SYNOPSIS: I explored the UNESCO Monument near Kermanshah, with taxi driver Kover.

The difference between a taxi driver who loves his job and a taxi driver who hates his job is this:  When I was traveling around with Ali, who loved his job, he would stay with his car, clean and pamper it while I was exploring the sights.  Kover, on the other hand, had packed his camera and was out and about with me all day.  He could care less about what happened to his car in his absence but was happy to have a change of pace and see some things.  Most of the sites I went to today, he had seen before.  But at least one was new to him, too.

Sharp at 7 AM he was there to pick me up.  I think this was overkill, but he had suggested the time and the Lonely Planet also recommended early morning hours for Bisotun due to the location of the reliefs.  Bisotun is a UNESCO world heritage site and I had high hopes. That is always bad.  I have to say, it is the first UNESCO site that disappointed me.  In comparison with Taq-e-Bostan which I visited yesterday, I think it was the lesser of the two, yet it had the UNESCO designation and the other does not, as far as I can tell.

Both sites are Sassanian era, 5th Century relief carvings.  Taq-e-Bostan is a lot more accessible as three ground level alcoves, present figurative reliefs of great detail and complexity.  Bisotun is spread out.  We had to climb a lot of rocky, uneven paths and there was just one narrative relief way, way up high – a steep staircase had been built to observe it at eye level but it was closed and seemed to be closed for good except, perhaps for special scholars or VIP guests?  There was one sculpture almost in the round of Hercules and another lonely stone carved with a relief of three figures.  That was the end of it unless you want to count a huge smoothed out wall which obviously was mapped out for a great relief of some sort but was never started.  A fully renovated caravanserai was on site but closed as well!  And if you really want to stretch it, you can also count a cave looking nothing much like anything which supposedly goes back to Neanderthal times and was the place where several prehistoric tools were found, now in the local museum.  This is a poor showing for a UNESCO monument.  No literature either.  Thank goodness, the signs were bilingual and Kovar had a Farsi map.  But I am not complaining.  I spend a nice day seeing things.  It was just he UNESCO label that threw me off.

Kover’s English is very limited, so we could not talk much.  He pretty much led the way following his Farsi map.  Without that, I most likely would have missed at least one or two of the points of interest, including one with a very fine view into the surrounding valley.

After Bisotun, we cruised through Kermanshah looking at a variety of mosques and shrines.  One, the Takieh Mo’aven ol Molk Shrine was the most interesting with a variety of tile images depicting the gruesome wars of Karbala in which a guy named Hussein seemed to have become a martyr. This is a big story in Shiah history but unfortunately, there was no English signage and Kover could not convey much of the details of the story either.  More homework to be done when I come home.

I asked Kover to take me to a place that served local food for lunch and he took me to a small eatery.  We got a delicious meal made up of a plate full of rice and what I would have called goulash; a sauce with meet in it seasoned with nuts.  Finally, no kebab.  That’s all I can find when I am on my own.   I need to learn how to eat more interesting Iranian food.  Not easy without speaking Farsi and without a companion.  Perhaps, Nicola and I can explore more of this together.

By about 2 PM I was ready to keel over, I am still not 100% yet.  But Kovar wanted me to meet his sister Parva.  So, he took me to his house where his sister made tea for us.  After that, I went back to the hotel and slept for a good two hours to be able to get out in search for an internet for yesterday’s post.  For the first time I was told that USB ports were disabled!  That was not good news.  I must have looked so horrified, that the clerk indicated that I should sit and wait. He went to one computer station and put in all kinds of passwords and voila – I could put in my stick to download my pictures and my blog text.  I hope this was an exception to the rule…

On my way to the internet I met “John”.  He was one of those guys without any sense of boundary.  Without asking much, he attached himself to me and talked, talked, talked non-stop.  In English, perfect English, in fact.  He was just so overjoyed that he had found somebody he could talk to in English that he could not stop himself. I finally told him that I would make a short movie of him on my digital camera so that I could share his messages with my friends at home, but then I had to leave.  For now only so much:  “God bless America!”  He is the last in a row of Iranians who have all told me the same thing:  They want to leave Iran.  None of the young people seem to see a future in this country.  None of them know how to go about changing their lives.  It is quite sad and to me mirrors more than anything my past in East Germany.  So many of us wanted nothing but out.  But there was no way out.  Anything out there seemed better than what we had.  In reality, of course, things are different.  But it is hard to explain to a young Iranian that it isn’t easy in Michigan to get a job either when just the mere sound of “America” is music to their ears.

Tomorrow, I will be on the bus for a full 9 hours – yikes!  Let’s hope it’s one of those good VIP busses.  I will be heading towards the middle of the country to meet up with Nicola from London in a few days.  But first, I will explore the area around Andimeshk on my own and rest a bit.  I am going to very small towns now.  I usually like those the most.

Good night.