Late and lazy start but with clear objectives unlike the previous day…Naqsh e Jahan square it was. With my water bottle loaded and backpack tightened to hug me close, i set off like a toddler.
Breakfast was decent – eggs, fruits, bread, cheese and jam served on request. First stop had to be at the square, which looked quite different in the mornings, much less people.
I met Atsuko outside Sheikh Lotfollah msoque and we made our way inside paying IRR 200K each for a ticket that read Persepolis. A rather steep price i felt but the regret was short lived. This Safavid masterpiece dated back to the 17th century built during Shah Abbas I’s rule. Surprisingly, this did not have any minarets and had a passage that led to the main chamber rather than being exposed directly. The dome is perhaps the finest i had come across so far, with complex tile work, it compensated for its small size and lack of features that other mosques have, such as a courtyard, iwan, etc. I almost emptied my camera’s memory card here unwilling to leave. Across this is the Ali Qapu palace which didnt seem all too impressive, so i decided to give it a miss.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
I, then left for the Shah mosque in the southern end built during the same period as the previous one.
This is a landmark in the country for its Heritage status and of course being featured on one of the currency notes too. Well, this place too had an entrance of 200K but i couldnt see the booth since it was prayer time! So, you know when to visit the place…It was undergoing renovation at the time, so couldn’t do much exploration, a regret in hindsight.
I made my way out of the square crossing the Hasht Behesht Palace to reach the Chahar Bagh Madrassa, took around 20 minutes. As luck would have it, the place was open for visitors only on Friday. Hunger had gripped me by now and there was no way I was eating fast food again! Across the madrassa was a lovely restaurant whose owner welcomed me with a big smile stretching his handle bar moustache ear to ear.
I had the eggplant dish (kashke badamjaan) with saffron rice, one of the best meals during the trip (for IRR 110K). Tumbling back to the park with a loaded stomach, i used a newspaper for a pillow and took a 45 min long nap, blissful. Energized like the Duracel bunny, i mapped my next stop, Vank Cathedral which was over 3 kms away. Braving it out, i walked and walked and walked, reaching the church finally. Woohoo and the entrance once again was 200K!
The church holds great significance as it was built by Shah Abbas I in the 1600s for the Armenians who had moved in during the war. It had features that resembled those of a mosque, such as a dome, tile works, etc. The interiors were amazingly done up with frescoes and paintings of Jesus’s life. The courtyard had a bell tower, a memorial for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and a museum. The museum was quite okay, with random artefacts and books placed around…a bit of organization would spruce it up well.
I eagerly set off for my next agenda, which was a couchsurfers’ meet at a cafe nearby – intended to be one for learning english. The meet was fine, met some really interesting people, one of whom entertained me the following day. I spent the evening there chatting away about pretty much everything under the sun and then proceeded for dinner at a restaurant not too far. The place was quite grand and seemed like a popular eatery in town; i left it to my hosts to order and order they did. Along came a plate of 6 balls (not what you think) with a small vase of pomegranate syrup. Turns out, this was rice wrapped in grape leaves flavoured already with that syrup. Ask me how i finished it, difficult task. These lovely guys dropped me a good distance towards my hostel and i walked the rest reaching by around 12.