From Iguazu Falls we made the long trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s diverse capital city.
When booking our hostel in Buenos Aires we had two options for the location. We could book in Palermo, the trendy but pricey cosmopolitan district or we could go with a hostel in San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires and the birthplace of Tango. We decided that we’d rather see the traditional side of Buenos Aires and thus booked a hostel in San Telmo.
Upon arriving in Buenos Aeres we were eager to head straight out into San Telmo to soak up some of the Argentine atmosphere that we’d heard so much about. Upon leaving the hostel, it didn’t take us long to find a Plaza packed with bars and a couple dancing tango in the middle of it all. Heaven. In this plaza we were also lucky enough to enjoy some sangria whilst watching a free Flamenco show with the most incredible Spanish guitarist. All in all, a very good first night in Buenos Aires.
*I wasn’t ‘dragged out’ – I’m not a fan of massive crowds in 35deg heat. Love a bit of culture though.
Our guide taught us all about Argentina’s dark past and the dictatorship that mars the country’s history. He also spoke about Argentina’s troubled economy and the vicious cycle of inflation that the Argentine people go through every through years. It was at his point that he informed us that we had chosen to visit Argentina at it most expensive time and if we had visited a year earlier everything would have been 45% cheaper. A bit of a blow but never mind.
What we ultimately took away from the tour was the resilient nature of the Argentine people as well as the diversity that can be found in Buenos Aires as a city. Indeed, when the city was founded in 1536, the government operated an open door policy aimed at attracting the best talent from around the world (Northern Europeans being the main target). Instead however, this policy attracted those from some of the poorest, most deprived backrgrounds with low education levels and very few transferable skills. The plan was also to disperse immigrants around Argentina, onto farms, plantations and other areas. This too did not materialise as many of the immigrants stayed in Argentina’s main cities, most notably Buenos Aires. This blend of nationalities and cultures is evident today through the cities people and it’s architecture, some 500 years later. All in all the tour was a brilliant way to see the city and our tour guide was incredible (even if he did spend a lot of time bombarding us with his own political ideals).
The next day was a Sunday. In Buenos Aires this day is well known for being the day on which the famous San Telmo market takes place. Occupying the entire length of Defensa street, the market is so long that it takes a good 3 hours to travel from one end to the other. It is famous for a reason and oozes with Argentine culture. Locals dance around market stalls filled with antiques, colourful souvenirs and handmade crafts and musicians serenade you with local songs of their own creation.
After we had had our fill of the market, I agreed to find a bar in which to watch the football with Tim. Now, having been assured that a big match between Liverpool and Manchester United would have a great atmosphere, attracting people from all over the city to come and watch, I was happy to go. The reality was very different. When we arrived, the bar was empty, and remained so throughout the match. However, the bar was quirky and had a secret door to get in so that was cool.
The next day we visited the famous Recoleta Cemetery. This maze of enormous mosseliums is quite an impressive sight, although a little eerie, and made us feel as though we were walking around a mini city. Having read up on Eva Peron, or ‘Evita’, it was interesting for us to see her tomb here. As a figure still idealised by Argentine people, her tomb is the only one in the cemetery with a constant array of fresh flowers around it, probably because her story is still frequently talked about in Buenos Aires.
In the evening, we went to heaven. After three weeks of bread and pasta we walked into an Argentine restaurant and ordered two Argentine steaks. We couldn’t afford any sides such as vegetables but luckily it came with some Spanish potatoes. When they were placed on the table we gave each other a look that telepathically said, ‘let’s not talk for a while’. We ate in silence and made sure to savour every moment as we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford to do something like it again. More than that though, the steak in Argentina truly lives up to the hype that surrounds it. It all sounds dramatic considering we haven’t been away very long but we were very happy that night.
The next day we visited some of the parks in Buenos Aires and became acquainted with a very clever landmark of Buenos Aires named ‘La Floralis Generica’. Like a real flower, this 18 tonne metal replica opens and closes each day, responding to sunlight. We made use of the park’s reclining benches to appreciate it and soak up some sun ourselves. In the evening we went back to the plaza near our hotel to grab a drink and watch some more Tango.
Our last day, we decided to pack in a lot. Waking early, we walked to the distract of Buenos Aires called La Boca. Famous for a number of reasons, including being the home of the famous Argentinian football team Boca Juniors, this area boasts even more tango than San Telmo and has a number of streets filled with brightly coloured buildings and numerous markets. Ending our day at the port, we saw a very different side of Buenos Aires, filled with tall office buildings and posh hotels. Although we had become very adept at using the public transport in Buenos Aires, the day involved a lot of walking and we werevery tired. However, we didn’t stop there, deciding that we had watched enough tango….it was time to try it for ourselves.
Our best night in Buenos Aires was undoubtedly our last. La Catedral de Tango is a place where you can have a drink and watch some Tango or undertake a Tango class yourself. Arriving around 9pm we walked in on an advanced tango class taking place and we watched in awe as they danced elegantly around the room. Having made sure to get a few beers down us first, we then stepped up to our own tango lesson with a group of other beginners. It was harder than it looks but very funny. We weren’t the best but we definitely weren’t the worst and by the end of the class we had mastered the basic 8 step tango routine upon which all tango dances are based. After the class had finished, everybody of all dance abilities got up and danced tango until the small hours of the morning. All in all, a very fun night.
(The pics are a bit rubbish because it was so dark but take our word for it, it was cool!)
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed Buenos Aires. It’s a city with a big personality that you warm to the longer you’re there. A massive city, we managed to pack a lot into our 5 days and learned enough about the history to appreciate the jumbled mix of culture that can be seen in every aspect of it. As a city that caters for all kinds of people with differing interests, Buenos Aires is definitely a city everyone should experience.
Next stop… Mendoza