Eating baked potatoes suddenly brought back a flood of memories of Tabriz, the Turkic-speaking city in the northwest of Iran, where they sell boiled potatoes and eggs by the street, to our amazement.
We traveled there in the summer of 2002, when I was four or five months pregnant with the Princess, still barely showing, my arms and chest still perfectly slim. I got home one afternoon from work, and screamed that I wanted to leave Tehran and travel somewhere cool, that I was dying from heat, and I refuse to set foot in shomal, the Caspian coastline which my family reveres as the only acceptable vacationing spot.
So we went to the train station downtown Tehran, got into a private “coupe” (remember the Murder on the Orient Express? Those trains are still running in Iran) bound for Tabriz, a place we knew from our geography classes would be cool and refreshing.
A night later, we stepped out, nowhere to go, no plans, in a city where we did not know the language. A taxi-driver picked us up, and explained to us kindly that we needed to go to Uroumieh, and that Tabriz had nothing for us. He drove into the ferry crossing the Salt Lake which divides Tabriz from Uroumieh, and set us down by a small motel right on the edge of the lake.
The lake was white and crusty with salted. We floated, the Princess and I, on the strange water. We had cut cucumber in the boat, for our eyes when the salt got in them.
The motel opened on a concrete parking lot. We sighed over the lack of a swimming pool, saying ten thousand times, if this had been in Antalya…
Another taxi-driver told us the lake had a unique species of an amazing shrimp, but the Germans had harvested all of them.
More taxi-drivers took us to a green village up by a rushing river, Ban? Bon? where we had the most amazing kebabs in the whole wide world. We saw some archaeological sites, but we didn’t know enough to be impressed.
We visited Tabriz, which was as hot and crowded as the first taxi-driver had told us it would, and bought ultra-sharp knives in the bazaar, and marveled at the carpets, and ate lots more fantastic kebabs, and returned to Uroumieh.
On the last day, we received a phone call from our neighbour, who told us we had received a package from the Embassy of Canada. We shrieked with delight, we knew our immigration papers were coming through, though we were worried about medical exams and the Princess still inside me.
We took the train back to Tehran, barely able to contain our excitement. As usual after a sojourn in the provinces, the sharp smoky air of Tehran delighted me.
I’ve never been to Uroumieh or Tabriz since,