Jun 01 2014
I've finally left Buenos Aires. With my German friend, Silke, I boarded an overnight bus to the city of Cordoba, taking a 9 hour cruise on a double-decker complete with seats that recline into beds and a tiny cafe station on the lower level. South America has some of the nicest buses I've ever seen (tickets from Buenos Aires to Cordoba can be bought online at voyenbus.com for 395 pesos ($48) each way).
Ultimately, I have mixed feelings today. I never meant to stay in Buenos Aires as long as I did. As such the city has become my home for the past six months; so it's with a mix of sadness and excitement that my journey now continues. Goodbyes are never easy. This new leg of my travels involves traveling by bus from one side of South America to the other, from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile; stopping in a few places along the way.
Today I arrive in Cordoba, Argentina's second largest city, known for its universities and colonial era buildings and situated in the heart of Argentina at the foothills of the Sierra Chica Mountains. Cordoba was founded by the Spanish in 1573 and today is home to around 1.3 million people. The Jesuit Block in the city center dates back to the 1600's and is a UN World Heritage Site. My first impressions of Cordoba were that it was infinitely cleaner and less chaotic than Buenos Aires. It's true that there's a magical charm in Buenos Aires, created by that chaotic sprawl of ruined buildings adjacent to glistening high rises, by sidewalks obliterated by construction crews into rubble and covered in dog crap every twenty feet, by legions of homeless men sleeping on the busy, loud, and overcrowded city streets. All this together is a stew of energy and life, a testament to the possibilities of the human spirit.
But when a rest from that chaos is needed, there's the 'other' Argentina, which is to say anywhere that's not Buenos Aires. Cordoba in particular is a very welcoming city. Much of the historic core is pedestrian only, there are colonial era buildings at every turn, the city's canal is lined with cafes, there are open air artist markets to stroll and large parks with lakes and public art to see. I've tried to capture a little of the city's charm below:
During the Military Dictatorship of the 70s and 80s in Argentina, 10's of thousands of dissidents (and perceived dissidents) were kidnapped, tortured, and killed. These dissidents included students, educators, members of opposition parties, and anyone associated with leftist politics. As many as 30,000 people vanished during this time. A great number of them were drugged, then flown over the Atlantic Ocean, and dropped alive into the sea. Neither their bodies nor official records as to their fates have ever been found. Today they are known as the 'Disappeared' and family members still try everything in their power to find out what happened to their loved ones. In Cordoba there was an installation dedicated to the the men and women of the city who vanished during what is now known as the 'Dirty War'.
|ARGENTINA • CITIES • CORDOBA|
THE TOWN OF LOBOS
May 27 2014
The clock is ticking. The moment is approaching. It's almost time to leave Buenos Aires. I've been here so long it's starting to feel like home (a rather dirty, disorderly version of home). Well, as a tiny prologue to the adventures soon to come I took a bus with some friends to the towns of Lobos and Navarro. These two tiny gaucho towns are not so far Buenos Aires, only about 60 miles, but the changes in landscape and character in that short distance is rather remarkable. The congestion, noise, and chaos of Buenos Aires, a sprawling mess of 3 million Porteños, gives way to dirt roads, grassy fields, beat up trucks, an occasional horse, and the dusty towns of provincia.
Between Lobos and Navarro, Lobos is the larger of the two, with a handsome town square, a functional train station, and more than a few lazy stray dogs (though not as many as Navarro). We hung around only long enough for a coffee (pictured below) before catching the bus to Navarro (also pictured below), which was always more or less our primary destination. As it turned out the bus was our own private limousine service; I guess no one else felt like hanging out in Navarro.
|ARGENTINA • LOBOS • TOWNS & VILLAGES|
THE TOWN OF NAVARRO
May 27 2014
The province of Buenos Aires is dotted with small historic towns, some not far from Buenos Aires, and a few of which still attempt to maintain a connection to their gaucho past. The gauchos were akin to South American cowboys and their mystique, their lives on the open ranges, their occasional run-ins with the often corrupt law, have crept their way into popular folklore and legend. Navarro, a sleepy and rural little town on a lagoon, has deep ties to gaucho history and with a little patience we were able to find a bus that would take us there. Like Lobos, I started to get the impression there were more stray dogs here than people, but the dusty streets, quiet cafes, and rural feel was a welcomed change from Buenos Aires.
THE TRAIN STATION Argentina once possessed one of the most developed train networks in the Americas. However, mismanagement followed by privatization (which as in the United States allowed the automobile industry to buy up train and tram systems and then promptly dismantle them to force town residents to take auto buses) led to a rail system that today is only a shadow of its former self. The train to Navarro was completely abandoned decades ago and the train station is now in ruins. But there can be beauty in decay.
|ARGENTINA • NAVARRO • TOWNS & VILLAGES|
CHURCHES OF BUENOS AIRES
May 23 2014
|ARGENTINA • BUENOS AIRES • CHURCHES|
MONUMENTS OF BUENOS AIRES
May 21 2014
|ARGENTINA • BUENOS AIRES • MONUMENTS|
TOWERS OF BUENOS AIRES
May 15 2014
|ARGENTINA • ARCHITECTURE • BUENOS AIRES|
CAFES OF BUENOS AIRES
May 14 2014
Buenos Aires isn't anything, if not a city of cafes. It's a common sight to see men and women, often sitting alone, reading the newspaper, drinking coffee and eating medialunas (croissants). As a testament to their sheer numbers, the cafes of Buenos Aires are almost never crowded. This cafe culture is one of the aspects of the city that I'll truly miss when I leave. I've spent a great number of hours at these cafes; writing, reading, studying, chatting... and planning the next big adventure.
|ARGENTINA • BUENOS AIRES • CAFES|
LA CASA ROSADA
May 13 2014
So at one end of Avenida de Mayo sits the Congreso and here at the other end sits the Casa Rosada, the Executive Branch of Argentina's government. The Italianate building was constructed between 1873 and 1898, undergoing multiple expansions and renovations. The site of the building however dates back to forts constructed in the 1500's by the Spanish founders of the city. The first few photos below are the building itself and the last three are Plaza de Mayo where the building sits (and where protesters often gather to express their grievances). The Casa Rosada and the Plaza de Mayo, as you can see, are surrounded by some stunning South American architecture.
|ARGENTINA • ARCHITECTURE • BUENOS AIRES • BUILDINGS • GOVERNMENT|
CONGRESO DE LA NACIÓN ARGENTINA
May 06 2014
While out taking photos with my friend Polle (of doors; door photos coming soon), I took a few photos of the Palacio del Congreso (Palace of the National Congress). The neoclassical building was constructed between 1898 and 1906 and shares quite a few similarities with the US National Capital. Argentina's National Congress is also bicameral, consisting of the Senate (72 seats) and the Chamber of Deputies (257 seats). The building sits at one end of Avenida de Mayo while the Casa Rosada (where the offices of the Executive Branch are located) sits at the other. I'll post photos of the Casa Rosada before I leave. As an aside, there's a long plaza in front of the Congreso which is where I go running most nights.
|ARGENTINA • ARCHITECTURE • BUENOS AIRES • BUILDINGS • GOVERNMENT|
IMPA LA FABRICA
May 02 2014
Tucked away in the neighborhood of Almagro is an old, beat up factory that was almost torn down to build a mall. The factory had gone bankrupt and was slated for demolition in the 1990's, but the workers took the factory over, turned it into a cooperative, and continued working. Legal action was taken against them, but they continued to fight, and opened up their building not just to industrial work (sheet metals and aluminium) but to artists and the community as well. Today La Fabrica host events, classes, and has gained the affection of the neighborhood. For National Workers Day there was a party and art exhibit honoring workers and my friend Polle was there to show his work of the Cartoneros (waste pickers) in Buenos Aires. The black and white photo of the man below is one of his. I came to show my support and enjoy the festivities!
|ARGENTINA • BUENOS AIRES • PARTY • TANGO|