'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Holy Ground

old graveNot many days ago J and I were meeting some new friends and taking them up into the mountains in the hopes that we’d find that nature had been punctilious and there would be the astounding sight of three different species of tulip in bloom at the same time.

Being awfully English we were ready to roll much too early and so decided to stop off at various village cemeteries along the way to the rendezvous. Graveyards are fascinating places if you are not a spiritualist on their day off! They are seldom disturbed and flora and fauna flourish in the nutrient-rich environment – I love them and look forward to making my own ‘drop-in-the-bucket’ to Mother Nature in due course.

Here are some examples of the contributions people have made without even thinking about it – sort of bio-degradable legacy, if you will.

Viper's Bugloss

Viper’s Bugloss

Lupin

Lupinus micranthus – Hairy Lupin

Chinese Mallow

Chinese Mallow

Salsify

Salsify – Tragapogon hybridum

Orobanche alba

Orobanche alba

Serapias orientalis

Serapias orientalis – species of Tongue Orchid

Field Gladioli

Field Gladioli

Serapias politisii

Serapias politisii – species of Tongue Orchid

Serapias politisii - double tougued

and a most unusual double headed/tongued specimen

Iris pseudacorus

Iris pseudacorus – endemic

iris environment

and its environment

Tulipa armena ssp lycica

Tulipa armena ssp lycica – Armenian Tulip

Fritillaria sibthorpiana

Fritillaria sibthorpiana – endemic

Finally, a ‘holy grave’ connection:

Holy Orchid - Orchis sancta

Orchis sancta – Holy Orchid

Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

I was tempted to call this post ‘Holy Ground’ instead of ‘A Grave Matter’ or something similar. The idea being to plug in to the popularity of the drinking song of that name by the Dubliners and get a boost to the number of views from ‘Googlers’. I’m sure it would have been an effective but really cheap trick and I’m glad I didn’t do it in the end. So, to cheer me up for being so honest, I’ve included a clip of the lads giving it one to help the ‘Liffy Water’ go down!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Iran Life – Shãhrud Is Nice

Shãhrud is a little bit betwixt and between! It lies roughly halfway between the cities of Mashad, 500kms to the east, near the Afghanistan border and Tehran. As the crow flies, the Caspian Sea is a little over 100kms to the north west over the Arborz Mountains. South, as far as the imagination can imagine, lies the Dasht-e- Kavir, the mighty Salt Desert with the oasis cities and adobe fortresses of Yazd and Rãyen and Bam and the delightful Zein-o-din Caravanserai.iran mapthis might give you a better feel for it

n Iran1

After the disappointment surrounding our time in Mashad, J and I were drawn to Shãhrud from the moment we stepped from the train. It felt . . ordinary, nice! That feeling was reinforced by our taxi-driver, Mansour, who readily agreed to be our guide-cum-country chef for our forays into mountains and desert over the next couple of days. What a pleasure it was to be with him – quiet, dignified and a superb barbecue chef!

Shahrud, Iran

guide Feraidoon and Masoud, the best chef-driver in Iran

So, what does Shãhrud have to recommend it apart from being . . nice . . and not being Mashad? Location! Drive out of town one way and you’re in the greenery of well-watered mountains – drive the other way and it’s sand and camels! There’s a very nice old Sufi mosque complex that’s been restored and a nice park with a man-made waterfall where J got taken over (in a very nice way) by a group of nice Turkmen ladies.

Turkmen ladies Shahrud, Iran

The town has water everywhere which is really nice and would have pleased Charlie Dimmock no end. Our hotel was nice too, although they didn’t have much idea about dealing with customers. Tourism has been slow for a number of years and not many travellers stop by. As we dragged our bags and gazed up at the sweat-inducing steps to the entrance, the porter-cum-reception guy helpfully pointed out the long-winding footpath before wandering back into the air-conditioned lounge! Nice!

Anyway, enough of this chit-chat – let’s get on with a few of our impressions of Shãhrud. I don’t know if we’ll have the chance to wind down our flowers, mountains and village life trip here when we return to Iran next Spring. That would be extra nice.

Sufi mosque Shahrud, Iran

beautiful minaret Sufi mosque, Shahrud, Iran

the restored Sufi shrine – before and after (or the other way round)

historiv photo Sufi shrine Shahrud iran

historic photo sufi shrine Shahrud iran

You can read about the desert bit of our stay here, now for some mountains and flowers – but mostly flowers!

yellow tulip Arborz Iran

yellow tulip

red tulip Arborz Iran

red tulip

white tulip arborz Iran

white tulip

Arborz flowers

fritillaria Arborz Iran

fritillaria

forest guardians arrive for tea

forest rangers arrive for tea

Rare swallowtail Arborz Iran

Rare Swallowtail

white violet

white violet

violet arborz iran

violet violets

Anemone bland Arborz Iran

Anemone blanda

southern Arborz Iran

southern Arborz Mountains

I could go on and on with flowers – finally, the very best little restaurant in Shãhrud – the ‘Ariatin’. Lamb shank, buttered rice, green salad, borani (yogurt with mint) and ayran – simple and utterly delicious!

Ariatin Restaurant Shahrud Iran

It’s easy to find, just look out for the Little Chef!

IMG_6318_1Sometimes, ‘Nice!‘ is so much nicer than ‘Amazing!’ or ‘Fantastic!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü