Saturday, June 22, 2013

Buenos Aires I: Awkwardness in Argentina

I have already told you that our friends Stephan and Laura visited us in Montevideo. And of course Sebastian and I had to pay them a return visit in Buenos Aires. Because why not cross the river and see what the other side has to offer?

And so we started planning. Well.. kind of. We waited to get our bus/ferry tickets until the week before the weekend we had picked for our trip and just when we were about to go to the bus terminal and make a decision on the way of transportation, my dearest Pablo sent me the link to a website named “woow” which is like the Uruguayan equivalent to “Groupon”. You buy a promotion online, get a coupon code and with that code you can buy something for cheaper.

It just so happened that said website had a fantastic promotion: a back and forth trip to Buenos Aires for 712 Uruguayan pesos. Plus administrational fees of 130 pesos which meant an aggregated cost of 842 pesos. Which is equal to about 30€. Not bad. Well,… pretty good actually!

So we checked out the company that offered that trip and found out that they offer two different prices for the trip. One for residents and one for foreigners. Now guess which one was about 200 pesos higher! So we really weren’t sure whether or not they would let us get through with the coupon and sell us the tickets or if the fact that we are foreigners would somehow affect that purchase. We decided to go for it, because the worst that could happen was that we would have to pay the difference. And even with 200 pesos more, it would have still been a pretty good deal. 

So we bought it. And it worked. Yay, for cheap fares!

It just so happened, that the deal didn’t involve a trip via Colonia which is the more common route. Instead we went to a place with the sounding name of Carmelo which is further in on the Rio de la Plata delta. From there we took a ferry to an outskirt of Buenos Aires with the also very sounding name of Tigre and there we spontaneously decided to get our backpacks and leave the route for a bit. Mainly because it looked so pretty and the train from Tigre to the center of Buenos Aires only cost 4 Argentinian pesos (40 cents). And that was definitely an expense worthwhile because we got to see the cute little town of Tigre.

When we arrived, the town was still fast asleep...

Since I don’t do my days without breakfast, our first stop was McDonalds. Not exactly our first choice for breakfast but we didn’t find any cute café nearby so McD’s had to do. After that we explored our options and decided to go on a boat ride through the island scenery of the nearby rivers. 

Yo no soy marinero...

On said tour they explained to us what the whole island-living there looks like. Including garbage and supermarket-boats. I found it pretty interesting how they adapted all their lives around the fact that they are living on islands and completely depend on the waterways.

Now tell me that's not a cool name...

Parque de la Costa

Cool light effect caused by people buning fall leaves

Garbage boat

Island School. 
Imagine going to school by boat!

Sparkly water :)

Abandoned shipwreck

After that we explored the city some more and went to the most popular sight, the Mercado de Frutos. Said place was a market of all kinds of things, mainly Artesanía and food. But most of the stores were closed since it was winter and I guess sales are kind of slow with the lack of tourists during that season. For us it was time for lunch, so we had ourselves some Chorizos. We didn’t really explore all the little stores afterwards because to be honest, Sebastian is kind of a rushed and impatient tourist. No time for unnecessary strolling. Now there are probably more places to see in Tigre, for example the Mate museum. But we didn’t really feel like it and so after some strolling around we hopped on the next train to the city.

Caution! Beware of the creeping Tigers when crossing the street!

Meet Lola

No picknicks?! :(

Very cool tree

Repuposed: an Oldtimer as a Coffee Cart

Happy flag :)

Now that train ride was also quite interesting. By now we are used to all kinds of street artists entertaining the passengers of buses. Well here it was a train. Potato, potahto.  But on that train there were a lot more artists and at some points even whole bands. It’s also quite common to sell things on public transportation. So every now and then someone walks up to you and places his goods in your lap. And after he made his round her will come back and takes it from you unless you want to buy it. It’s just the normal means of selling small and cheap stuff. Like candy and socks. But that all is still pretty normal and we knew it from Uruguay. Now what was rare was that there are a lot more street children in Buenos Aires who of course also beg for money and food on the trains/buses/subways. And just when I turned away to look out the window, one of those kids spat in Sebastian’s face. He told me that apparently since he had his drinking bottle in his hand, some street kid wanted to have a drink. And when he said no the kid just spat at him. Rude! But then again I guess you can’t blame the kid for being thirsty.

After a while we eventually got to Retiro station where we met Stephan who came to pick us up. We then left for Pizzas and Sebastian, Laura and I continued on to Laura’s barrio, Palermo, where we strolled around for a bit before getting back to her place and taking a well-earned nap. At some point she woke us up, because we had made plans with Stephan to have dinner. I really didn’t want to get up again but then again a delicious steak was calling for me. So off we go. We ended up at a very good steak restaurant where we each got a steak that was accompanied by a salad buffet. Verrry tasty, to say the least. One might even call it “the best steak I ever had!”. And so we ate and talked German and enjoyed our company. And at some point we decided we should capture the moment on film. Well… on memory card. What’s the difference?

Que rico... Definitely the best steak I ever had!

So we contemplated whether we should ask one of the waiters or the people at the table next to ours. Since the restaurant was quite big and there was no waiter nearby, we settled on the people next to us. So that meant a woman in her best years and a much younger man. We asked ourselves (aloud) whether they were mother and son or two lovers on a date.  I think Stephan’s comment here was something like “I think they definitely got the tender-vibe going on”. Anyway, we didn’t really know and It would have been rude to ask. So instead we asked in perfect Spanish, whether one of them could take a picture of us just to find the lady replying to us in perfect native-born German, that she in fact could speak German and that she could understand all that we were talking about. Oooops!! That was kind of… Embarrassing!! And highly unlikely. I mean what’s the chance!! Luckily they didn’t seem to take it the wrong way and snapped our picture anyway. But we all resolved to be more careful with what we are saying. Lesson learned.

The hosts

The guests

Very awkward group picture...

And with that little awkward anecdote I am stopping for today since that was pretty much it for the first day of vacationing. So Laura and I went to her place to get a good night’s sleep and the guys went to Stephan’s apartment in the center. But before that we decided on a time when we would meet the following day to go for some sightseeing. Even though that kind of sort of accidentally turned out to be rather flexible… but more about that in the next blogpost. So stay tuned!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jetzt geht's los, Spätzle mit Sooooß'!

So before I go on with another weekend trip of mine, let’s have another episode of “Caro eats her weight in delicious Uruguayan food”.  Oh wait! Not only Uruguayan, but also GERMAN! Yes, that’s right. Since my mom sent me the wonderful kitchen tool called “Spätzlehobel” I was itching to make some “Kässpätzle”. Kind of hard to explain what that is to non-Germans but for starters let me tell you that there’s looooots of cheese and onions involved. Except when your name is Lucía. But more about that later on.

First up I was very excited when I got mail from Germany. From my family to be exact, who among other things sent me loots of German goodies. Well, most of it was chocolate. But there was also one of my favorite kitchen appliances in the mail: a “Spätzlehobel”. Of course I had to try it out ASAP.

Danke, Mama!

And since it’s way more fun to cook with and for other people and because I like introducing non-Germans to the very delicious meal called “Kässpätzle”, I of course couldn’t just make some for myself. So I asked myself: “Who should be my guinea pigs?” [insert evil laugh here]

And I selecteeeed… [drumroll here]… the Maceiras family. Well.. and whatever else their last names are. I’m still confused about the whole “not-all-family-members-having-the-same-last-name”-thing. Anyway. That means Pablo’s family. Though really they had nothing to fear since by now I am an expert on Spätzle-making. And I have plenty of references.

So last Saturday was the day of choice for good food. And I mean the whole day because in the evening we ate an incredibly great chicken dish that Pablo’s dad made and together with the “Kässpätzle” we also had the world’s best rice pudding a.k.a. “Milchreis” a.k.a. ”arroz con leche” for dessert. And since my dear friend Desi and I have a special history with that dessert, I of course had to learn how to make it, so I can let her try it as well once we are united again in Germany.

No need to deny it. I eat way too much and way too good here in Uruguay. Maybe my parents should get one of those softwares where you can morph a picture of a person into a fattie so they know who to look for when they are picking me up at the airport. Kidding. I skype with them all the time. They will recognize me. Hopefully…

Anyway, for lunch we had “Kässpätzle”. First things first, there really isn’t a recipe for it. I know how to make it so I make the dough by rule of thumb. And I was quite challenged when Pablo’s family told me they don’t eat that many eggs there. Well.. I reduced the amount of eggs. And I negotiated a bit. And ultimately I got them to agree to five eggs. And it turned out great so everybody’s happy. 

 So anyhow I prepared the dough and had Pablo, Lucía and their mom Brenda do the minion jobs. Cutting and frying onions and grating cheese that is.  And eventually everything was ready for me to show them  some Spätzle-making magic. I’m not gonna explain how it works here. Either you are familiar with it, or you can hit me up and I will prepare it for you. Of course you will have to cover for any travel expenses that might incur.

Me and my kitchen-minion

Pablo being all skeptical

So eventually the Spätzle were done and ready to be covered with onions. 

Wait.. STOP!! No onions!!


Because Lucía hates onions. Not sure how the poor little onions deserve that hatred but since I have a little brother who is also a little particular about food, I of course knew what had to be done. Take some Spätzle out for Lucía and then go on with the process. And that includes lots of fried onions on top of the Kässpätzle. Et voilà! Lunch is ready. And I think now it is officially Uruguay-approved.

Lucía doesn't know what she is missing out on... 
...more onions for the rest of us!

The sweet smell of onions and cheese

Handsome cooks, delicious food

And since you can’t ever eat too much Spätzle, my friend Johanna and I decided to cook some together this Wednesday as we had a free day due to Artigas’ birthday. No if you are wondering who Artigas is… He’s Uruguay’s national hero and there are about a gazillion statues of him on his horse around Montevideo/Uruguay.

Anyway we had a free day and “ganas de cocinar” (= we really wanted to cook something spectacularly and fantastically delicious). So we invited some friends and decided to cook Spätzle with “Blaukraut” (=red cabbage) and “Schweinebraten” (=pork roast). That was quite the ambitious goal as the Schweinebraten itself takes about 2 hours to prepare. Actually, the hardest part was finding the right piece of meat in Spanish. But with the help of my friend Anna and some gesturing I eventually ended up with a piece from a pig’s shoulder (or at least that’s what I think). And with the great instructions my mom had given me before and Johanna’s knowledge about pork roast, we ended up with hands down the most delicious meal I have ever made.

So altogether it was Johanna and I, our two German friends Julia and Sebastian H. and Pablo who came over for his (extended) lunch break. And while us girlies were cooking, we handed over the  simple task of opening a bottle of red wine to the guys. They eventually got help from my roommate Fanny and her boyfriend Sebastian and with joint efforts and by completely destroying the cork they somehow opened the bottle. Don’t ask how long it took them… but to be honest it was one of those very sh*tty plastic corks.

Sebastian and the cork

The guys and their only responsibility: a very stubborn bottle of wine

Pretty cooks

But it didn’t matter anyway because we had food. Incredibly delicious food. German food. That tasted like a Sunday meal. And home. It definitely tasted like home.

¡Buen Provecho!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Somwhere in Uruguay: Piriápolis II

Same people, different day. Let’s go on with the second day in Piriápolis before I tell you what I did this past weekend.

Our second day in Piria was also Easter Sunday, which is a day I usually always spend with the majority of my family. Apart from one Easter that I spent in the S with the majority of my host family. But needless to say it’s odd not to have your family there if you’re so used to it like I am. You  can’t imagine my joy when I found out I can still skype with my family back home on Easter. I mean, even though Pablo’s family kind of turned into my Uruguayan family by now, I was really happy back then that I got to see my “real” family. So after getting up I connected to skype and got to talk to my parents, sister, brother, grandma and uncle. Which to be honest, that is a pretty small round for an Easter Sunday but I take what I can get. So after some catching up and my family showing me what I was missing (Easter cake lambs!!), I of course had to introduce my Uruguayan friends to my German family. For me it was like a connection between two worlds that are only connected by a small link: me. But it was incredible for me to have my both lives connected like that. A big thank you to skype at this point!

The Skype Company (minus my favorite brother)

But as with all good things, our skype talk had to come to an end at some point. So after that there were a couple more places to see before leaving Piria in the evening. First stop, a hill (or maybe a moull?) with the sounding name of "Cerro del Toro" which is the location of two animal statues: a bull (Toro... Duh!!) and a puma. Upon arriving there, we first went up some stairs to a statue of a bull that spit water down a cascade. First thing I was told there was that it’s good luck to touch the bull’s balls. So yes, I did touch a (statue) bull’s balls. Then we of course had to snap some pictures. I think Pablo and Rusty had the most fun here.


Uh.. Pablo... you got something coming out of your ear there...

Brokeback Mountain 2.0

Rusty trying to find the perfect angle 
[Picture courtesy of Pablo Maceiras]

After that we went further up the hill, first by means of another flight of stairs and then by climbing a little path between rocks and trees. And we came to the next statue, the puma. That one was already pretty old which meant the color had faded and one ear was missing. Poor kitty!

Born to be Wild

Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, Little Ball of Fur...

We totally killed the beast...

...while a creeper took pictures of our butts?!

Still exploring angles 
[Picture courtesy of Pablo Maceiras]

After that we went back down the hill which was the tragic end of one of my flip flops. I guess I stressed my old and battered flip flop a little too much. And since the situation seemed hopeless for my flip flop and there was no chance to revive them I had to throw my beloved flip flops away once we were back down from Cerro del Toro. But luckily Rusty lent me his pair so I could go on exploring Piriápolis.

Up the rocky road.. with my flip flops still intact

Our next stop was “Cerro San Antonio” where we got by means of a chairlift. Well Pablo and I did while the others took the car. That was because it’s kind of expensive and they already knew it while I was all new to the experience. And it was definitely worth the pesos. The way up was already quite nice to see but when going down you get a full view of the ocean and Piria’s yacht harbor. And the view from the top isn’t shabby either because you can see all of Piriápolis from a much closer point of view than from Cerro Pan de Azúcar where we went the day before.

Me and Alfalfa on the chairlift

View of Piriápolis from Cerro San Antonio

Me blocking the view of Piriápolis from Cerro San Antonio ;)

Awkward group picture!

The Harbor and the Silky Sea
(Wouldn't that make a great song title? I call copyrights!)

After that Pablo took me on a ride along the Rambla so I could get an impression of his favorite beach and then we returned to the house to grab or stuff and go back home.

Altogether it was a great weekend with great people and the perfect end to an amazing week of travelling. Muchas gracias, mis amigos!