For brekkie I managed to track down a local specialty, a baked potato sandwhich comprised of the spud, a boiled egg, a small bushel of a herb which could have been mint, all wrapped up in thin bread which resembled long rolls of cloth. In fact you saw people at the bakers here with it draped over their arm like waiters would a towel. Along with tea, not quite as aromatic as the Turkish variety, it was remarkably scrummy. After overcast yesterday, it was back to clear skies again today but commensurately freezing though. After paying less than a pound for the 5 hour bus trip to Tabriz, having my name entered as Mr. Douglas, I didnt take the ferry across Lake Orumiyeh as I had hoped. In the passing, I saw a large pictureboard showing a new bridge where perhaps once the ferry had crossed, or maybe it was yet to be built. There were vague views of the lake before a long laborious climb north of it into rolling desert hills, peppered with snow in parts. There were ruined caravaneserais by the side of the road, which was so straight it could have been Roman, but I wasnt sure they had ever got quite this far. Big snowy peaks encircled the lake flats. By the time we had passed through the towns of Salmas and Shabaster there were more island studded views of the lake and it seemed we had almost circumnavigated it. Ironically it was now on the bus that I read in the guidebook that to cross it I should have taken a share taxi instead, it would have been both a much quicker and more interesting trip. Damn. We trundled past a T-55 tank gate guardian, a nice mosque in the town of Soofian and very stark graveyards in which some of the graves had been caged and flew large Iranian flags. I wondered if they could have been war martyrs.
Into a taxi and I was ripped off by the Toman factor. The Iranians have the silly habit of underquoting prices by a factor of 10, 1 Toman equalling 10 Rials, so things to the uninitiated sound super cheap but in reality its an unintentional ready made rip off capable of stinging dumb tourists to the tune of 1000 per cent. Its still not a lot of money but you dont make that mistake twice. It wouldnt be so bad but really they needed to chop 3 zeros off their prices not 1, the smallest note in use is the 500 Rial and habitually you use the 10,000 (known as a Khomeini) or 20,000 note. The hotel of choice was basic but cheap and with crap restaurant service and a struggle to change money, it was not a good day! Eventually though after resorting to dubiously changing my dollars on the street, I had a wad of cash in my pocket as thick as a book so couldnt complain. Iran was one of the few countries in the world where foreign cash cards didnt work. In that pursuit I had touched upon the bazaar, with whole streets of gold merchants, and beyond expectation I found a net cafe too. I susbstituted my nightly beer ritual with 2 tins of "near beer" (non-alcoholic malt gash) and cakes. Cakes and ale eh, it made it sound like I was enjoying myself!