Days: 554 (31 December 2015)
Total distance travelled: 139,806.00 kilometres (86,836.03 miles)
A complimentary breakfast under our belts in the company of our new Swiss friends and we were on our way in a beat up old set of wheels (it in all likelihood was a Paykan) for the roughly hour long journey to Persepolis, or Pārsa as it was known to the ancient Persian people.
The day was again looking good, th Iranian winter delivering only patchy cloud and large volumes of blue sky. Still, the wind that had a significant amount of strength was on the chilly side seeing our by now well worn coats getting another workout.
It was a pretty uneventful journey to the ruins themselves, and with much of the terrain between the living city of Shiraz and this former capital of the Achaemenid Empire being rather barren (there was the odd tree and some agriculture), it made the site of a large copse of trees quite notable.
This was to actually prove to be the fringes of the ruins themselves, and perhaps even more surprising was to see the remnants (think still standing frames and some tattered, but still largely whole canvas) of what appeared to be a large tent city.
We later learned that this was the incredibly well preserved remains of the twenty five hundred year celebration of the Persian Empire which was held way back in 1971 (it was a major international event)!
There were a few people about, but it was by no means teeming with tourists, so we and the Swiss began our explorations of this ancient city.
Even though there were not all that many people about, as we approached the Gate of All Nations (which given how diverse the travellers we’d met have been, and even our small posse was which multi national, seemed a fitting name), trying to get a clear photo seemed a challenge!
The stones themselves were fascinating, surprisingly scarred by not just age, but also graffiti, the marks of visitors over a hundred years past ever etched into the solid stone.
In a modern context, such an act would be horrifying, but to see it as we did, made the place feel that little more real.
We passed these imposing sentinels, then realised we really had no idea where to go, or what anything we were looking at actually was!
Where we’d first entered the ruins felt a lot more jumbled, like there were random pieces left here because nobody was yet sure of where they were supposed to go.
To the east (basically the far side to where we’d entered), the ground was a little more elevated and would obviously give us a better view of the ruins as a whole.
Whilst this was true, it wasn’t really as though that lead us there, rather it was the impressively carved walls beyond.
It turns out these were in fact tombs, entry into which was forbidden, however as already alluded, there was a decent view of the ruins as a whole.
The adjacent signage theorised that the tombs before which we stood (there were two of them side by side, each carved directly into the mountainside) were built for both Ataxerxes I or Ataxerxes II (or likely both), names I was not familiar with, although I had heard the name Xerxes before…
They were pretty impressive regardless, the sharply etched images within the hard stone looking as though though could have been carved in the last decade.
Not far below us (well in truth, all of the ruins were below us) was the Apadana, apparently the greatest palace in both its former grandeur as well as now, and it certainly did appear to still include some of the incredible detail from its resplendent past.
Towering columns still stood atop it’s main platform, whilst the depictions of both people and places on its panelled walls looked as sharp now (perhaps not as shiny as they once would have been) as they would have fifteen hundred years ago (just like the tombs we’d already visited).
Despite the windswept location and the winter season, our explorations had us warmed enough that I even began to shed some of my outer layers, an unexpected, but pleasant surprise (my random attire however was in all likelihood a fashion crime).
Our final highlight, sadly in slightly worse shape than the Apadana was one that was purportedly the personal building of Darius the Great (this was something I was blissfully unaware of at the time, and read long after our visit).
This was the Tachara, and whilst very rough around the edges, it still sported plenty of arches, chipped carvings adorned it’s walls and columns, and there were even huge panels covered in ancient script.
It was pretty cool, and a nice way to round out our adventures in Persepolis.
Our excursion however, was not yet done.
Ten or so kilometres distant (so we were back with our driver) had us at a long, vertical rock wall, the site of Naqsh-e Rostam.
This was a series of tombs cut and carved into the rock face before us, and speculatively reads like a who’s who of the ancient Persian world.
I’ll admit, like Persepolis itself, my knowledge of this period is quite limited, with much of my understanding that the name Xerxes was considered great amongst the ancient Persians stemming from the fact he was their titular head in the 1991 computer game, Sid Meier’s Civilization.
Still, I had at least heard of Darius the Great (Darius I), so we were visiting the resting place of some grandiose names indeed.
Entrance was not possible, and as fascinating as that would have been, to be able to leave them undisturbed and hopefully preserved for years to come, was comfort enough.
To fully appreciate how impressive this place was, consider the size of the lone figure in my panorama below…
A huge Iranian flag billowed from a long rusted pole, and fortunately for our small party, the site was remarkably empty when we arrived.
It wasn’t to last, as a large-ish posse of local tourists eventually appeared, but it was nice to be able to enjoy it, albeit briefly in relative solitude.
At least the arrival of other people lent scale to our photos…
When we were all eventually done, we did realise we had a problem of sorts.
Our Swiss friends and their driver (whom they’d employed back in Shiraz) were from here, headed onward to the city of Yazd.
We would in fact be headed there the following day, but for now we had another night back in Shiraz, we simply needed a way to get back there!
Fortunately, their driver was kind enough to ferry us back to the ruins of Persepolis where our chances of finding a ride would be significantly improved.
The first he approached was met with little success, but after a sterner conversation with another, we had our man, bid farewell to Filomeen & Antione (our Swiss friends) and so began the ride home… well at least back to Shiraz.
* We were fortunate to be able to get a FREE ride from Shiraz to both Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam
* There were separate entrance fees to both Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam of 200,000.00 Rials per person.
* We arranged a taxi from Persepolis back to Shiraz for 300,000.00 Rials.