After buying a train ticket for later that day from the border town of Jolfa to Tabriz, I found an internet cafe to check for reactions to my CouchRequests. Here I had my first encounter with the Iranian custom of Taarof. This is a custom whereby a seller will first refuse to give a price for an item and only after a couple of times more offering and refusing might give a price. Similar acts of politeness happen with free places in buses and especially at the dinner table as a guest.

But after asking several times for a price from the owner it turned out to be actually not Taarof, but rather Iranian hospitality that was keeping him from quoting a price. And although I have been exposed on this trip to Balkan and Turkish hospitality, it turns out that the Iranians take hospitality to a completely new level.

First we went to a phone shop to buy an Iranian SIM card; which doesn’t just involve giving a copy of your passport but also having your fingerprint taken. Then I was driven 20km out of town to an Armenian church (UNESCO listed), after which we went for dinner on the way back (which I again was not allowed to pay for). When I was finally dropped off at the trainstation I had 10 minutes to spare… In Tabriz I stayed one night in a guesthouse and two nights with an Iranian family through Couchsurfing.

St. Stephanos Church.
The bazaar of Tabriz is one of the oldest in the Middle East and the largest covered bazaar in the world.
I was glad that my host was guiding me in this enormous maze.
The Poets Tomb, the final resting place of a number of famous Iranian poets.
In the basement of one of the museums of Tabriz we found these very graphic sculptures.
A short drive from Tabriz is the village of Kandovan, which is a bit similar to the cave houses of Cappadocia in Turkey.
Kandovan has natural springs that put forward supposedly healthy water. It was funny to watch the people try to get to the taps.
Camping is quite popular in Iran (and allowed in most parks). Since the village of Kandovan has only very little space people were camping (and parking on the other side) in the river.