategy we could manage ourselves pretty well. The strategy was simple: instead of arguing the prices we made them our friends. It worked so good that a couple of times they did not even charge us! Slow talk and honest vibe has its positive effect on anyone here in Iran when it comes to money negotiation.
Mortezar’s house was the most easy-going place we could imagine. It was freedom and anarchy like it should be. The day we arrived there were four people already living in his small apartment. There was one combined room of kitchen and living room, one bathroom, one shower and a small sleeping room. Our new roommates all slept on the floor. Some of them were visiting Mortezar from other towns in Iran to solve diverse Visa problems, like ourselves. We were going to apply for the so called “Stan’s” (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan) and China Visa so we were going to need at least two weeks. Let the crazy Visa Marathon begin.
Mortezar was a complete gentleman, he offered us his bed to sleep while he layed down on the floor between the others. The truth is we did not mind, once we started to get to know the entire gang we fell in love with all of them.
Toumaj and Mina come from Mashad and want to study in Weimar, Germany. They speak pretty good German but hardly any English. Hamed was currently learning Spanish. He has never been in any other country than Iran and was planning his exchange Semester in Barcelona, Spain. Majid, who we called “The Magic”, was an English teacher. He was tall, thin and a bit clumsy. Even though we had some intense talks on serious topics we all loved to make a little fun of him. But actually all of us made fun of all the others. Mostaba was an artist who did not speak any language we could understand. Thanks to him we learned a few words in Farsi. Last but not least Mortezar, who likes to be called Morrie, was a language teacher as well and spoke very good English and French, some German. He did not know any Spanish but could sing the song “El Mariachi” in Spanish.
So that was our new gang. We made a great team and spent a lot of time cooking, eating, smoking water pipe (or as Morrie calls it: Hubble Bubble) and having profound talks as well as stupid jokes.