The decision on where to go next was made while handing over a 50 rupee note during check out when the receptionist asked if i had any indian currency (they had a large pin up of notes from across the world). Rewind…I woke up supremely confused whether to chill during the day and leave for Maranjab caravanserai to spend the night under the stars or head to Abyaneh, one of the most important on my list of to-dos and proceed to Isfahan.
Choosing the latter, i checked out. remembering one reza from the previous day offering taxis to abyaneh, i went in search of him and negotiated a cab for 700k to visit hanjan castle, a fire temple and abyaneh. In 10 minutes, one Ibrahim arrived in his rusty old Peugeot to pick me up.
We set off first to his house because he wanted to show off his 1.5 y.o. son, Mehrdad. It was in the outskirts of the city and the house was rather magnificent, pretty massive and clean. I was greeted by his little son and wife (forgot name), both the parents spoke good english and did so with the little one as well. Tea and snacks came along with some play time before we were back on the road.
20 mins down and we reached the middle of nowhere with an arch like structure standing alone, perhaps since centuries. This was a fire temple in the early ages and then became a centre for people to gather during cold days around the fire. It was desolate and i doubt had tourists visiting it often. Good to see if you are headed to Abyaneh.
Next stop was the Hanjan castle. The drive to it was one of the most scenic ones i have experienced, long roads simmering under the heat with the mountains in the background. On the way you will pass through Natanz nuclear facility guarded by anti aircraft guns and military personnel for a fairly wide range. As much as you would want to click photos of the road and mountains, large parts of the area are restricted, always good to check with your driver before doing so. You certainly dont want to be pulled up by the army there!
About 30 minutes more and there was Hanjan, in a state as dilapitated as the previous. It was in the edge of a village on a cliff. The sections of the castle and rooms seemed to have undergone renovation very recently…it felt more like a village within a village rather than a castle. Expect no info, guide, etc. Not a very touristy place, we got a good view of the castle on our way back from the road on the other side, worth the click.
20minutes more and there we were in Abyaneh, there is a toll at the entrance worth 50K (INR 100) to enter and you get a small map too of the linear route to be followed through the city. Ibrahim dropped me off in one end of the city and said that he would me in the other after 1 hour or so. I started walking and the weather was much cooler here. The village has a few mosques and temples to see besides handicraft shops for their traditional clothes, the real beauty lies in navigating through its alleys. I found a way somehow to get to the highest point of the village, and the view was amazing. The village under my lens with the mountains taking up the equator was quite a sight. On my way back, i got chatting with a lovely local lady, Sharareh, who spoke rather good English and had been educated in Tehran. She was planning to convert her house into a traditional homestay, the only one of its kind in the village. She was joined by a neighbour of maybe 70 with her 8 something grand-daughter, both of whom had massive smiles all throughout to compensate for the lack of English. Some chit chat about Indian textiles, we exchanged contact details and i was back to my car.
Reached Kashan not later than 330 and got dropped off at the bus terminal. The ticket to Isfahan costed 85K (INR 170), this time the seats were similar to the ones anywhere else in the world, economy i would say. 3 hours and we reached a city almost as packed as Tehran.
I got a taxi for 150K out of sheer laziness and the over enthusiastic driver poured tea for me while he drove breaking every possible traffic rule. We reached the Chahar Bagh street, a prime area in the city and the hostel stood out with its LED lights reading Amir Kabir Hostel, probably the most popular place for tourists there.
I was sharing a room with 3 others and without waiting any further, set off to see what i came to Iran for, the Naqsh-e-Jahan square. 10 to 15 minutes of walking through busy streets and voila, you reach a place that is almost a million sq feet in area, the largest i have seen. The square comes to life with small and large families gathering with their chadors, picnic bags, chai kettles, etc. and settling down until later after dark. On one end is the entrance to the bazaar, facing it is the Jameh mosque or Imam mosque. On the west is the Lotfollah mosque and opposite that is the Ali Qapu palace. Between the two sits a string of fountains where kids create a ruckus with all the water. On all four sides, souvenir and handicraft shops colour up the place and mind you, things in these are damn expensive, maybe even 2x the price of the same stuff you might get in one of the alleys outside the square.
After a good day, dinner has to be, you guessed it right, falafel with zam zam (their coca cola). I was back at the hostel to be greeted by Atsuko, a cheerful Japanese lady, Olivier, a bubbly Swiss, Camille, a pro-India French teacher and Billy, a show off Indonesian. People talked and asked questions, i replied as much as i could till my eyes wore out.