Before getting underway today we took a taxi ride into the city of Tabriz to see the famous blue mosque and the city's bazaar. The blue mosque is no longer blue, it gets its name from the fact that when it was built in 1464 it was decorated inside and out with tiles in various shades of blue. The mosque was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773 and the ruins remained untouched until a recontruction effort started in 1953. Today there are only some small patches of the orginal decoration. One of the interesting features of the mosques reconstruction is the way some of the tile decoration has been extended. Gaps left by missing original tile decoration has been filled in with plaster and the plaster painted to replicate the orginal pattern but in a slightly lighter color. This means that visitors can get the effect of the full sized original decoration but can see clearly where the original finishes and reconstrution starts.
The bazaar is another of those extended walkways with the roof made from a long series of linked domes. The Tabriz bazaar is famous as the longest in Iran (4.5 km) and for being visited by and mentioned by Marco Polo. Unfortunaely for us the bazaar did not open until 10:30am and we had to be underway before that.
Once underway from Tabriz things got a bit out of hand.
Originally, back at Hosseins place near the Caspian sea, the plan was that today we would drive from Tarbriz to a small town about 70 km from the border. At the time I questioned Hossein about the length of the drive, saying "we can only cover about 300 km per day and we do not drive after dark". He assured me that from Tabriz to the village was only just over 300 km.
By the time the day ended, we would discover that it was infact 490 km from Tabriz to the border via his route.
So as we left Tabriz Nina and I were already concerned as due to the visit to the blue mosque we did not get under way until after 10:00 am.
We got further concerned as a "small detour" to an interesting village started to turn into a 70km side trip through villages with narrow streets, and low trees. To Hossein's chargrin we called a stop to that, and returned to the main road.
Things went smoothly for some time after that, as we headed west towards and across the amazing Lake Urmia. Urmia is a large salt lake that is crossed by a combination of bridge and causeway. A fascinating place.
After crossing the lake we had lunch while waiting for Hossein to catch up to us and then moved on to the town of Urmia where we spent an extended period lost amongst the complicated road network that comprised the northern part of the towns ring road.
Things proceeded smoothly for a period after that, as we found our way independenty towards the city of Khoy. Approaching Khoy Nina and I were on the lookout for Hossein's vehicle assuming that he would wait for us before the roundabout at the entrance to the city where the road forked with one route going through the city and the other taking the ring route. But alas no Hossein. So we decided to take the ring road and find the first available place to park for the night.
No sooner had we started down the ring road than Hossein called to say "take the city center exit from the round about we will camp in the city".
We declined his suggestion continuing along the ring road until we found a small roadside mosque where we decide to park for the night.
We quickly had a small group of local truckers and mechanics looking at the vehicle and through sign language and their few words of English we established that it was ok to park here for the night.
Eventually Hossein turned up and told us that he and his driver would continue to the border tonight and would meet us tomorrow morning at the entrance to the border town of Bazargan still 170 km away.