This last weekend I took part in a beloved tradition of Tehranis- waking up kaleh sahar and going for a hike in the mountains. There are different places that you can go, but we opted for Tochāl in the northern Velenjak area. Even at 5:30 am, Tehranis were out with their backpacks and hiking boots ready to go up. At that hour, many were even returning from Station 7, which my friends tell me is about a 14-hour hike.
Our plan was to hike up to Station 2 and then take the telecabin, cable cars, back down. My friends asked me if I wanted to get any water before we went up, and I said I was fine. Somewhere between the beginning and Station 1, I was already tired and losing my breath. "They sell water at Station 1, right?" I asked. "Yah. But you know those bottles of water that are only 500 toman? Well, up there they sell for maybe 2,000. That's why they call it sare gardaneh. You've heard that expression before, haven't you?"
In fact, I had and knew the meaning, but I didn't know where it came from. Gardaneh is a winding mountain road (think the beginning of The Shining when they are driving up to the Overlook Hotel). When something is more expensive than it should be, people ask, Mage sare gardanas?, What is this, a winding mountain road? Because once you are up there, you have no choice but to pay whatever they ask for. Where else was I going to get a bottle of water up there? (Sure there was a spring that people were using to fill up their bottles, but I unfortunately lacked a bottle.) So if the seller asked for 2,000 toman for a bottle of water, I'd have to pay. These people we call dozde sare gardaneh, the thieves of the winding mountain road. My neighborhood Tabrizi fruit seller is one such dozde sare gardaneh, and I try to avoid shopping there at all costs! In a moment of desperation yesterday, I bought a little fruit from him and spent 20,000 toman. Walking home I couldn't help but think that I could have gotten at least 5 times as much for that price if I had a car and could go to the fruit bazaar.
Once we made it to Station 2, we were ready for breakfast. I noticed a man with his copper teapot and gas burner making a tomato omelet and intruded on his moment of zen to take a picture. People really went all out! My friends and I had our more simple breakfast of noon-panir-gerdoo, bread-feta cheese-walnuts, and chai shirin. Later one of my friends went and bought three packs of sunflower seeds. "How much did you pay for these?," the other asked. "Let me see the price on the bag... 1,000 toman. But how much did you actually pay?" "2,000," the other answered. "Sare gardaneh." "Did you tell him mage sare gardanas?," I joked. Of course not. We knew where we were, and my friend just happened to crave sunflower seeds so badly at that moment that spending double the price was absolutely worth it.