Ramsar, An Iranian Bride to Remember

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sam K. Parks-Kia 

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If you set out for a trip to northern Iran from the Capital Tehran, chances are that you will take the Karaj-Chalous road, for it is by far the shortest road to the north. The trip to Chalous — some 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Tehran — will probably take about 4 hours. Now if you drive westward taking the "Seaside Road" after about 30 minute you will notice that the Alborz Range is undeniably closing down on the Caspian Sea and you know that you are reaching Ramsar.

Of course you could alternatively purchase a ticket and enjoy a 30-minute flight from Tehran to Ramsar, but then you'd be missing out on a lot of fun.

Ramsar is the westernmost city of the Mazandaran Province — one of the three northern provinces of Iran — and one of the most famous tourist attractions in Iran's northern Green Strip.

The magnificent scenery, coupled with historic sites, ancient ruins and a museum has turned Ramsar — dubbed “the bride of Iranian cities” — into one of the busiest places during holiday season.

Ramsar is house to a number of reputed diners and restaurants, which serve Iranian cuisine, a variety of fish and of course local dishes.

Among the places to visit, or maybe to stay at, is a 75-year-old hotel situated at the foot of the mountain. The Old Hotel Ramsar, built in 1934 is a palace with 25 rooms and five royal suites.

Of course your appearance does matter when staying at the old hotel, because if you have an unseemly look you will be kindly asked to leave the premises!

“Since this is an old structure we look at it more like a national heritage than a hotel. We will not allow just anyone to stay at this place. We take extra caution I admission to make sure those who could possibly damage the hotel are accommodated elsewhere,” The hotel's managing director, Sharbat-dar says.

After finding accommodation, you might want to check out the Caspian Museum, known by locals as “Tamashagah Khazar,” which is located next to the Hotel.

The museum, which was in fact a palace used by Iran's former monarchs Reza and Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, is ornamented with works by famous Iranian sculptors and painters.

Although, most of the antiques have been reportedly stolen over the years, the few remaining articles, the molding, the furniture, the carpets and the wall carpets are certainly worth your time.

While in the thoroughfare, if you take a side road on the mountainous southeast of the city and keep driving for about 20 minutes you will arrive in a village called Javaher Deh — the village of Jewel.

With a famous waterfall at the uppermost part of the village, the ever-foggy Javaher Deh is a summer resort, with mountains on three sides and a valley on the other.

The village, situated at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea level, has a spectacular landscape. The Swan Lake, the Fazl and Fazel shrine, the Stone Cradle Mountain and the Stone Lion Mountain along with numerous natural springs are among Javaher Deh's tourist attractions.

The most historically important site in the village, however, is the Adineh Mosque — or the Friday Mosque— which was built with wood and clay about 700 years ago.

The Ramsar cable car system is the only one of its kind in the Middle East to connect beach to mountain forest. With 40 cars in service, the 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) system is dubbed the biggest in Iran.

The Gor-Gor-Luka, the Yaghi-Luka, the Bam Bamé and the Shabparé Chal are among ancient caves situated in the heights surrounding Ramsar.

The Gor-Gor-Luka — in local dialect Luka is used to refer to holes — is a hard-to-get-to cave on the Illmilli mountain. The rocky cave is believed to have sheltered numerous mountaineers, who would climb the Alborz Range from Ramsar.

The Yaghi-Luka has a 3-meter-wide (10-meter-wide) entrance with a 95-degree steep — hence the name Yaghi which means 'menace'.

The Shabparé Chal, meaning the moth dungeon, is known for the bats it hosts.

The most famous of the four, however, is the Bam Bamé cave, which is situated on the Band Mountain covered with old trees. The 'terrifying' cave has a triangular entrance and is 40 meters (130 feet) deep.

Rumor has it that back in the day the cave was used by bandits to hide their treasures, antiques and other stolen valuables.

There are a number of natural hot springs and hot spring spas in downtown Ramsar and on the southern heights of the city — perfect places to relax after a hard day of hiking or climbing.

The most exhilarating thing about Ramsar is its beaches of course. Ramsar which means 'the tamed place' was previously known as Sakhtsar — the wild place — because of its raging sea and the waves of up to three meters (10 feet).

In order to “tame” the beaches, huge rocks were delivered to some beaches to be used as wave breakers.

Nowadays, Ramsar has a combination of rocky and sandy beaches. You will find traditional Iranian 'tea houses' on places where the waves literally break under you.

Apart form tea and traditional local dishes, the 'tea houses' serve hookah — the traditional Iranian water pipe, which now comes in different fruit flavors apart from the original tobacco flavor.

If you enjoy an all-nighter every now and then you may stay at the tea houses until 2-3 a.m. and enjoy the company of locals, who will tell you stories of joy and pain and of the implications of living in their world.

You can also set up a tent and light a fire on the shore, where you can enjoy the thrill of the moon which rises from the sea and turns it into a bed of thousands of sparkling particles —, which fade to light blue as the sun rises.

Source: Press TV

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