Thanks to the terrible internet facilities of Eastern Turkey, I have got a lot to catch up on. While Western Turkey is similar to Europe, and certainly more developed than Romania or Bulgaria, the East is completely different. While Ankara has Starbucks and Laura Ashley, Dogubayazit has mud-brick houses and tanks in the street (to discourage Kurdish separatists). We were on a detour to Ankara to obtain visas for Pakistan, which took three days to arrange. While Ankara is a pleasant city and would be great to live in, it has nothing to offer tourists. So it was with great relief that we were finally able to resume our itinerary.
Iran has surprised and amazed all of us. The people have been friendly and hospitable, and are always keen to talk to visitors. After visiting the Babak Fort we descended towards the Caspian Sea. This is a highly fertile area which produces rice and tea. I was certainly not expecting to see paddy fields in Iran. The terraced village of Masouleh was our next destination. This is very popular with Iranian tourists, but we were the only foreigners there. We became an attraction ourselves, with lots of Iranians wanting to talk to us and take pictures. It is amazing to meet people who have never spoken to a European before. Most want to talk about football, family or our lives back home. Iranians are also very interested in how their country is perceived from the outside.
We are now in the city of Esfahan in the desert. This city has a wonderful atmosphere and it is easy to spend the day wandering around the bazar and the square. This was a key stop on the Silk Road and has numerous bridges and caravan sites from this time. There are also plenty of teahouses and restaurants to keep us busy.