Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Typical Gushing About Buenos Aires

Ok, let’s just get right down to the point:  I’m not your first friend to travel to Buenos Aires.  And I’m not going to be your first friend to gush about how amazing it is.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Buenos Aires – and Argentina as a whole – have some problems.  The economy is up and down and usually uncertain.  The country also had a little debt problem and a little inflation problem.  The city’s taxi drivers are quite possibly the dodgiest in Latin America, which is quite an accomplishment.  And the country keeps claiming that the Falkland Islands are part of Argentina even though we all know that they are British.  There was a war.  There was a vote.  They speak English.  They are British.  But aside from all that…

Buenos Aires (often abbreviated to Bs As) is fucking awesome.  Like, awesome awesome.  Of all the cities I’ve visited on my gap year, Buenos Aires is my favourite.  It isn’t the cleanest of the lot, nor the safest, but there’s something about Bs As that just makes you want to stay there longer… and longer… and longer.  Walking around, the city looks straight out of Europe, and the culture reflects this:  the perfect blend of Latin American and European traits.

Buenos Aires has gays.  Lots of gays.  I fucking love the gays.  Well, most of them.  Argentina was well ahead of many “western” countries in passing marriage equality.  Buenos Aires has Jews.  Lots of Jews.  I fucking love the Jews.  Well, most of them.  It has one of the largest populations in the world and by far the largest in Latin America.  Buenos Aires has more Jews than all of Australia.  I’m gay.  I’m Jewy.  I should move there.  I sort of want to move there!

Also, Argentine men are hot.  H. O. T. HOT.

Transport is decent, there are lots of food options, a plethora of attractions, and the city has all of the comforts you’d expect from a rich Western country.  I love it.

A few highlights of my time in Buenos Aires:

Walking around:
The city is great for walking as many of the main sights are within walking distance (if you’re prepared to walk a bit of a distance).  Exploring the city on foot, I passed by the Casa Rosada (the pink house – the Argentine version of the White House – which is closed to tourists), Plaza de Mayo, Plaza San Martin (and its monument to the Falklands War which would be sad had Argentina not started the war), a big obelisk, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and random statues of cartoons from comic strips.  Fun!

Rather than hit up the big history museums, I decided to check out El Zanjon de Granados instead.  El Zanjon de Granados is an old house that has been restored and converted into a museum.  The house once was home to a super rich family, but later basically became a slum with something like 23 families plus stores housed inside.  Abandoned for a long time, a businessman purchased it in hopes of converting it to a restaurant, but later found ruins of other houses beneath, tunnels that were used to reroute a creek that flowed beneath the house, and lots of other buried treasures which tell the story of the city’s past.  Instead of the restaurant, he made it into a museum.  Superb.

For art, I visited the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) where I saw a painting of a bird stealing an empanada.  YES!  You go, bird!  But the art highlight was hands down the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires.  The modern art museum has all of the typical modern art you’d expect to see (but with proper curation, a rarity in this part of the world), but it also had a special installation:  La Menesunda.  Controversial when it first was created in 1965, this installation art is basically a giant fun house which makes you think you are trippin’ on something.  Walking through – up stairs, down stairs, through refrigerator doors – visitors are treated to a naked man lying in bed, the inside of a women’s head (filled with thoughts of make-up), neon lights, videos, and the chance to stand in a glass box in the middle of a room with a fan blowing paper everywhere.  It was so weird.  I want to go again!

Also in Bs As, I visited the city’s Jewish museum… because Jews.

Guided tours:
While in Bs As, I took three guided tours of famous buildings.  The first, the Palacio del Congreso, is the seat of Argentina’s legislative branch of government.  The building looks like the US Congress, and the inside is gorgeous, but I think the tour was a bit scattered and not really all that well-run.  Uruguay did a MUCH better job.  Teatro Colon is world famous and the city’s main theatre.  Gorgeous on the inside and outside, the tour explained about the construction, various styles of architecture, and more.  Excellent.  But the real winner was the Palacio Barolo – a 22-story skyscraper.  Finished in 1923, the building was once the tallest in South America.  Its Italian architect designed it after Dante’s Divine Comedy – with the 22 floors (one for each canto of the work) representing heaven (upper floors), purgatory (middle floors), and hell (lower floors and basement) – and the outside also represents this heritage, with red, green, and white paint to match the Italian flag.  The 22nd floor is just a small lighthouse where we crammed nine people.  It felt like the Wonkavator and the views were fantastic.

Cementerio de la Recoleta:
One of my 103 Things for a good reason, the Cementerio de la Recoleta is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world.  The cemetery is no ordinary cemetery.  It has no pretty lawns or tombstones.  All it has are row after row of mausoleums – the majority with ornate architecture to show off the wealth of the families.  Some of the mausoleums are big – with room for 30 or 40 bodies of family members inside – and are built in varying architectural styles:  Greek, Roman, Arab, and more.  Many have stained glass and marble statues, and some even tell stories of the people buried inside (which I learned all about on my guided tour).  While the majority of those buried there are Catholic, I did spot at least one Jewish tomb, and various other denominations.  The residents include ex-presidents, the upper crust of Argentine society, and even some family pets, but the most famous person buried there is Eva Peron (aka Evita), an ex-First Lady of Argentina.  Though famous and adored by the masses, her tomb is rather non-descript.  Her remains had originally been embalmed and displayed for the masses to view, but was removed to Italy for safekeeping when a military dictatorship took over.  Returned years later, no monument was ever built to house her remains (as was the original plan), but her body was instead interred in her family’s mausoleum in the cemetery.

Food and other stuff:
So, I didn’t see a tango show, despite staying at the super cute Lina’s Tango Guesthouse.  And I didn’t go eat copious amounts of meat like most tourists do.  But that’s ok – don’t judge me.  I’m saving those two things for next time.  And there will be a text time.  In lieu of a whole animal’s worth of beef, I had some delicious pizza and surprisingly delicious Mexican food.  A lovely local girl named Florencia, who I befriended in my hostel in Mexico City months earlier, took me out to one of the city’s “bar notables” – famous, historical restaurants which keep their old school charm, often brew their own beer, and serve the basic staples of Argentine cuisine:  pastas, sandwiches, and meat, often in the form of a milanesa (basically their version of a schnitzel).  It was Florencia who also gave me my first alfajor – two cookies with a dulce de leche filling between them, all covered in chocolate.  I WANT MORE ALFAJORES… NOW!!!

Three and a half days in Bs As was not nearly enough.  I was so sad to leave, but comforted in the fact that I’m definitely going back one day.  Plus, I have much more of Argentina to explore:  Patagonia, the wine region, and more.  The next gap year plans are already in the works (just as soon as I marry rich…)  But first, let me take a selfie.

To see more photos of my time in Buenos Aires, follow this link:

No comments:

Post a Comment