A Travellerspoint blog

June 2022

Persia (prelude)

A German in a new reality

sunny 28 °C

In 2016 I went to Iran. What a trip.

Though it was not my most challenging travel, it forced me to more adjustment than other places.

I will start detailing my trip further below, but first I will leave some general words.

Most notably, I was fully illiterate for the first time. I could not read letters nor numbers, including dates of course, because even when Arabic numerals ("our numbers") were used, it applied to a different calendar system. As I usually plan and travel on my own, that caused me some headaches.
Wearing a hijab, no quick access to money and societal/political regulations too, gave this trip its unique flavor. The most impressive thing in Iran were its people, especially the women - I am in awe of them. In no way do I mean to diminish women in other (Western) places, however, in this case I would say "diamonds are created under pressure."

Excursion into German ignorance
Growing up in Germany, i believe, everyone has a certain degree of ignorance/racism in them. Of course, for everyone, their world is what they know, this and TV and books and stories, and all that which is around us, is how we create a picture of the rest of the world. Though I would say I have liberal parents who did their best to teach us to be kind, they and my surroundings did not open my mind to the world - my understanding was basically "Germany is great". And I fell into the stereotypes of my own country; today after having travelled to China, Korea and Japan, I can not fathom that I once thought the Deutsche Bahn is the best and most punctual railroad system in the world.

These moments, in which my perception of the world shifted, happened all the time during my time abroad (and sometimes within Germany) - one constant "moment" was my time in Iran.
Which only happened because I spent a semester in Istanbul as my time over there opened my eyes to Eastern Europe/Balkan countries. I went to most of those countries on a whim during a round trip to get a feeling whether they are a cool location to go to for a bit longer. And again, people in Germany told me "why?? Everyone is poor, uneducated, it is full of crime, not worth it, etc.", you know the gist. Despite my love for discovery I never gave the Balkans even a thought as travel destination - and honestly I could not say why, as noone, until I spoke of my plans, told me not to go. And exactly this is what I mean with growing up ignorant because without even directly addressing it, I simply knew not give a thought about the "poor Europe."

Today I do feel ashamed of it, and so happy I went. And it was also during that time that my head started saying "perhaps Iran should be next." Because I knew my parents would freak, I told noone where I was going on vacation. One reason was the negativity talk and the other political discussions. "Do you want to support oppressive regimes???!" is a question I heard regarding my stay in China, Indonesia and Turkey, and while I was considering a trip to North Korea. That question personally only irked me when it came to North Korea - is that even fair? When I was truly considering human rights violations I surely should have regarded them also for those countries, and others including the US, Mexico, Brasil, Kosovo, Morocco, maybe even Spain? And what is up with Germany and its weapon sales and other issues.

When I was younger I deflected the question whether travel was political. Today I am split. Travel is an economic activity and therefore automatically political, simply by the fact that visa regulations are a political instrument, but does that mean I cast a vote with every step I take; can it really be that every travel weighs the burden of making a statement? I do not think so. So my personal opinion is: the act of travel is political, but it does not have to play in role in your plans. You do you, we also make our own decisions and as there is no universal truth, there is no clear cut good or bad. Would I consider a trip to North Korea today? No. I draw my own lines.

Have I ever written that much before the actual content of a trip - also no. Therefore, politics has definitely been a part of my trip to Iran.

Iran - how I started
I flew to Iran only with pictures of me in a Hijab because I read obtaining a visa on arrival were easier and quicker. So it all began with a layover flight in Ukraine. In Kiew started my learning - I learned that Teheran was a popular shopping destination for Ukranians that stuffed giant suitcases with things from Iran. Average Ukrainians, not a rich elite that only used taxis. This titbit elevated some the stress I had felt going into the unknown: if Ukrainians see it as a fun location, my trip will surely go smoothly as well.

I went to Iran without a plan, I had only booked 2 nights at a hostel after arrival. Travellers I had met have said: "Let Iran happen, you will have a blast. Do not make any plans as the people will show you your way." And so right they were!

But from the beginning. My first experience with was with the border guards and officials of course. Everything was very organized and clear what to do. I met dozens of others who also applied for the visa on arrival. It took quite a while of waiting. I had submitted my documents together with another male traveller and only after we received my visa it turned out that that was lucky. I received my visa quicker because they had thought I was travelling with him. The officials were more suspicious towards female solo travellers. So before I had even stepped onto Iranian soil, I was greeted by the patriarchy that night.

But to the reader's information: Iran was one of the most popular destinations for women travelling solo as the stricter separations made them feel safe. Today I do not know, but from how it was back then I can only say that Iran was far from the unsafest countries I have been to. Though I had unpleasant experiences, I did not have truely bad experiences and the country I have felt most unsafe was Morocco, by a long shot. After that Kosovo, which was a different world within my Balkans travel.

All that just to say, please keep an open mind. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Iran. That country was nothing like what it seemed.

See you in the next part
PS: I will not show any of my travel friends, nor locals on my posts
PSS: It has been a while and I barely made notes or pictures. Please excuse any inaccuracies regarding the places I went to

Posted by nerikimmera 22:25 Archived in Iran Tagged backpacking iran persia traveltoself Comments (0)

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