Sunshine, a Bridge, and a Park Bench
Tehran (pop 8.7 million)
Iran (pop 84 million)
May 3 (and May 31, 2022)
The Iran guidebooks list dozens of museums, monuments, mosques, and architectural wonders. Like other major cities, it would take a year to visit only some of them.
I decided on a brief visit to Tehran. (Perhaps a longer stay next year when I travel to the north of Iran?)
After my arrival I anticipate jetlag, long rides across the city, traffic choked streets. (I didn’t anticipate “insane” driving!)
On the afternoon of my arrival, I choose to visit a small palace with an adjoining park to see royal architecture and to meet local people.
The palace buildings are closed and deteriorating. The pleasant grounds are empty.
Hassan my guide does provide substantial information about the exterior decoration. Eventually three young women arrive.
One of them has an eye on me. But Hassan, a self-appointed spieler, takes over the conversation.
Anyway, we have a pleasant afternoon in the big city.
My travel companions Roberta and Sergio arrive late that night.
The next day we visit the obligatory National Museum of Iran. Hassan produces a pointer and proceeds to lecture. (I am a thorough traveler who can also be impatient. I check with Sergio: “In one ear and out the other” has an Italian equivalent.)
In the museum I am fascinated by the photographs of the archeological digs in the north of Iran. I look for an image of my friend Oscar White Muscarella who had participated in exploration of those areas. I also admire small objects, especially miniature works of art.
Of special interest in an exhibit of ancient decorated bricks that were looted but recently reuturned from Switzerland where they were discoverd in a warehouse.
In the afternoon we visit the important Golestan Palace Complex. The interior is known for the mirrored walls and a famous throne. But since this is a holiday afternoon, the palace buildings are bursting with visitors. I relax in the sunshine on the peaceful grounds.
In the late afternoon, I insist we visit the grand Tabiat Bridge. The "Bridge of Nature" is a modern pedestrian overpass (270 m - 890 ft) that sits above a deep ravine. The best part is the “people to people” moments. I meet Iranians, young and old. I meet young men from Afghanistan. One Afghani carries a photograph of his dream destination: Central Park!
Tomorrow, we drive to Isfahan.
PS At the conclusion of my journey, after one month on the road, I am exhausted when I return to Tehran. But Hajdi my guide persuades me to visit the Saadabad Palace Complex located in an upscale neighborhood in the north of the city. The lovely rolling hills and grounds are dotted with a series of palaces and museums.
Museums! Da un orecchio e fuori dall'altro.
Instead, I cleverly park myself on an inviting bench near another bench with other Seniors who are chatting in the spring sunshine. I correctly forecast the outcome.
I speak not a word of Farsi and their English is mostly absent. But we manage to communicate. The United States and Thailand are their favorite topics.
Then along comes another greybeard. He has lived in New York City. He follows American politics. He knows about Bernie and even corrects my pronunciation of AOC. We all enjoy an hour of animated discussion.
Beginning with my very first visit to England many years ago, I learned that the whole world is attentive to American politics. In London, for example, at least half of the evening television broadcast was devoted to the news from Washington. It is no exaggeration to say that that the United States government has a profound effect on the lifestyle and standard of living of the populations of other countries.
Especially now, the average Iranian feels the brunt of US policy.
But what is remarkable is that Iranians clearly distinguish between American politicians and ordinary American citizens.
After my return to Thailand, I am repeatedly questioned, “Is Iran safe?”
Iran is more than safe. I was regarded as a friend, a distant relative. A welcome guest!
Ask anyone who has been there.