Arrived in Ardabil on the evening of the 27th of July 2017. Met with my Couchsurfing host, Mehid, a energetic 38 years old computer engineer, at his shop, where his nice wife, a medical doctor, served us an Ayran ashi (chilled rice soup with yogurt and herbs; a.k.a. Ash-e Dugh in Persian)
After finishing the soup Mehid decided, on impulse, to take me to see the beautiful nature around Ardabil. We drove 40km to some mountains with an amazing view over the Caspian Sea to the East and Azerbaijan to the North, where we stayed until 10pm to watch the stars… Mehid was really desperate for some Nature. Meanwhile, as I had asked him for help to find a way to climb the Savalan Mountains, he introduced me to some friends that were going to do it that same night.
28th of July 2017 (6 Mordad 1396) 5°C, clear sky and light wind. Without any rest we left Ardabil at 1h30am, bought some supplies (paid 5€ for a can of tuna!) and headed to the mountains, to start climbing at 4h30am (not the traditional route, but an alternative one that approaches the summit by West instead). After 8h across breathtaking naked landscapes and steep slopes with sliding loose stones we finally arrived at “the most beautiful mountain peak on Earth” as they say, an extinguished (?) volcano crater transformed into a turquoise lake at an height of 4811m, that one can’t stop contemplate with absolute awe.
My climbing buddies were two amazing human beings: Saeed, a 45 years old bank clerk and very experienced climber (who didn’t speak English); and Akbar, a warm-hearted 32 years old statistics doctorate. I’ve no words to thank them for their friendship. Saeed ended up carrying my backpack all the way down (2h by the crowded main route) as my temperamental hernia decided to have a crises right on the mountain top. Akbar invited me to spend the night at his family’s house, which I accepted because, even though Mehid was a very nice guy, he misunderstood the concept of Couchsurfing and just wanted to hang out, not having a couch for me…
That evening was spent at Akbar’s family house eating Khoresh Gheymeh (minced beef and split pea stew served with rice and deep fried potatoes; I was so hungry that forgot to take a photo, sorry), drinking his mother’s delicious homemade, Aab Havij Bantani, carrot juice with ice cream (it was the third time I was offered ice cream before dinner… I guess it’s a thing in here), and listening to his genius little brother, Hamid, playing the tar (traditional Azeri guitar), as well as telling his curious mother and wife about life in Europe. I truly felt part of the family!
29th of July 2017 (7 Mordad 1396), 35°C, clear sky and no wind. Had a nice traditional breakfast (tea and bread with white cheese, boiled eggs and homemade cherry jam) with Akbar before leaving to visit Sheik Safi-ad-din Masuleo. This UNESCO World heritage site is an astonishing complex of blue tiled gardens, mosques and tombs, built in 1334AD, in honour of Sheik Safi-ad-din, a great Sufi and founder of the Safavid Dynasty.
For lunch decided to try thredzi (?), a kind of street food that consists of fried potatoes, tomatoes and onions with minced meat, and only cost 80 cents of euro!
After lunch took the bus to Bandar Anzali (6h, 4€). It was interesting to notice that in Iran the only car brands you see are Pegeout, Renault, Kia, Hyundai, Saipa, Zamyad and Volvo and Mercedes trucks…