Date: 29 December 2010
Location: Buenos Aires
Scribble: Tomorrow, we will go back to London via Sao Paolo. We will wait in Sao Paolo for 3 hours. I hope that we will be allowed to leave the plane during this time. It is going to be a very long flight!
The reason why Buenos Aires doesn’t look like other colonial Spanish cities is because from the end of the 19th century until 1930s when Argentina was the 5th richest country in the world, the city passed through the hands of famous architects so that it could be as grand and famous as cities like Paris, Madrid and Rome.
Even though Argentina is a Spanish colony, most of the immigrants came here from Italy, then from Spain. Germans are the third in line. Argentina has the largest Irish population in all the Spanish colonies. Che, the Argentine icon, whose full name was Ernesto “Che” Guevara de Lynch was of Irish decent.
Even though the Argentines mainly have Latin blood and DNA, especially the infrastructure of Buenos Aires, its ports and railways have been constructed by English firms and immigrants. Famous and rich neighbourhoods like Palermo have been designed by the French architect Charles Te.
Including the suburbs, the population of the city is 12 million (Argentina is 40 million). It is the most crowded city with the worst traffic in South America after Sao Paolo.
Actually, now we are glad that we spent more time in Patagonia and saw the Argentine nature because there is really no need to spend more than 2 days in Buenos Aires. In a way, it is the Americanised version of Paris.
Undoubtedly, the pink presidential palace where Juan and Eva Peron used to appear from the balcony (now it is the president’s office), the San Telmo neighbourhood, which suffered from the cholera and yellow fever outbreaks so the wealthy families left it for Recoletta and most important of all La Boca have elements of their own and contain the Argentine culture.
Buenos Aires’ river Rio Plata is the second widest river in the world (it can reach up to 250 km).
It is clear that they see Maradona almost like a god.
Maradona is everywhere and almost is a tourist trap.
The Boca Stadium where Maradona used to play is considered as one the important monuments of Buenos Aires.
The La Boca neighbourhood is a shantytown built by the old port.
It never lost its shantytown status since its first days. The Italian immigrants who had absolutely nothing settled here and built themselves houses with whatever they could find (i.e. tin). Then, they painted these tins.
So the colourful La Boca is not actually an immigrant Disneyland.
The buildings are really made of tin and they really are colourful.
It is far from the city’s noise and traffic. The best Buenos Aires air can be felt here with tango music and dance in every corner.
Due to security problems, it is only advisable to visit here during day time and only to walk on the main street.
Unfortunately, like everywhere in the world, there are all kinds of ways to get money from the tourists.
As we wanted to have a light lunch, we snacked on a few empanadas here (incredibly delicious) but then when we learnt that the restaurant didn’t accept credit cards and we didn’t have any cash, I had to wait at the restaurant and F. had to withdraw money from the ATM of Banco Nacion.
As he took a long time to come back, I had to share the table with a group from Israel and I even gave them advice on what to choose from the menu.
Even though the area to go around safely in La Boca is quite limited, it is easy to spend hours here.
The Argentines are very fond of dulce de leche (milk jam) and add it in everything. If it were possible, they would even add it on steak as sauce. However, we preferred to taste dulche de leche ice cream across the Recoletta Cemetary. It was like caramel ice cream.
However, the real issue is that at the ice cream parlour, we realised that the 100 pesos that F. withdrew from the ATM earlier was fake. We were told that there was absolutely nothing we could do about it! It seems like fake money is a major problem is South America. Then we researched and learnt that this is a major problem that the tourists face especially with 50 and 100 peso notes even if the money is withdrawn from the ATMs of banks such as Citibank and HSBC. Banks don’t accept responsibility and claim that the machines destroy the fake money but it is not true! Before going to Argentina or Peru, you must somehow exchange the money in your country or don’t even trust the ATMs, exchange your money face to face inside the bank. There is no other way. This is a big problem in South America and most tourists suffer from it. Otherwise, you could insist on paying in dollars as even the taxis usually accept American dollars.
Eva Peron’s tomb, in fact, her mausoleum is in the Recoletta Cemetery under the name of her family, Duarte.
She is not buried in her husband’s mausoleum but with her family.
What’s interesting is that this cemetery is like a city in itself. It has streets and each mausoleum is like a building or a temple.
In each mausoleum, at least two families, especially the many homeless of Buenos Aires could live easily.
It was shocking.
The cemetery of the wealthy who care about status even after death…
We spent our last night in Buenos Aires and South America by dining in San Telmo at the El Viejo Almacen restaurant and watching a tango show at the cabaret with the same name and which is considered a tango temple. This was a nice and appropriate ending to our South America trip.
What I noticed the most at dinner was the sauce they served with bread. It was exactly like the Turkish hot “ezme” but with olive and oregano added to it. It was finger licking delicious.
I would have loved to have danced samba in Brazil and tango in Argentina during our South America trip but alas, there was no such opportunity.
Nevertheless, tonight’s tango show gave me goose bumps at times with the acrobatic movements.
I loved South America and I will miss places like Rio, Patagonia and La Boca. Even though we have been away from home, London for a long time, we don’t feel tired or miss our home. Besides Aguas Calientes in Peru, we felt at home everywhere and comfortable.
I cannot stop myself from thinking again that I am so lucky to have seen these places and that my wishes have come true. That’s why I even feel a little guilty. I always think that there must be a reason. Perhaps, my sole responsibility is to live the life that the Creator gave me.