Iran: Make Love not War - Part 5 - The Caspian Riviera

October 13, 2019
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vertical view of the Caspian Sea from space
The Caspian Sea. NASA public domain image (MODIS image from the Terra satellite, 11 June 2003), via Wikimedia Commons. North at top.

IT HAD been really hot at Alamut, and the mountains semi-arid. People who lived in the valley actually went into a nearby village to get clean water!

But finally, at last, we were headed for the cool forests of the coast. And to the coast of the curious inland sea known as the Caspian.

NASA image of southern shores of the Caspian Sea from space,at dusk
The southern shores of the Caspian Sea, looking northward. Three of the roads through the mountains, on the right, can be seen converging on Tehran which is just off the photo’s edge to the south. Photo ID ISS044-E-022804 by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, taken from the International Space Station on 27 July 2015. Public domain image, via NASA and Wikimedia Commons. Some dark sky cropped out for this post.

In the first post in this series, I wrote that:

The Caspian Sea’s Iranian shore lies just north of a belt of mountains and green forests, which the mountains help to sustain by catching moisture from the Caspian Sea as mist and rain. About six million people live between the sea and the woodlands on a sort of riviera, which stretches for four hundred kilometres along the shore and can be seen from space, as somewhere that’s lit-up at night.

And that:

The Caspian riviera is where people from Tehran go on holiday. The great forest, which adds to the area’s attractions, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on 5 July, 2019: the latest in what’s already a long list of World Heritage sites in Iran.

In theory we could have driven on to the Caspian Sea over local roads; but there was a good chance that they would peter out at some point into tracks that our car wouldn’t be able to handle.

The most reliable way to get to the Caspian Sea was to go back the way we’d come till we were on the main road again, head south-east to Tehran for a while, and then turn left onto a good road heading directly northward to the resort of Chalus.

Mary Jane on the beach at Chalus
On the beach at Chalus

On the beach at Chalus

In Chalus, we soon found a good place to stay. We went out for a walk, and next thing I was offered a beer. You can imagine my surprise. This guy comes out of a shop and goes, “do you want some beer?” My driver and his brother were all up for it, though I wasn’t. We walked further down the road, and there was a whole group of drunk people dancing in a pub.

And I was actually really really shocked (or surprised), for I had never imagined that in Iran people would be drinking, let alone dancing conspicuously. My driver said, “oh, do you want to go into the pub?” And I said no, for if you want to do that in ‘dry’ Muslim’ country that’s a real issue.

One of the blogs I’ve linked to above suggests that if a place like that gets busted, the townsfolk caught up in the raid may well be able to talk their way out of it with local cops who know their wife’s cousin, or something like that.

But since the authorities have to arrest somebody, they will probably arrest whoever it is they don’t know. And if you are a visitor, well then, as the safety posters always used to say, ‘This Means You’.

And we also saw a lot of prostitutes further along the coast, too.

I didn’t go swimming, as I didn’t have one of those rather all-covering Islamic swimming costumes (so there’s something else to pack for an Iran holiday, by the way).

We went to restaurants and had delicious fresh fish and vegetables. The next day we had a traditional breakfast. There were very unusual dishes that I tried: I wish I could remember what they were. I talk about Iranian food a bit later on in this series of posts. So maybe I’ll describe what we had, after all!

We travelled through a river gorge on the way back to Tehran; another fun place to hang out. People were more than willing to say hello and be sociable.

A gorge with a mountain river flowing fast through it
The River Gorge
Mary Jane with picnickers beside a wall
Everyone was friendly and seemed to speak English

To be continued . . . If you want the whole story more quickly, check out my short book Iran: Make Love not War, now on sale with 281 pictures and maps. Click on this image for a link to where you can get a copy. I also have my first book, A Maverick Traveller, available as a free download on my website if you sign up for the newsletter.

Cover of Iran: Make Love not War. A clickable image.


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