Friday, July 12, 2013

Buenos Aires III: Life in Technicolor

On our last day in Buenos Aires, it was only Laura, Sebastian and I, as Stephan’s girlfriend was coming from Germany to visit him and he therefore had a good reason not to spend the day with us. First on our list was Plaza de Mayo again, as we had only seen it by night and wanted to get a view of Casa Rosada, the residence of the Argentinian president. It was open for visits so we also checked out the inside and I gotta say that president has some nice accommodation.

In front of Casa Rosada

With the guard


Outside there were guards marching around Plaza de Mayo. Nothing too special. But the cool thing about them was that they were absolutely in sync. Every single step was exactly coordinated and they never stopped marching. That even applied when they wantedd to cross the street but had to wait at the stoplight. Even when staying in one place they still marched on the spot. I guess that's better than not being allowed to smile but it still looked rather odd to me. 

Completely synchronized

From Plaza de Mayo we took a side street that went straight to our next destination – San Telmo. Conveniently, there was a feria (=market) in that same street and so we got to check out what markets in Buenos Aires have to offer. Most of it is pretty similar to Montevideo’s markets: clothes, souvenirs, mates. What I really liked were the leather products because that’s something we don’t have in Montevideo. One stand in particular caught my attention with really pretty notebook/calendar/passport covers made from leather and adorned with patterns that were burnt into the leather. My favorite was one with the South American continent etched into it that fit my calendar perfectly. But I hesitated at the price and so we went on towards the “Feria de San Telmo” which is a market for antiques. We didn’t really get too much into it, since neither of us had the money or the room in our luggage to bring home furniture or the like. Though the things we saw were incredibly pretty.

Feria as far as the eye can see

In a sea of mates

Old  Tango Guy

We then went on towards “La Boca” another one of Buenos Aires’ dockland districts. In opposition to Puerto Madero which we had visited the day before, this district was one of the poorer areas. No splendor, no skyscrapers and a bit too much dog poop on the streets for my liking. We had to watch every step so we wouldn’t accidentally step into it. Luckily we had Sebastian with us, who told us pretty much every 2 minutes to watch out. He’s like a dog-poop-detector. No shit… Literally!

Our first stop was “La Bombonera”, the stadium of one of Argentina’s most famous soccer clubs and one of the clubs Diego Maradona used to play for – Boca Juniors.

Sebastian sporting his "kompetenter-Trainer-Lächeln" (= competent coach smile)

Go Diego, Go!

But our actual destination in La Boca were the colorful houses of “El Caminito”. La Boca used to be a district of (especially Italian) immigrants and because many of them didn’t have much money on hand they built their houses out of metal plates from the ships they came on and painted them with ship-paint in all the colors of the rainbow.

El Caminito

Sebastian's Twin

I adored the colorful houses...

...but the sculptures they had peaking out of every window/balcony seriously creeped me out a bit!

Sitting on a bench, enjoying the colors

To be honest I thought the whole district was made up of those colorful houses so I was indeed a little disappointed that it was pretty much only two streets. But then again it was incredibly colorful and cheerful and even though there were way too many tourists and souvenir shops for my liking, it also has its own flair with all its Tango dancers. And did I mention the guy who looked exactly like Maradona now, all old and fat, and could be mistaken for the real one if it weren't for his obviously colored beard. 

After that our city tour was pretty much complete but we still had some hours of the day left. And because I couldn’t stop thinking about the leather cover for my calendar, we went back and hoped the guy with the leather things was still there. Luckily, he was. Which means I am now the proud owner of the most beautiful calendar cover imaginable. Complete with my name etched into the back side.

Craftsman at work (and my beautiful new calendar cover!)

We decided not to do much that night, since our bus left very early the next morning. Well the bus was of course late, but 6.45am still is a rather unearthly hour for students who never have class before 1.30pm.  So we went back to Laura’s, cooked a very delicious Lasagna, packed our things and went to bed. Good Night, Argentina, I hope I'll get to see you again someday! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Buenos Aires II: Books, Graves and Pretty Lights

I know, I know..  It’s been way too long since I last updated the blog. But since I am indeed here for studying I had a few exams to study for. And now I am hopefully free for some last travelling. Though, depending on how well I did in one of my midterm exams I might or might not have another final exam. But I won’t find out until next week so let’s talk about something more fun than that. I left off talking about our trip to Buenos Aires and that’s where I’m going to continue now. Oh and have I mentioned I will "reimburse" you with lots and loooots of pictures... Enjoy!

After our rather embarrassing first night in Buenos Aires we divided up, Sebastian went with Stephan and I stayed at Laura’s place. The next morning, after some minor delays on our part, we all met back up to visit “El Ateneo” which is by far the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. And trust me I am a big fan of bookstores. I could spend hours in a good bookstore. Preferably one with a fireplace and some armchairs. But “El Ateneo” was much cooler than that because it was in an old theater. And from the lobby to the balconies, everything filled with books of all sorts. Including reading nooks in the VIP boxes and a café where the stage used to be. Which if you think about it is pretty genius as I imagine lots of little scenes taking place there everyday. The actors can be all kinds of people: lovers, family, friends, strangers,... booklovers. The setting is a bookstore. And the story is life. Just think about all the encounters! Now can a book store get any cooler than that?!

It's like my very own paradise!

Curtains up for... the café!

Just sitting there reading in the VIP box

Books everywhere! :)

El Ateneo in all its glory

After that we did a little more sightseeing and personally I was amazed by all the things Stephan could tell us about the city and all its places. He really did his homework. First we went to Recoleta, one of Buenos Aires’ more expensive districts. There we visited the cemetery which was pretty cool since it’s a graveyard for rich people, like Evita and some former presidents. And since rich people can’t just have regular graves, the entire place is made up of mausoleums. Well almost the entire place. There was apparently one single grave that had just a regular tombstone. Suppose that must have been a very humble man.

Recoleta Cemetery

Grave of Domingo F. Sarmiento, one of Argentina's former presidents

Evita's grave

Some of the gravees were super well-kept though others were abandoned and sported lots of spiderwebs. And since some of the graves had glass doors, of course I had to peak into them to see what it looks like inside. Though at one grave I wish I hadn't. It was a seemingly empty one, with tools and wooden boards inside. And something that was probably just some more wrapped-up building material but looked a lot like a body in a bag... Creepy to say the least!


And while I think most of those mausoleums are pretty impressive and incredibly elaborate in their decor, it is also shows the social injustice. Just imagine that those dead people lie in graves that are bigger than a lot of people's houses here in Buenos Aires!


People could easily live in there!

What’s also pretty cool about that cemetery is the aerial view. Since it’s made up of only mausoleums (as stupid as that word sounds, that is actually the plural of mausoleum… I googled it!) and mausoleums are like little houses over graves, it looks like a tiny city within a bigger city. No kidding. Look it up on google maps and be amazed. But enough now with the google-advertising.

On we go with the sightseeing. Well not exactly. There was this Artesanía market right outside the cemetery and I think it was one of the guys’ idea to walk through it. They soon regretted that decision. Laura and I enjoyed that market because it was full of pretty cool things. She bought a ceramic mate, I bought a super pretty bombilla and a leather cover for my passport. The guys were pretty annoyed because we were so slow and took our time to look at all the pretty things. Well... a girl can't help it ;)

After that we went on to see some more sights. On our way we passed the French and Brazilian embassy, which couldn't be any more different. 

Looks very French to me...

...but THIS my dear Brazilians, is nothing that I would associate even remotely with Brazil!

Some of the sights we then saw included the Obelisk, Teatro Colón and the Palacio de Justicia. After that our way led us to Plaza de Mayo, one of Buenos Aires’ most important squares, where the Argentinian “Madres del Plaza de Mayo” keep protesting year round for justice for their children who disappeared/died during the military dictatorship. On said square there are also the town hall, Casa Rosada (=the pink house) and the cathedral of Buenos Aires, which is the former church of Pope Francis.

Palacio de Justicia

Teatro Colón


Eva Perón

Wannabe Palacio Salvo
...obviously our version in Montevideo is much much bigger and better!

Plaza del Congreso

Just sitting there thinking with "El Pensador" by Rodin

Confitería del Molino
It's a shame they are letting this beautiful building decay like that! With just a little restoration it would be so incredibly splendid...

Reflection of the Congress building

A little boy chasing pidgeons - so precious!

In the evening we went on to Puerto Madero which is a district around the harbor with some really great architecture. And since it’s a harbor area with docks and everything, the light from the skyscrapers and other buildings reflects beautifully onto the water. We pretty much just spent some time strolling along the shore until it got too cold and then decided to find a place to eat.

Puerto Madero

Illuminated ship

Sebastian, Stephan, Laura and I

More beautiful lights

Look at that amazing and colorful skyline!

Puente de la Mujer (= Women's bridge)

Being all hungry from a day of endless walking we decided to go to a “Parrilla libre”, the Argentinian version of an all-you-can-eat grill. After that Sebastian and I said our goodbyes to Stephan who wouldn’t be joining us on our last day in Buenos Aires because his girlfriend would be arriving from Germany that next day. So at the end of the day Laura, Sebastian and I made our way back to Laura’s place in Palermo and fell right into bed after a long day of walking and exploring the city.  

Now that was saturday in Buenos Aires and there's still one day left in our weekend of discovering Buenos Aires, so stay tuned for the last part!