Are you Syria?
Umm… Aleppo is awesome.
After Iran I spent a few days in Turkey in the cities of Van & Gaziantep – both great cities and a must see if you head to Turkey. But, Aleppo is awesome.
Yesterday I left Gaziantep and crossed into Syria near a town called Kilis. Was reasonably easy and only took a few hours. From the centre of Gaziantep I took a dolmus to the otogar, then another dolmus to Kilis and then a taxi from Kilis to cross the border. Exiting Turkey took a few minutes.
To get into Syria I paid $30 (paid in euro & lira) to get a 15 day single entry visa for Syria – the immigration people were friendly but not friendly enough to give me the double entry 1 month visa I was after (plan is to go to Jordan then cross back into Syria and then to Lebanon).
My taxi mate dropped me at the nearest town and put me into a van to get to Aleppo. Less than an hour later I was at the bus station on the outskirts of this wicked city. £60SYP (about €1) and 10 minutes later I was in downtown Aleppo!
What a beautiful city!
I couldn’t get into the highly recommended Tourst Hotel but directly opposite I found a cool placed called the Spring Flower Hostel – got my own tiny room with a shower & toilet for £450SYP (€8) Syrian.
I think I could walk around this city forever.
Today I woke up around 8am and went for a walk around the old city & the souqs, tried to get into the citadel (not open on Tuesdays), and then saw a gigantic mosque in the distance so decided to go check it out.
The mosque ended up being a good score because I was quickly befriended by Milar who’s Dad and colleagues were working on the construction of this Mosque – due to finish within a year. The guys on the construction site were great and let me walk all over it and get some photos of them.
With Yolly off to Turkey and Tobi making his way to India (either “hitchhiking” a container ship from Bandar Abbas or flying from Dubai) it was time for me to start to make my way towards Turkey.
I took the overnight bus from Shiraz to Tehran, checked back into the Mashad Hotel on Amir Kabir street and spent the day checking out the Golestan Palace and the Grand Bazaar.
The museums in the palace are definitely worth a look – you can either pay per museum (about 4000 rials each) or get a ticket to see them all. I have never seen such a reflective bunch of rooms – so many mirrors! Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the main palace part (sorry forgot the name!), but did get some in the other museums.
The grand bazaar is indeed grand, couldn’t say if it was on the scale of JJ market in Bangkok, but it could be. I met some guys who owned a carpet shop but wasn’t forced to buy one. I think I might actually have some basic knowledge of person carpets now after the amount I have seen 🙂
I only spent the night in Tehran and jumped a bus from the east terminal to Rasht. Why Rasht? To go see the Caspian Sea. I had intended to check out the town of Masouleh which I’d heard a lot of good things about but in the end ran out of enthusiasm to get there. I met 2 lads in my hotel who were keen to show me a bit around Rasht and took me to check out the Caspian Sea. We also stopped in at Bandar-e Anzali which would be a great place to spend some time in the summer.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Tim who I met in Yazd – he’d been exploring a fair amount of the NW of Iran and also managed to get taken in by the police for taken some photos (he said they eventually let him go and it was just a formality!).
After Rasht I bussed it to my last stop in Iran – Tabriz.
Tabriz is cool.
I arrived in Tabriz at about 4:30am and most of the cheap hotels were shut or full so I splashed out and spent 4 times by 50,000 rials/night budget. Money not well spent.
Whilst checking some emails I bumped into Yann the Frenchman who had ridden his $300 mountain bike 18,000+ kms from Singapore to Iran and was continuing on back to France. What a journey!
I ended up meeting 3 great people by the names of Babak, Reza & Amir – Reza runs the cafe net and Babak & Amir are his mates. Pretty much spent my whole time in Tabriz hanging out with these chaps. They took me out the see a bunch of places, got up early to meet me for breakfast at the local breakfast place, and didn’t let me pay for anything! When they make it to Australia one day I said I’d get the bill.