Crystal got up around 3, Justin just before 5. Crystal was paying the piper for her afternoon naps. Being up that early, we had plenty of time to pack for our drive to Isfahan. Notably, despite being on a 23 day trip, the very first stop - Shiraz - was the only place where we were staying for 3 nights. Go figure. We had the same breakfast for the third day in a row. Then, back in the room, we watched some news - bad idea. 45 seems to want to alienate anyone and everyone, as there was no mention of Puerto Rico despite it being in a bad way.

We left at 9, and took the same route as yesterday. It was so odd to just drive by Naqsh-e Rustam, and see the huge tombs carved into the side of the mountain as we were cruising down the highway. We got to Pasargadae around 10:30. It was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire prior to Persepolis, and where the Tomb of Cyrus the Great can be found. Compared to what we saw it in Naqsh-e Rustam, his tomb was much more basc. We wondered what happened in 50 years to make such a profound difference in style. Amin mentioned it could be war-time vs peace-time, it might also be interactions with other "developed" peoples during those 50 years.

Besides Cyrus' tomb, there were some other ruins, but nothing was in nearly the shape of Persepolis. There was a large platform on top of one of the hills that was being worked on, but it wasn't much to look at. There was also something similar to the Cube of the Zoroaster, but only one wall was in decent shape. Besides Cyrus' tomb, the next most notable item was in an area called the "Audience Hall." There were some bas reliefs from 2500 years ago, and notably some of them depicted individuals wearing shoes.

On the walk to the Audience Hall, there was this old man hacking weeds on side of walkway. Something about him made Justin very emotional, as he looked in his 60s or 70s, and the thought of him spending every day hacking away at weeds was not how someone should be spending his/her life. Perhaps it was because he had a big smile, and did not seem troubled by his current state of affairs, that was so jarring. The Audience Hall had some irrigation channels, and theoretically these channels were for the world's first ever botanic garden. Because of the time of year (just into fall), and the elevation (around 6000 feet), it did not seem that hot, but it was really sunny, and the sun was doing a number on us. The poor guy hacking weeds was undoubtedly used to it, but we were not. Before we left, we had some coffee, tea, and cookies. After we had our fill, we left Pasaragadae around 12:30 and continued north towards Isfahan. We passed several large mountains, including some that appeared to be snowcapped, but in fact the "snow" was marble that was being mined.

We got to lunch in Surmaq right around 2pm. Perhaps because of the late hour, there was hardly anyone there. We sat right near an AC unit, but the AC gave out shortly after we sat down. Crystal couldn't get her lamb barg, as they were out. So we got some soup, some bread, and some other food to fill our tummies before getting back on the road. Back in the vehicle, we kept on to Isfahan, taking a nap to make the drive shorter. The scenery was basically the same the whole way, kind of like heading East from the 15 out towards Ramona or Borrego Springs. Amin had an altimeter on his watch, and let us know that the high point was 7840 feet above sea level. We passed by a city where it looked as though they were working on the marble that had been cut in the surrounding mountains.

Traffic picked up as we got to the outskirts of Isfahan, a city with a few million people. We arrived a little after 5, which presumably is "rush hour" no matter the country. Due to the traffic, we got to the hotel (Piroozy Hotel) a little before 6. We dropped our stuff in the hotel, then went on a walk with Amin at 6:15. We headed to Imam Square, also known as Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which was not far from the hotel. There were some crazy street crossings as we headed East, but Amin told us to just walk assertively and stop in place if things became dicey. Eventually the streets became a no-car zone as we got closer to the square. The Square was built in 1602 when Shah Abbas decided to move the capital. The Square is incredibly large, and is in amazingly good shape over 400 years later. After getting us to the Square, Amin went back, and we slowly walked around and took in the sights and the nice weather.

As we walked around, several people said hello, asked where we were from. For some people we said America, for others we said California. Based on the reactions, we think "California" is the better answer, at least as long as 45 is in charge. There were stores all around the Square, and they were full of handicrafts, lots of stuff made decorated in turquoise and also in this white lacey material (probably some sort of silver). There were thousands of people around, and also dozens of police officers. Everyone appeared to be having a good time.

There was one notable sign, which noted "Down with USA" as well as "Down with Saudi Arabia" and "Down with Israel." We're #1? Yay? From that same area, there was also some singing, and we wondered what it was about. We couldn't make out any of the Farsi, but we did keep hearing "Saddam." Then we bumped into someone who spoke English, and he explained that it was "Holy Defense Week", which is celebrated the first week of autumn every year, regarding the Iran-Iraq war from the 1980s. There were some items on display, like a missile launcher, a military jeep, etc. We felt a little awkward being around during this gathering, since the USA sat idly by as Saddam dropped chemical weapons on the Iranians. After talking to a few more people - all very nice and polite by the way, lest there be any confusion - we figured it easier to say we are from California than from America, particularly while 45 is still in office. But everyone that talked to us (about 10 different people) welcomed us to Iran and Isfahan, hoped we were enjoying ourselves.

We walked back to the hotel the same way that we came, as we didn't have Amin with us this time, or even a map for that matter. The traffic was much less, and it was fairly easy to cross the main road right by the hotel. Just before getting back to the hotel, we stopped in for dinner. This time Crystal was able to get her lamb barg. We chit-chatted a bit with the waiter, and in the spirit of good foreign relations and all the questions we'd gotten from others, we asked waiter how he was feeling, and hoped he was feeling well today - he seemed genuinely surprised at us asking. The whole time we were at the restaurant, they were filling a massive to-go order. It was in progress when we arrived, and still going when we left, around 9pm. Back at the hotel, we charged our electronics, checked on the internet (but avoided news), and got to sleep around 10:30.

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