Red wine, the best beef and yerba mate

Colorful Buenos Aires

Every time I recall Argentina in my mind, I remember all warm and genuine people I met here. It brings back a lot of colorful and intense memories. It is a country where every single day begins with a few servings of yerba mate and in the morning it is impossible to predict how that day would come to an end.  South American spirit is dynamic and thriving in Argentina. It is made of a neat combination of Latin American temperament and European tradition. Beef served in Argentina is with no doubt the best you can get in the world and Iguazu waterfalls is Mother Nature’s most perfect work. These are two powerful aces up its sleeve, the largest Cono Sur country.

Argentina is the world’s third largest beef producer and the country with second largest meat consumption per capita. An average Argentinean eats 55 kg of beef per year! It is estimated that the there are more than 55 million head of cattle daily picking grass on Argentine plains. Moreover, to protect the local market and keep prices low for internal consumption, there is an imposed export tax of 15%. As you know, a good complementary to Argentine beef is excellent wine that has been produced here for hundreds of years. There are around 1800 vineyards countrywide.

I admit the country is huge, but it is just as diverse as big. Land, people and nature co-exist in perfect proportions.

Getting to know Iguazu waterfalls landscape I find myself in a point where on three sides I am surrounded by  giant mass of water falling into the abyss, which then rises in the form of steam to a height of over 100 meters. I suppose Garganta del Diablo (“Devil’s Throat”) at Iguazu waterfalls is the most charming scene which can be experience on this planet. The member list of the Seven Wonders of the World club is limited, but Iguazu can not be missed. Not without reason, on 11 November 2011 (11/11/11) the Argentine-Brazilian waterfalls were included on that elite list. It reminds me of a small plate saying something like “Dear stranger, do not try to describe in words what your eyes see now, because it is only your inner being able to understand it."

I spend a few more days with a group of Argentines who, like me, enjoy wandering in search of adventure. We visit small towns, sleep in tents by the riverside, drink yerba mate, skateboard, eat first-class beef, play instruments by a bonfire (which is true, I have a lot of problems with that…) and jump into the water to indulge ourselves drinking red wine in evenings. The entire province of Misiones has a positive charm.

Buenos Aires

Vibrant nightlife in Buenos Aires

Once in Bangkok I met Yam, an Argentine girl living in Buenos Aires. Traversing South America from Venezuela to the south, I was hoping that one day we will be able to meet again. This day was about to come and finally it came. The plan for next week is visiting Buenos Aires with Yam’s and her friends’ company. As you might know, spending time with local people is the best way to get to know new places.

One of the first strange customs, which I pointed out, is kissing on the cheek when greeting friends and newly met people. It would not be surprising for one thing: this also applies to men!

Buenos Aires is a huge city. I find it difficult to determine its exact size or compare it to something, so I’ll just say that the weather forecast is given separately for different parts of town! Each district keeps its climate, and this is definitely not just the weather.

Yam lives in a quiet neighborhood of Colegiales, dominated by low buildings. Just a short walk or even shorter bike ride takes us to trendy Palermo districts, filled with thousands of cafes, bars and restaurants scattered in several areas, interspersed with some dark streets. The very word Palermo is a very fashionable word in Buenos Aires. Hence many places are named in the style of “Palermo Cafe”, etc. This district keeps “alternative” and “trendy” atmosphere, so it is very popular among young Argentines of upper middle class, as well as foreign tourists. Many traditional buildings have been converted into shops, climate cafes, galleries and clubs, forming together the impressive aura.

Recoleta is a district in the center, famous for its many buildings bearing a high dose of historical and artistic importance. It is the cultural center of the city, on one hand full of people, but also enjoying the opinion of a luxury residential area where real-estate prices are some of the highest in the city.

Just a few blocks away there is Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. Analyzing this place it seems to me that this prestigious award has been awarded somewhat hastily. Each of 7-lane roadways the lanes is separated by a strip of greenery and some of the additional conjoining streets do not look like they belong to the main avenue. Anyway let’s assume it is the world’s widest.

Preparing asado

Since the very beginning of the city, Buenos Aires had a problem with receiving large ships due to the shallow water near the bank of the river Rio de la Plata. Therefore, the vessels were unloaded on a river, whereupon smaller barges and ferries transported people and goods to the coast. At the end of the nineteenth century, architect Eduardo Madero has solved this problem, which thanks to the improvements that followed his work, led to a constriction of port, docks and bridges system on the edge of Rio de la Plata. Puero Madero is now the most luxurious part of the city. Moreover, at the beginning of the twenty-first century many super luxurious high-rises were build. Those apartments are sold only by the whole floors with glass facades, offering its residents enjoyable panoramic view of the city, limitless body of water and vast nature reserve.

If we keep moving in one direction soon we are about to reach San Telmo, the oldest district of Buenos Aires. Its colonial buildings, historic churches, cafes, tango parlors and antique shops are located along cobbled streets, making it a very good illustration of the urban character of Buenos Aires back in the days.

La Boca is a yet another stylish neighborhood, once inhabited exclusively by immigrants, artists and visionaries looking for adventures, it was a safe place to develop skills and careers before moving into some better part of city. Although it is now a big tourist attraction in the 20’s and 30’s style, still every step you take you will feel the intense touch of lifestyle brought here by settlers from Europe, especially Italy. This is still a mainstay for loud tango music clubs, the streets decorated with clumsily hung underwear on strings and makeshift plank shutters. Caminito ("little street" in Spainish) is its central point, extremely colorful, bustling avenue that can be successfully called a street museum.

We travel hundreds of miles within urban area. I think it is sufficiently reliable to determine the expectations and its convergence with empirical verification. I expected a South American, better edition of New York. Buenos Aires, which I saw was gigantic city, whose soul is lost wandering the endless streets, scattered and seemingly elusive.

March 2012

Argentina