IRAN  2001 - Mountain Damavand 5.671m
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19th July 2001
From Xanthi to Istanbul by bus
At 06:00 in the morning we were waiting for the bus that would transfer us from Athens to Istanbul. Everything was ready for the great trip. Half an hour later the big bus arrived, a passport pre-check followed and we left. After a stop at Komotini and Alexandroupoli towns, we directed to the borders between Greece and Turkey at Kipoi. Few minutes were spent in the Greek custom and then we crossed the half blue - half red bridge of Evros river. Lot of people were waiting for the visa stamp in Turkey custom, so we waited there for more than one hour. Our first bus stop was at Tekirdag or Rodesto (this last one is the ancient Greek name of the town), at Marmara Sea.
In a couple of hours we were in Istanbul's bus station named Otogar that is really enormous (16:00). From there we went to Aksaray by Metro , where we had to buy the tickets, that we had already reserved, to Tehran for the next day. After some time of walking on Ordu Street we found the Tehran Tour in Laleli and bought our tickets for only 30$. Few meters away is the tram station of Laleli, we went to Sultanahmet area near to Aya Sophia so by tram. In front of Aya Sophia we had a meeting with my friend Jarda from Czech Republic, we were late 2 hours but he still continued to wait for us. Then we were five and we were going to find a hostel to stay for the night. Finally we found Sinbad Youth hostel with 4$ each person, down of Sultanahmet area about 10 minutes from Blue Mosque. One room for all of us just to pass the night. I think that Sultanahmet is the best place in Istanbul, with a lot of tourists but also a lot of historical monuments, the best of all the Church of Aya Sophia. It was late and time for rest and sleep.

20th July 2001
The long trip from Istanbul to Tehran
George and I woke up early in the morning, a sort walk around Soultanahmet area and we entered in Blue Mosque. At 11:00 I woke up the rest members of the team, because it was time to leave from the hostel and go to Tehran Tour agency in Laleli. We had to be there before 13:00, but something quite odd happened to us, they offered us traditional Iranian food inside the agency. It was really tasteful, named "tselo choros eme": rise that we mixed with sauce from beans, meat and a lot more that i don't even know!!! At 14:00 we were in the main agency, few meters away on the same street. There we met the 6th member of the team that was Varol Uregen. I guessed from the equipment that he was carrying, that he was going to the mountains as well, and for sure to Damavand. I begun to communicate with him but he couldn't speak more than 10 English words. Finally, supported with a dictionary he told us about his plan. He was from nearby Brusa in Turkey, and was going alone to climb Damavand, it was really very odd!! A mini bus took us to Otogar terminal station, and from Otogar left another bus to Tehran. Around 15:30 we begun the long trip, and after a round in Istanbul we cross Bosporos over the big bridge (more that 1 Km long!). There was an exciting view of Bosporos and Istanbul from the bridge, this was also my first moment in the now continent of Asia. The first stop was in Izmit, in a wonderful place with broad view of Marmara Sea. The bus was a Volvo, almost full, with three drivers. Altough the highway from Istanbul to Ankara is both long and nice, we turned left some kilometers before Ankara. It was late in the night, time to sleep.

21st July 2001
Crossing the borders between Turkey and Iran
We woke up early in the morning cause of the cold, due to the chilly draughts inside the bus. Our feet were cold too. We stopped at 05:00 in morning in the middle of nowhere... We realized that we were very high on the Kurd plateau. Outside was obviously chilly and wet due to the humidity. After we had slept till 09:00 in the morning, we still had to drive a few hours to pass Erzican town. The trip was boring and the view was all the time the same, just the same, no forest, no green. Finally we saw people and civilization after a lot of kilometers. A few villages only, then we passed via Erzican and afterwards we crossed the great Firat river that is nearby the road and had the opposite direction than we had. The view there was much better and the was much green along the river. We begun speaking with the Iranians in the bus, in order to kill the time and to learn more about their country. On our way, we entered one of the biggest cities in east Turkey named Erzurum. It seemed very nice with lots of squares and green. We still had many kilometers until the border.
At 11:00 in the morning, we had a long stop for lunch. Here we begun to speak with the three odd persons that were sitting at the back of us in the bus. They are dressed really very strange, they tell us they are from Czech Republic and are going to Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan in a 3 months trip, that costs around 700$. One of them who was travelling very often there, was dressed like a citizen of these countries, in order to avoid being seemed foreigner. Two men with musical instruments begun to perform, the cooker cooked the first meat and the people begun to enjoy the fun!!! Few minutes later the Iranians and Turkish begun to dance - also a policeman with his gun on, danced very well, even if he was on duty at that time. All the people were so happy that nobody wanted to leave from there to continue the trip.
Two hours later, the area was empty of people, no citizens or cars on the roads. We met only army camps. High on the mountains you could see a big Turkish flag made of coloured stones, messanging with big letters "I am happy because I am Turkish" and a lot other nationalist messanges. The driving was at an altitude of 2.000m, and the towns that we passed are at 1.950m. We passed from 2.100m and later on from the highest pass of the way, at 2.290m. Some kilometers before the Agri town, the first police block stopped us, to check our passports. Soon another one stopped us again. Now we were in the eastern big town (Agri) of Turkey, and we needed some hours until we reach the Iranian borders. The army's blocks used to stop the bus very often till we arrived to the borders. There was a very nice view from the high volcano Ararat or Agri mountain, that is 5.165m high. It was evening when we were at the borders. We joined the queue at the Turkish customs, to get the visa on our passports. Eytichis was the first, but they were spending a long time on him... After that they moved us in a room, letting us waiting till we move to the Iranian custom.
One man took all the tourists and asked some special questions about what we had plan to do in Iran. They did not make any check in our luggage and that was good, all the rest people's luggages were checked. We exchange in the bank 100$ to rials for 7.950 rial/$. We stayed at the borders for a total of more than 4 hours. The weather was rainy, and we begun the trip in the night. Suprisingly, while entering into the first town, town Bazargan, just "a few meters way", we stopped again!!! There we met Ali who speaks good Greek and had visited Greece plenty of times. He makes exports and imports in Greece. He was very happy to meet us, and for us very odd to meet people who can speak our language. At 23:00 we left from Bazargan. A lot of blocks on the way for passport check. It was late again, time to sleep the second night in the bus.

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