After half a day on the scorching streets of the microcenter of Buenos Aires we headed for Uruguay, which we liked a lot. The plan was to spend two days in the capital on the way back, before we set off for Patagonia. We had no idea where we were going to sleep up to the last minute since the couch surfing didn’t work out. In our desperation we shared our itinerary for those two days in Couchsurfing and surprisingly we were contacted by hosts, ready to take us in. We don’t think the worst, but you can imagine what thoughts passed through our minds. This couple was recommended by other travelers and in the end we decided to stay with them.
It turned out that they live in Castelar, one of the cities in the Buenos Aires Province or said otherwise, 40 mins by train. Those 40 minutes proved to be a transition from boulevards, buildings, noise and dirty air to green yards, small houses and peace. Our new friends were the happier part of the 18-million conglomerate. Our days passed easily in conversations and stories. We learned many interesting things about the city and Argentina in a very pleasant way and we had some funny moments.
For example, our journey to La Boca neighborhood.
Jaqui got the car from her father Roberto and took the honorable guests to El Caminito. She got directions because it isn’t easy to drive along 6-story roads. We had GPS, but it couldn’t connect to the satellite when we needed it. And so, ready for passion and colors in El Caminito and La Boca, with GPS and a sheet of paper with directions, Jaqui’s mother Graciela, Jaqui and both of us took off. We got on the big highway to el Capital and after a while we started wondering which exit to take. It is not advisable to guess because if you guess wrong you can find yourself in Villa, a neighborhood, which should be avoided. At some point we were discussing dirty Spanish words and we had reached the part of the lesson when we learned the expression to tell somebody to f*ck off, to send them away. While we repeated it and giggled, we missed our exit and we really were f*cked. However, we stayed calm and happy people from the countryside and so we reached Caminito.
There were hundreds of people who had come to enjoy the preserved colorful buildings, the zinc walls of the old Conventillos and the many graffiti and paintings. This poor immigrant neighborhood is one of the most famous attractions in Buenos Aires and has the charm of the extremities.
Conventillo is a common living area where each family has a small room and everybody shares the yard and the toilet to socialize. To this day there are people who live this way, but they are few. On one side, you try to make your way through the laundry of the neighbor, while on the other side there are polished tango dancers waiting for you to take a photo with them. The art is in bloom – you are enchanted by paintings and collages, artists, restaurants with live shows, musicians and statues of the Pope and Maradona.
In addition, several blocks away the stadium of Boca Juniors shines in blue and yellow, a team that doesn’t need to be presented.
Besides the conversations with Jaqui and Guido, with whom we traded experience and interesting facts, we made several experiments together. For example we decided to determine the quality of the white wine in Argentina, but with only 4 bottles we didn’t have enough evidence to draw a conclusion.
The homemade bread easy to judge, especially with greaves, which went really well with melon from the market. We definitely ate unconventionally for this country (here the standard is meat with every dish). But we have to try certain things. We drank mate, or more accurately, we were served the special version of mate tea, which is a lighter version for inexperienced enthusiasts.
The most surprising for us was the dinner in El Rodeo. It is a place where the true gauchos live, mount real horses and preserve the old buildings. It was Saturday night and the restaurant in the center of the ranch was full. It was clear that we were about to eat tasty veal and drink homemade red wine.
Our merry company of seven was considered VIP. The museum opened especially for us, so they could show us things like the saddle, which somebody used to ride to…Alaska and the carriage in which rode the president Peron. The director of the museum complained that the gauchos thought only about horses and had left the museum in a sorry state, but now she had decided to make it shine again. There were real treasures inside, which hadn’t been maintained in years.
Outside the museum it was no less interesting. The gauchos walk around proudly in their hats, colorful belts and sheathed knives. The local party with traditional dances like chacarera and remedio was in full swing. The festivities were at their height, but we still got special treatment. The culmination was when they stopped the music to thank us for being there, that we had come from so far away and we were applauded. We are flattered!
The morning after the mate we said goodbye to our friends to catch a taxi, train, subway, bus (for free, good people) and a plane towards our long-awaited destination – Patagonia!
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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