Heading North to the Caspian!

We have ended our southern loop of this tour and are spending the night in Tehran before we head north towards Tabriz and the Caspian Sea region. Yesterday we wrapped up our sightseeing in Isfahan, a beautiful and historic city, with a visit to the main square- the Nagsh e Jahan square. On the square there is a palace, 2 mosques, and a huge bazaar. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but we’ll worth it. The history, architecture, shopping, learning about the local crafts, and just plain people watching are top notch here.

20141002_100337_wm[1]On our return to Tehran we stopped first in Natanz, a small town in the mountains, where we saw a pottery shop carrying on the traditional ceramic style that is hundreds of years old. Natanz is an interesting place, and apparently a retreat destination from the big city of Isfahan. The scenery is gorgeous, with mountain peaks surrounding the town, green gardens, and tree lined streets. It has a peaceful feeling to it, compared to the hustle and bustle of Isfahan.

20141002_102557_wm[1]On one of the peaks overlooking the town, there is a structure that stands out like a lighthouse. Bahman told us the legend of the building, which goes something like this: There was a noble who lived in the area a long time ago who loved to hunt with his favorite falcon, that he treasured greatly. One day while they were in the mountains hunting, they took a break and the man took a nap. While he was sleeping, a snake slithered close to him and his bird saw the threat to his master and tried to wake him up to warn him of the danger. The man was woken by the bird trying to tap his face with his beak and claws, and thought hid beloved falcon was trying to kill him so he grabbed his sword and killed the bird. Just as he did that he saw the snake and realized to his horror what really was going on. He killed the snake, but his hunting companion was dead. So to honor his falcon he built a monument to it on the peak of the mountain and laid his bird to rest there.

20141002_120812_wm[1]Our next stop was in Kashan, a large city that kind of sits in the middle of nowhere, at the foot of some mountains, but it’s pretty flat. There are several ancient archeological sites there but they are not open to visitors. We did go to the Fin Garden, which was one of my favorite stops last time. This garden is so peaceful and the water fountain design just adds to the serenity. There is a pavilion and a house, and everything is connected by water. Because today was the start of the weekend, there were a lot of locals enjoying the garden, too. Several children were enjoying the cool spring water that feeds the fountains and pools. The area is also known for its roses. Just outside the garden gates is a street lined with shops selling rose water, honey, perfume, and more. And just because there is no alcohol allowed in the country doesn’t mean there aren’t any stills. I came across a shop that was distilling its own rose extract with a couple of rudimentary stills, using the spring water to cool and condense the final product.

Speaking of no alcohol, there apparently is an industry here of “brewing” non alcoholic beer. It looks like they blend the ingredients like barley and hops, and carbonate and can it. The reactions were kind of mixed, but everyone who has ordered one at a meal has finished it off. There probably is non alcoholic wine, but we haven’t seen any yet.

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