On the boulevards

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Casa Rosada at night

Next morning we go sightseeing. "The Paris of Latin America" Buenos Aires is cooed to. And it certainly does justifiy its nickname. I think, that all roman megalopolises, like Paris, Madrid and Lissabon, look alike. I assume even Macau looks alike.  So, we drove off to to the main square with the presidential palace, the Casa Rosada. We had seen it the night before on our way to the restaurant, beautifully set up in pink light. Buenos Aires has the oldest metro in south America, of which we saw the entrance, there was no time to go in or actually take a ride. 

As we drove through te city our local guide tells us about Argentina's history. The majority of people are European from Spain (50%) and Italy (40%) and the rest from other, mostly European countries.

oldest metro in south America
There are no Mestizos and no black people. Different than in Peru and Bolivia, here the Spanish conquerers colonized the land, killing off all the native peoples. There is only a small group left in the north of Argentina. In the 19th century slavery was in effect which brought many Africans to the land. It was quickly abolished, but the slave-masters didn't want to give up on them. They hid them, and the slaves continued to be slaves under wraps. When the yellow fever broke out the slaves were denied medical help, for it would mean showing them up. The white masters fled and left them on their own. They all died. Stories like this move me a lot. There will always be people who dare acting as masters of life and death without ever bearing repercussions, just because they can.
La Bombonera stadium

Buenos Aires is beautiful. Though I would never want to live here, just because I don't like megalopolises (except maybe NYC). Our next stop was La Boca, the first harbour, settled with Italian families who came during the immigration wave of the early 20th century. We stopped to see the soccer stadium La Bombonera. The story about how the local soccer team got its colours is interesting: the first ship that brought immigrants was from Sweden, so the team chose their national flag's colour, blue and yellow. The stadium is painted in blue and yellow, with the main sponsor's logo on it, Coca-Cola. But not the red and white Coca-Cola logo, but the black and white Cola Zero logo. Why? Because the club's main rival's colours are red and white. Funny.

the Caminito
A few meters behind the stadium there's a little house with a mural of Maradona on it, and everybody wanted to get out and take a photo. The guide strictly forbid this and told us about an event: another tourbus took the same tour like we do now and stopped here to take photos. They didn't get out of the bus, nor did the driver stop the engine, they just opened the door so they could get a better perspective on the mural. In a second a gang crashed in and robbed them. It all happened very quickly, and since then there's no way the guide would let any tourist out or open the bus' door.

We drove on to the Caminito, a couple of streets inside La Boca. We passed a housing area with big buildings. The streets were pretty delapitated and we saw burned down cars.

This didn't look nice. Our guide explained that La Boca is a bad neighbourhood (here we go again), with a lot of street gangs. The Caminito is an artistic part of this neighbourhood with little bars and restaurants and shops that sell handicraft and art. The city came to terms with the local gangs to leave these streets alone and let the people do their work and let tourists come here in peace. Apparently it works. The Caminito is famous for its colourful houses, inhabited by dockworkers. When there would be leftovers of the paint they'd use for the ships, they'd take them home and paint their houses with it. The result is awesome! We were unshiped in one of the streets and were given enough time to stroll around, shop or sit in a cafe, strongly advised not to leave the borders of this part.
This would have been impossible anyway, since there where police checkpoints at the crossings, with armored cars and officers in bulletproof vests, all heavily armed. As I walked down the streets of Caminito, I couldn't help but feel sad. The people who lived and worked here really made an effort, it was beautiful. You could see their creativity and joy everywhere. I had a chat and a good laugh with some of them and returned home with a lovely little sculpture of the Caminito.

On our way back to the city we passed a slum again, and it's a huge contrast to the liveliness of the Caminito. It's an even bigger contrast to the next neighbourhood, just across the street. Madero is the new harbour, and a good neighbourhood with tall shiny business and apartment buildings.

Beautiful trees of Buenos Aires. They are not native, but where brought here from Africa. Forgot their name.
There are educational institutions and restaurants, parks and a waterfront walk. Amazing how the poor and the rich are seperated by only a street.  

Next stop is Recoleta, that is the cemetary. I'd say, this is a good neighbourhood, too, since these tombs must cost more than my apartment. It's a rich people's burial ground, albeit there seems to be nobody actually buried. We are here to visit Evita Peron's grave, but I'm too busy marveling. There's a crowd at her grave anyway so I pass, I never knew her anyway, may she rest in peace. The graves cannot be reffered to as graves, they are mausoleums. Some of them are like little houses with windows or glass doors so you can actually see the coffins decompose inside. It's all so bizarre, I just don't get it! What happened to "ashes to ashes"? I guess, an architect would have a ball here, for some mausoleums are masterpieces of architectual art, if there is such a thing.

Recoleta cemetary
I think, this cemetary just evidences another aspect of human pride and the need to show off, even though the owners won't be able to see the admiration simply because they are dead.

In the afternoon, one part of the group goes on a boat ride to the Parana river delta. I don't feel like it and after a little rest head to the city. It's warm, summer has just begun and I enjoy the warm sun. I go to Florida street, the famous shopping area. My attention is drawn to the street market, and I buy a leather bag, handmade by a young lady. Then I stop into a cafe where the waiters wear white uniforms and the interior hasn't changed since 1925. I love it. I spend quite some time here just observing the people and the street market outside. It's so different than Peru and Bolivia.

Walking back to the hotel, I regret not having the courage to go back to the Caminito or some other Barrio.

The next day, our flight leaves in the late afternoon and we stay in the hotel untill leaving. I go to an exchange office to change the Pesos I have left back into Euros, or Dollars. It took about 2 hours to do so. They needed the receipt of the earlier exchange, which I luckily still had but had to walk back to my room to get it. Then I got a number and waited. For hours. When there was finally my turn, I was lead behind a paravan to counters behind thick glass. Cameras where recording my every move. I had to sign two papers, the clerk copied the receipt and my passport. What the hell??? The clerk appologized for the bureaucracy and wished me a nice day.

Wow, this was more annoying than the search at La Paz airport!

 At Buenos Aires airport my passport gets stamped by the same grumpy man who stamped it at my arrival. His mood hadn't changed since then. 

The flight was turbulent, so much that dinner was interrupted a couple of times because the flight attendents had to sit and fasten their seatbelts. The AC was cold as before, but the strike was over and we ate a hot meal. At Paris airport we had to wait all day for our connecting flight, which made us spend a lot of money on ordinary snacks. Why are airport shops so freaking expensive? Isn't anybody ashamed to rip people off like that?

I loved south America! It's beautiful and interesting and fascinating, and I hope to go back one day.

 

 

vila says:
I definitely have to go back, and spend more time there! :)
Posted on: Jan 08, 2012
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Casa Rosada at night
Casa Rosada at night
oldest metro in south America
oldest metro in south America
La Bombonera stadium
La Bombonera stadium
the Caminito
the Caminito
Beautiful trees of Buenos Aires. T…
Beautiful trees of Buenos Aires. …
Recoleta cemetary
Recoleta cemetary
the theater
the theater
Casa Rosada
Casa Rosada
apparently the only colonial build…
apparently the only colonial buil…
street sights
street sights
security checkpoint at the Caminito
security checkpoint at the Caminito
Florida street street market
Florida street street market