Life: Left of Centre

Travels through Argentina – Part 3

Posted on: April 10, 2012

Welcome to Part 3 of my ‘Travels through Argentina’ series, that takes the reader back to January 2011, when I spent a hugely enjoyable 3 weeks travelling solo across Argentina, meeting a selection of fascinating people, experiencing the wonderful culture (that is oh so different to the typical Western European or even the North American way of life) and seeing the sights.

Part 3 provides a taste of modern Argentinian life – introducing Matilde, the kind old lady who put me up in Cordoba, her wonderful family and more on the famous 2nd city itself.

Days 2 & 3 – La Familia y la Ciudad

“The Family and the City”

So day 2 arrived, and what a great day it turned out to be. After a good long rest and the opportunity to freshen up I felt fully revived and ready for a busy day ahead – starting with a breakfast of local bread and jam (home-made) and the traditional drink of the country – ‘Yerba Mate’. A tea made from the leaves of a common herb. It’s a complicated drink, coming in different forms (I had the weak version!)

Though I’m inclined not to believe in such things, Matilde insisted on reading my name for numerology purposes. The results were good: a humanitarian. Creative, practical, empathetic. Someone who could ‘change the world’.  On the down side: lazyness, complacency and materialism – really a stark reminder of what demons lurk around the corner in life. But perhaps parking that for now…

At this point I’m happy to have changed hemisphere. What a wonderful feeling to be so far away from anyone and anywhere familiar. I made another journey out that afternoon – to Matilde’s daughter, in the Midday sun. Hot to be sure and a great way to explore the city, beautiful landscapes around every corner and via good old public transport: a rickety old bus!

Once we arrived a bit of R&R was in order, by the outdoor pool with a good book, but in the afternoon a trip to the local market – with spectacular views of flatlands, forests and distant hills surrounding the Cordoba province. It almost seemed to spring up like jungle. A traditional beer and assorted salty snacks later and we ventured to the nearby ‘Rio Ceballos’ (a village close-by Cordoba), where Matilde used to live. The famous dam looking down on the valley below.

The evening brought the opportunity to ‘meet the family’, so-to-speak. I met Facu – Matilde’s grandson. A friendly 8 year-old with a penchant for football. So we talked football (as best I could to a kid who didn’t speak English, and with my relatively limited conversational Spanish). Perhaps inevitably we played a little too – on the PS3 of course, and I even won a game – much to my surprise! (And his). We also played chess and ate dinner together. Even the family dog was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of. Very affectionate – if slightly loud!

Day 3 brought the opportunity to explore the city centre – the historical, cultural and religious buildings. It was a day of learning many things. The city itself is 473 years old (474 now we’re in 2012), with a history dating back to the Spanish conquest, the time of the Jesuit monks and the 200-year anniversary of the founding of the modern city, in 1810.

Visiting the old bank, the former city governor’s house – the ‘Cabildo’ – and the University (the second oldest in South America) it was clear that the city has been through many changes and hardships, not least of which the 1976-83 military junta which saw many hundreds of people interrogated, tortured and then ‘disappeared’, never to be seen again. One thing was consistent through all this – the people. They stayed strong and fought for a legitimate government and peace, which they finally achieved in the mid-1980s.

The afternoon saw my chance to take in the sights and sounds of the city by bus-top-tour. Apparently the bus itself had been brought over from Bristol in the 1960s, and was certainly an enjoyable ride, especially as a means of reaching the outlying parts of the city – from the cultural centres, to the bus and train station, fountains, squares and plazas in between. The sheer heat and powerful wind, added to y the low-hanging branches, made for an interesting journey all round.

The evening saw a meal with two young friends of my kind host – Hernan and Anna Laura. We went for drinks and some traditional food, including Fernet and coke (a sweet liquorice-tasting drink – the national favourite in fact), but also Empanadas. These parcels of meat and fried vegetables, wrapped in thin tasty pastry marked a delicious end to the day. The people had not disappointed. The stories, humour and elegance of both Hernan and Anna-Laura were testament to the sheer beauty and multi-coloured way of life that people live in modern day Argentina.

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