Koker Hitchhiking

Koker Hitchhiking - Kiarostami Film Location

Koker Hitchhiking was a road trip to Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker trilogy film location. Koker hitchhiking was a beginning of film tourism in Iran.

Hitchhiking to Koker should have been done earlier, when I was studying at Guilan University, Rasht. However, back then I was so immersed in pages of books that I failed to notice the life is outside of words of writers. Compared to then, now I have every reasons to visit Koker. Anyway, I made up my mind to go on the Koker hitchhiking on my own to discover the world of Abbas Kiarostami, one of the greatest filmmakers in Iran. In the end, I didn’t make it alone. Yeganeh and Helia joined me to visit the film location of Abbas Kiarostami in Koker Village.

Abbas Kiarostami - Koker village
Abbas Kiarostami in Koker village

Hitchhiking Meeting Place: Golshahr Metro Station

Koker is located in Rostamabad, Rasht, Guilan province. Our starting point was Tehran. So, we should first get ourselves to the west of Tehran. As a green person, I took Tehran Metro system and got myself to Golshahr Metro Station. After waiting for thirty minutes, Yeganeh showed up. While we were waiting for Helia, we grabbed a bite there. A chicken sandwich. It wasn’t bad. Helia showed up a little late. Timing is very important factor in Hitchhiking trips. Anyway, we got outside the metro station and walked a few minutes to get to the Tehran – Qavzin freeway.

Golshahr Metro Station
Golshahr Metro Station

Meeting Two Cool Hikers

Finding a car or truck for hitchhiking becomes a challenge since removal of toll booths at Karaj. We stopped with our placard on our hands written “Rasht” for about 15 minutes. At weekends, Thursday and Friday, Rasht gets quite large number of travelers which 90% are family members. A car stopped for us. There were two young men in their late twenties. I preferred a car with a single driver, because I was with two girls. After all, I was responsible for their safety. I said no.

The car moved, but again pulled over ten meters a head of us. The two young men got off and moved toward me. After greeting formally, he said we are driving to Ardabil to climb up Mount. Sabalan and I said we are heading to Koker village in Rostamabad. I talked to Yeganeh and Helia and they agreed to join them for our direct ride for Koker hitchhiking. Although I agreed to get on the car, before I saw their hiking equipment I was still in doubt. We put our stuff in the bumper and sat on the back seats. Three of us.

Koker hitchhiking - Film Tourism
Koker hitchhiking – Film Tourism

Hitchhiking from Golshahr to Rostamabad: Through the Alborz Range

Sahand and Ali weren’t alone. They were five. The other three were in another car behind us. Golshahr was sunny, but the sky was getting grey. We began to share our travel experience with Ali and Sahand. They had some Hitchhiking experience toward south of Iran, too.

Hitchhiking to rasht
Welcome to Guilan

After passing Qazvin, we reached Manjil, the city of wind. The sky was cloudy. In Rudbar, it started to rain. It is typical in northern part of Iran to rain. But, I never expected that to come. Anyway we enjoyed the road, as one enjoys road trip in Abbas Kiarostami movies, while we listened to some rock, rap and pop music.

Rotamabad Guilan
The hikers who gave us the ride: Sahand, on the left, Ali, on the right smiling

A Big Mistake: forgetting the tent

After saying goodbye, we walked for five minutes to get to the road to Rostamabad. We were quite happy that our Koker hitchhiking was almost done. Koker wasn’t far from us. It was rainy. So, I decided to cover my backpack. That was then I realized I left the tent in the trunk. Shitttttttttttttt! We had no place to stay for the night. We were supposed to put up a tent in Koker. I gave my business card to Sahand, but I didn’t receive his number. What the hell! All of the sudden, Helia told me I got his Instagram page. She began to text him on and on so that he would notice the notification. Hopefully, he read the texts and gave me a call.

Rostamabad, Guilan
Waiting for Ali & Sahand under a tree

We stood under a tree at the beginning of the Rostamabad road not to get wet for about forty minutes while it was raining cats and dogs. Ali and Sahand were kind enough to return back in the heavy rain to bring back the tent. FYI, we are still in touch with each other through Instagram. Technology is not a bad thing, after all. Lesson learnt: always check your stuff before getting of the car after hitchhiking.

Rostamabad: Seize the Day!  

We continued the Koker hitchhiking by a leisurely walk in a light shower.  It cheered us up. We crossed the long bridge while enjoying the soothing sound of flowing water and green pretty scenery. As a huge fan of Omar Khayyam, I seized every single moment to its full.

Hitchhiking trip to Rostamabad
Carpe Diem!

As we were strolling in the rain talking our plan for tonight, a car stopped and gave us a ride out of kindness to center of Rostamabad. He asked us what we were doing here, particularly with big backpacks. I told him we were in Rostamabad because of Abbas Kiarostami’s film location. “We want to visit Koker”. The guy surprisingly said “There is not much to see. It is all ruins”. I replied enthusiastically, “That is exactly why we are here”. He suggested us to put up the tent next to Imam Zadeh Taher because of its safety. We thanked him and head to groceries to buy something for the dinner.

Koker Rostamabad
Rostamabad, Guilan

A Genuine Surprise

I love fruits. Somehow, I can say I am a fruitarian, somehow. I bought some fruits and three bottles of water. We needed some bread to make sandwiches. The scent of hot bread was in the air. I followed the scent and reached a bakery, Barbari bread. I asked for three Barbari bread. The scent was intoxicating. The baker asked what brought us here and I said” We want to visit Koker.” He said, “You are filmmakers?”. I said, “No. We love Kiarostami. He makes us to come here.” He said,” My son played in that movie.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What!!! Your son played in the movie”, I asked while I was in total shock. He said, “I am the father of Mohammad Reza Parvaneh.”

Parvaneh bakery, Rostamabad
Parvaneh bakery, Rostamabad

I was so thrilled that I screamed for Helia and Yeganeh to break the news. They got excited too. “Would you like to see him? He is up there. In the taxi agency. He is a diver”, he continued. That was the final blow! We thanked him and walked toward the taxi agency. He was there. I recognized him by the look. Yes, he was Mohammad Reza Parvaneh. Holy Smoke! I approached him and introduced myself. He answered me reluctantly. I asked for his phone number if it were possible to guide us around in Koker. He looked at us distrustfully. I didn’t like his look. He was looking at us as if we were stupid. I got his number and left. Helia had the same feeling. Anyway, we headed to Imam Zadeh Taher for the night.

Camping in Imam Zadeh Taher, Shamam

Imam Zadeh Taher is located in Shamam, a village between Koker and Poshteh. Imam Zadeh Taher is a holy shrine. It was clear that we cannot sleep in the shrine. It is a no no. However, we knew that when there is an Imam Zadeh, there is a toilet. That was enough for us. So, we headed to the Imam Zadeh on foot. Luckily, a car stopped and asked our destination. He said, “Hop in. We take you there.” There were three of them, mom, dad and a son.

Imam Zadeh Taher
Imam Zadeh Taher, Shamam

The woman who was outgoing, out of kind of mind reading I guess, said “I know you are here for Kiarostami”. On one hand, we were shocked and on the other hand we were happy that someone understood our motive.

She said “I really wanted to play in the movie, but Kiarostami didn’t pick me.Back then, I was seven or eight. However, on general, we are happy he made his movie in here.”

The appreciation of a mother for an artistic work was touching for me. Although she hadn’t had the chance to play a part in the Koker Trilogy, she was wise enough to see the bigger picture. A benefit for the entire community. What an attitude! They dropped us next to Imam Zadeh Taher and kindly asked us to join them for the dinner. Unfortunately, we had to put it down because we have our own plan. We put up our camp under a big tree. Had our dinner and slept in hope of wonderful day tomorrow in Koker.  

Let’s Explore Koker

The day has come. Waiting is sweet when you know your try is paying off. We had our breakfast next to our tent under the shade. Next, packed our tent and stuff. Ready to explore Abbas Kiarostami’s film location. Our first visiting place was the school you can see in the opening scene of Where Is the Friend’s Home.

Abbas Kiarostami Film Location
School at the opening scene of Where Is the Friend’s Home?

Helia took out a copy of Lessons with Kiarostami by Paul Cronin in Farsi and read some parts of it.  

Lessons with Kiarostami
A copy of “Lessons with Kiarostami” Paul Cronin in Farsi

The school was in ruins. Doors and windows are gone. Yet, if you listen carefully you could hear the boys’ noise inside

Kiarostami film location
Frame in Frame, Koker

 Calling the Actor, Mohammad Reza Parvaneh

Although I knew the Koker Trilogy by heart, I suggested Yeganeh and Helia to call Mohammad Reza Parvaneh to guide us around. They agreed with me. So, I called him to give us a ride in Koker. After all, he played in the films and he knew the locations better than us.

Koker Village Road
Koker Village Road

When he saw me, I had my Abbas Kiarostami T-shirt on. He was surprised to see me like that. I could read it on his face. Helia’s book also showed that we weren’t’ tourists. We were Kiarostami’s aficionados.

Mohammad Reza Parvaneh
Mohammad Reza Parvaneh in Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987)

Zigzag Path, Koker Trilogy

He first took us to the famous zigzag path from Koker to Poshteh. The zigzag path has actually become Kiarostami’s signature in Koker Trilogy. The zigzag path is a a man-made path that made by order of Kiarostami.

Where Is the Friend's Home
Ahmad is search of Mohamed Reza Nematzadeh in Where Is the Friend’s Home
Zigzag Path, Koker Trilogy
Hossein following Tahereh at Zigzag Path, Koker Trilogy
Zigzag Path Abbas Kiarostami
Zigzag path after three decades

Solo Tree of Abbas Kiarostami

Solo Tree of Abbas Kiarostami is at top of the zigzag path showed in Where Is the Friend’s Home and Through the Olive Trees.

Solo Tree Kiarostami
Tahereh next to Solo Tree in Through the Olive Trees (1994)

However, the solo tree, Tak Derakht, in Koker, is no more solo anymore. After three decades, some other tress were also grown round the area.

Zigzag Lines Kiarostami film
Yeganeh & Helia under the Solo Tree of Kiarostami

And Life Goes On

in And Life Goes On, a filmmaker played by Farhad Kheradmand and his son goes on a journey to Koker after the devastating earthquake to find the boys played in Where Is the Friend’s Home. While driving he met the actor who played the role of grandfather of Ahmad in the film. He invites him to his house and offers a bowl of water to his son.

And Life Goes On Kiarostami
Grandfather of Ahmad on the steps of a house in Koker
And Life Goes On Setting
The Same House and Steps in Koker

Through the Olive Trees

Through the Olive Trees is the elaboration of one specific scene in And Life Goes On where Hossein talked about his wedding exactly one day after the earthquake. This is the house where Hossein asks Tahereh to marry him.

Through the Olive Trees
Hossein & Tahereh in Through the Olive Trees
Through the Olive Trees film location
The ruined house of Hossein & Tahereh

After finishing our pilgrimage to Koker, we hitchhiked back to Tehran. Koker is already famous for film lovers and filmmakers around the world. It can turn into Kiarostami Tourism like Harry Potter Tourism in London. One should think about revitalizing the entire village through tourism because it is the only way to bring back this ruins into the live city like then.

koker trilogy
Mohammad Reza Parvaneh, the actor in Koker Trilogy
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Reasons to visit Koker

Reasons to visit Koker

Where is Koker?

Koker is a mud-brick village in Rostam Abad, Rudbar County, Guilan Province, Iran. Koker is not a tourist city, nor does it have any monumental or historical tourist attraction. An ordinary mountainous village at the foot of Alborz Mountain Range like Koker has no attraction for travelers or tourists. In other words, no one go to Koker for a one-day tour or a vacation either solo or with friends or family.

But, one of out of millions does so. Abbas Kiarostami. While travelers go to Masuleh, a popular terraced-stepped village in Guilan, Kiarostami chose Koker. Selecting this small village for shooting his film clearly shows his singularity and uniqueness in seeing the world with a different frame. Heavily influenced by Shorab Sepehri, Kiarostami attempts to practice his poetic worldview in magical world of cinema. Which he did and was highly successful.

Where Is the Friend’s Home?

Kiarostami made his film, Where Is the Friend’s Home? Or in Persian Khane-ye dust kojast? in Koker in 1987. A film revolves around Ahmad who looks for Mohamed Reza Nematzadeh to return his notebook he mistakenly picked up at school due to the exact similarity. He spends the entire afternoon to prevent another embarrassing situation at school for him. Read the detailed summary of Where Is the Friend’s Home? in here.

Reasons to visit Koker  - Where Is the Friend's Home?
Where is the Friends’ Home? 1987

Life, and Nothing More

After the devastating 1990 Manjil–Rudbar earthquake, killing over 37,000 people, Kiarostami once more return to Koker to acquire about his film characters. And in doing so, he made another film out of Koker named Life, and Nothing More…(in Persian Zendegi va digar hich) in 1992. A film director and his son go on a trip to Koker to find Ahmad and Mohamed Reza Nematzadeh who played in Where Is the Friend’s Home? In the earthquake-stricken area. Click to read the detailed summary of Life, and Nothing More.

Reasons to visit Koker -Life, and Nothing More
Life, an Nothing More…1992
Through the Olive Trees

And last but not least, Through the Olive Trees (in Persian Zir-e Derakhtan-e Zeytun) in the earthquake-ravaged Koker in 1994. In this self-referential film, Kiarostami focuses on the real love story behind the two characters of his previous film, Life, and Nothing More…, Tahereh and Hossein. Click to read the full summary of Through the Olive Trees.

Reasons to visit Koker -Through the Olive Trees
Through The Olive Trees 1994

Koker may has not colossal architecture like Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan or the mesmerizing beauty of Historic city of Yazd, yet it has it own poetic beauty which bestowed on it by Kiarostami’s camera. Kiarostami captures a historic moment out of it and takes us to a long inner journey where touches every human being. You can grasp similar feeling in Koker Trilogy Tour.

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Iran Film Tourism

Iran film tourism! Is it possible?

Living without cinema and film is futile! I have been pondering on the topic of tourism and its link to cinema for a quite a long time, but I couldn’t find any. At first, I though to make a film on tourism, which after some calculation, I found it costly. Then the idea of arranging a meeting between the film locations and film crew came to my mind. I asked some of my friends, however, since they have to idea about cinema, they were unable to help me out! Shoot!

Film Tourism in the world

That’s when the google stepped in! I surfed the net and came across hundred pages of movie-themed tour, film-themed tour, and film tour in different parts of mother earth. I got excited, but it didn’t last long. No block-buster movies were made in Iran, nor great filmmaker or cinema auteur chose part of Iran as her film locations after Iranian Revolution. Asghar Farhadi, who won the Best Foreign Language Film Award twice, has no specific or detectable film location. I mean you can’t put your finger on a certain spot and claims that the shooting was here. The viewers might be able to feel the spirit of Tehran in Farhadi’s movies; yet one cannot locate it. Farhadi thought and style have been dominating and imitating the Iranian cinema over the last decade. So, I had to go back in time to spot what I had on my mine. And that’s where Abbas Kiarostami popped in. yeah! It is him I have been seeking for.

Film tourism Koker Trilogy of Abbas Kiarostami
Where Is the Friend’s Home?

Film Tourism in Iran

Abbas Kiarostami, the poetic image maker, was fond of road film. Bang! I have the road. It is the first connection to Travel. His characters are discoverers! Bang! Travelers love to discover new things. And above all, the films have specific film locations, for instance, Koker Trilogy. So, I got the main thread and I could develop it into a bigger idea.

Click here to read Koker Hitchhiking.

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