(News from Jona in Iran, relayed via Chicago:)
Takht-e Suleyman is an ancient Iranian fire sanctuary, close to a small salt lake. In its present form, the ruins are Sassanian with Mongol additions, but the sanctuary itself is much older. In the Middle Ages, it was believed to have been the birthplace of Zarathustra, the site where the three Magi for the first time worshipped a sacred fire, the palace where Solomon received the Queen of Sheba, or the fortress where Cyrus the Great stored the treasure of Croesus. Today, it is listed as world heritage on the UNESCO list.
It was about 150 kilometers from our hotel in Zanjan to Takht-e Suleyman, but the road, through an almost uninhabited country, turned out to be full of curves and the trip can easily take three hours — especially when it’s been snowing. On three places, the street was covered by avalanches, and we had to wait until Caterpillars had shoveled the snow away. We saw two wolves, which were looking at us, probably wondering how Dutchmen would taste.
The site itself was covered with a white blanket, and we saw several small twisters of snow, which made the ancient ruin look like a palace from a northern saga. The atmosphere became even more enchanting when the loudspeakers were used to broadcast several poems by Hafez. Often, we had to wade knee-deep through the snow, and we frequently slipped away on the muddy paths. Still, the lake, which was not covered with ice, was impressive and I got an idea that under different circumstances, the ruin should be quite spectacular. Other ruins are more interesting, but Takht-e Suleyman today offered more fun.