One zig zag move from Kashan, through Esfahan to, two days later, Qom. Last year in Esfahan I didn't see too much, so I'm going back to what was still on my list. Not that I was left to my own devices. Seconds after leaving the hotel, a youth had hooked on to me and stayed with me until the last of the bridges over the Zayandeh river, the Shahrestan bridge, some eight kilometres later. He was very happy to practice his English on me, although he was a bit taken aback at first by my replying in Farsi, and I was a bit harsh on him, as he was quite a nice guy, but it is a bit annoying that, in such circumstances, these people assume that any tourist, as a matter of fact MUST enjoy speaking English with the locals.
My first day in Esfahan was a Friday and, as any good Muslim is not supposed to work on this day of prayer, the banks of the river were full with people taking going out with their family or friends, or both, for a day long pick nick. The main reason, I suppose, why my escort stayed with me for so long was that he lived very close to the last bridge I visited. As these things go.
Walking back, alone, I enjoyed the bridges once more and headed out to the Armenian quarter, where three churches still remain and form the centre of an active Christian community. Strangely, on Friday, all three were closed, as were practically all the shops in the area.
In the evening, trying to find an internet cafe, I found several to be closed, until in the fourth one I tried, the employee told me in his best English that "Mister, the internet is closed in whole of Iran today." This, however strange, explained the closed cafes I'd found before. I then found another cafe which worked fine.
As I mentioned earlier, Iran certainly gets a much intriguing bunch of tourists. For one thing, beside many being vegetarian,, a lot seem to walk around with pages copied from Lonely Planets. The German I crossed the Iranian border with copied a whole bunch of pages from my five year old Iranian Lonely Planet back in Tabriz, while I had to fence of truckloads of questions from the store owner.
And everyone has an irregular story. One guy I talked to on my first night in Esfahan had just come from a four week stay in Kabul, where he found life nerve wrecking, before flying to Herat and, after Iran, going into Syria to study Arabic. Another guy had given up his job (and was either gay or a born again Christian) and was now travelling the world for more than a year, "to experience first hand about disappearing cultures in this globalising world".
In Kerman, the taxi driver immediately assumed I'd be going to the Omid hotel. In Yazd, the taxi driver immediately assumed I was going to the Silk Road, in Kashan the taxi driver immediately assumed I was going to the Golestan, in Esfahan the taxi driver immediately assumed I was going to the Amir Kabir. Every time they were right. Indeed, there aren't too many decent enough places catering for tourists.
I first was shown what was the smallest single room I've ever seen, only just enough room for one bed and no windows. I opted for a double bedded room. With TV and fridge and windows on the inner courtyard, for only 1.50 euro more. When I got back from my day on the town, a light was burning in 'the cubicle'. Apparently, someone had risen to that challenge.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Esfahan and this particular hotel was that the Lonely Planet claimed they had 'something of a book exchange'. When asked, "the glass is now broken" of the library and only a few crappy 'books' were left. Mostly in Korean.
On my second day in Esfahan, I started off by walking through the bazaar to the Friday mosque, the main mosque in Esfahan. Very impressive and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in Iran. Not too many tourists parading on the grounds, but also a FRIGGING BUSLOAD OF OLD JAPANESE TOURISTS.
What was worse, I saw them again at Emam Khomeini square, the city's main attraction, a huge square with two beautiful mosques and an impressive palace.
Went again to Jolfa, the Armenian Christian's district in town, and now found the main church to be open. Interestinly, looks much more like a mosque, from the outside, than anything else.
Esfahani's are almost annoyingly aggressive, or should that be assertive. While in Esfahan, some 10 times people came up to me to ask if I was a tourist or started immediately talking English to me.
In the evening, I had dinner with the two guys I talked to on my first night. At the restaurant, on Emam Khomeini square, the Italian girl whom went on the same trip with the two Slovaks and me, in Yazd, also walked in. It's a small world.
And this post's title? There's an old rhyme: Esfahan, nesf-e-Jahan; Esfahan, it's half the world.