After discussing the price with several taxi drivers and provoking a small car crash, we jumped in a car whose driver, as most of the time in Iran, had no clue where the hostel was. He drove us for around one hour and finally, being unable to find the hostel, took us to another hotel. This one was, of corse, expensive and running out of time, we told him to take us back to the initial position. Result: 2 hours wasted driving around Mashhad and still no place to stay overnight. We thanked him for the sightseeing tour and without even trying to pay him, rushed to the Turkmen consulate. The visa was stamped in the passport, so we were fully ready to go to Turkmenistan in 3 days!
Next objective was to find a place to sleep, which we did by searching on the Lonely Planet and going to a hotel close by the consulate but some 30 minutes walk from the shrine. It was called Pars Hotel, and it was actually cheap, good and with a really helpful owner. Also religious, the hotel was very religious, not strange being in Mashhad.
There are plenty of different entrances and, as usual in all those holy complexes, you cannot enter with any bag or camera and you are checked by security guards at the gates. Luckily and strangely this time we were not approached by any Foreign Pilgrims Office guys, so we were totally free to wander around and even enter inside the holy Shrine with nobody caring about us.
Anyway, the objective was entering the shrine and seeing the tomb of this Imam Reza, so there we went. To get there you go through a corridor with the walls full of small mirrors, with huge glass lamps hanging from the ceiling, plenty of people praying everywhere... and the place is so big there are even escalators inside! Crazy.
After that surreal view we just wandered around the site a bit more, waited to be dark to see it lit and back to the hotel. Next morning we were heading to the border!
With the help of the taxi driver and asking around the tiny village, we finally met a woman who had the keys of the only hotel in town, which had been closed for at least one year. Totally run-down, overpriced and with no electricity or heating. Not an option as it was cold and we would have frozen to death there. Then, again asking around, the guards at the border offered us to pitch the tent somewhere there. Again not an option as it was cold. Our visa to Turkmenistan was valid from the following day, so we couldn't enter the country and we couln't stay at Bajgiran. What now?
Anyway, we said goodbye to the driver, went for some food (hopefully that was the end of the kebab, pizza, hamburger diet) and to sleep after the annoying day.
Next morning, a taxi back to Bajgiran which dropped us right in the border post. We were finally able to leave Iran after one month in the country and enter Turkmenistan!
It was a feeling of excitement as we were entering a new country but also a bit of sadness, as we really loved Iran. It has everything a traveller can ask for: it's cheap, quite easy to get around, you have great places to see, different landscapes... and the people, the people are really the best thing in Iran. Even if it is not the best country I have ever been to it is definitely one of the best ones and to that, people help a lot. Of course, it has its negative points, such as the monotonous food, the ban over alcohol (although, believe it or not, we were able to drink some home-made kind of grappa in Iran! we will not say where, to preserve the people they offered it to us, though), the crazy traffic and the religion. Actually religion is connected to most of the negative things of Iran, but to be honest, without Islam no beautiful mosques, no shrines, so we cannot complain. The only thing is that these people should do something about their government. With all the people we have had contact to, they all agreed in one thing: their government are terrorists, they are destroying the image of Iran and they hate them. So I really hope they will soon fight these terrorists and have a free country, they really deserve it!
Now you can check the Mashhad travel guide for more information on the city and also all the pictures of the Iranian trip organized city by city!