Istanbul to Tehran = 74hrs
04/02/2009 - 07/02/2009
The trip to Tehran
The first thing that struck when I walked onto the train was the amount of western travellers that were on it, far from the Turk-Iranian mass I expected. It wasn't long before we all got talking and there was a lot of people were going skiing in various places throughout Iran, must admit it never expected Iran to be a major skiing destination.
I tried to stay up until we left Istanbul, but after an hour and a half I still couldn't tell if we were in Istanbul or not so I went to bed. The next day was mainly taken up by sleeping and eating. The few things that I do remember was the amount of snow that we were passing through, a weird stadium that we passed in the middle if nowhere and lastly a tank racing along beside us a the army barracks. Later on in the day I went along to the restaurant car to find that it was packed. Most people were playing chess, a game I am hopeless at. It got quite competitive in there even the guards starting playing but by the looks of it they were worse than me. One of my thoughts was to get an Lonely Planet guide of Iran when I was Istanbul, however, that proved to be pretty impossible so I was quite happy when I got speaking to people who had a copy and didn't mind me scribbling down some notes.
We were supposed to be at Lake Van just before Midday, but it was turning 4 o'clock and there was still no sign of the Lake, we finally got to the Lake and sun down. Unfortunately the great views and scenery that we were all toll about were hidden by the blackness of night. The trip took a good few hours with very little to do. We tried to exchange money but we seemed to bankrupt the local money changer, the shop owner. He ended up having to go around and ask the locals for money to change. When we arrived at the other side of the Lake we had to wait for the train. When the train finally came there was madness that came with it. Not only were the cabins a lot smaller it was also now four to a cabin, which wouldn't seem that bad but nobody knew what was going on or why the whole train wasn’t opened up. I was flung into a room with 3 Swedish guys who were going skiing, well after they picked there friend up form the airport.
Early in the morning we were woken by Turkish customs and immigration, we were stamped quite quickly. Before dawn we were woken again this time by Iranian officials. This pr5ocess took a bit longer. They first sent someone in to check on the passports before sending us to the hut to get our passport stamped. I had some explaining to do, when the guy first guy came on and asked where I was from I answered Scotland thinking since he was in immigration he would know that it was part of the UK. Well after about 5mins of discussion and assuring him I was British he finally left me alone and then proceeded to get Sweden mixed up with Switzerland. When we went to get off the train nobody really paid attention to what we were jumping out onto, so you can imagine the looks on your faces when we debunked into 1foot of snow. One of h Swedish guys only were sandals and shorts to the customs house, he was a wee bit cold when he got back to the train.
The train was running very slow and very late, we were supposed to arrive in Tehran 12hrs after arriving at Tabriz, but we watched that come and go with no real sense of where we were. When we asked the stewards when we would arrive, they would just say its running later than expected/. We finally pulled into Tehran train station after 12 at night a good 7hours late. The next problem was trying to get accommodation for everyone, as there was now a group of about 8 of us. We got two taxis and scowered the town looking for somewhere to stay, we tried all the places shown in the lonely planet but they were full, so the taxi drivers tore round the city trying anywhere. To be honest that had been trying for what felt like an hour. The taxi drivers finally found somewhere. The Hotel Dora, it was a 4star hotel. The prices were very high, but we finally managed to get a deal, where we could have four in the triple room which meant someone sleeping on the sofa couch, in case your wondering I had the pleasure of the sofa couch, but at least the breakfast was good.