A Toast to the Jesuits and Expreso Singer

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2006

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday, March 11

This was my last morning in Cordoba and the bus for Puerto Iguazu was leaving at 13:00. Therefore I used the morning to have a quick look at "Cordoba Jesuitica" which in large part is responsible for making the historic center of Cordoba...historic. It is made up of churches, chapels, colleges, crypts and the "Universidad National". To me, this was the highlight since it is the oldest university in Argentina and the second oldest in South America. Its lovely garden, located in an arch-lined interior court with a statue of a founding Jesuit, evoques images of Old Spain. With its vaulted hallways and old class rooms one has the impression that no concession has been made to the passing of time. It is like the clock stood still and Cervantes could be standing up front giving a lecture.

A sense of history also hangs over the Plaza San Martin since it was established in 1577. The most impressive part of the plaza is the "Cabildo Historico" or old town hall with its classic architecture of frontal arches enclosing a colonnade with a vaulted ceiling.

Speaking of the Jesuits who are closely associated with this city, there is an excursion of about 400 km in the area that I would have made given more time--it is called--"Camino de Las Estancias Jesuiticas".

In this fertile land surrounding Cordoba there are six estancias - ranches - which were founded in 1600 by monks of the order of San Ignacio de Loyola and which were declared "World Heritage" by UNESCO. They were rural fortresses and producers of food and beef that benefited the whole region. Architecturally important and beautiful to see, they were an indelible part of this historic region stretching from 1599 which marked the arrival of the the Order in Cordoba till 1767 when King Carlos III of Spain ordered their expulsion due to their accumulation of power and wealth.

I love history and am fascinated by the Jesuits and it would undoubtedly have been an interesting excursion.....but a bus was waiting.

Cordoba, yes Cordoba--a beautiful place with an extraordinary number of good looking people was about to become a memory.

The bus from Expreso Singer--founded by Ralf Singer in 1936--was scheduled to leave at 13:00 and finally arrived and left around 14:00. Fortunately I had engaged a "gaucho" in conversation and he was able to decipher the announcement on the PA that the bus was late which gave me a certain peace of mind about not having missed the bus.

Now I know what they do with Hollywood "B" movies--the ones that have a shelf life of salmon left out of the fridge. They play them over and over on Mexican, Central and South American long distance buses.

That in itself would be o.k., but the part I find inexplicable and puzzling is that when it is time to select language and sub-titles they opt for English as the language and Spanish as the sub-title. So there you have it, a bus full of people where I may be the only one speaking English and the rest of them are reading Spanish sub-titles and the sound is quite loud. I find it culturally assaulting and yet non of the native speakers seem to complain. This situation is not just on this bus, but on all buses.

Perhaps I am not being fair in my sarcastic assessment of the "B" videos considering how the "A" Hollywood movies are full of violence, sex and profanity which would be totally inappropriate in this situation.

It is now 20:36 and darkness has settled in and hey, this is a first--they are serving wine--in the colour of your choice--in glasses! I wonder what the LCBO --Liquor Control Board of Ontario- would have to say about that. Supper has arrived and it's pretty slim pickings--2 slices of tomatoes, 1 slice of cheese, 1 slice of salami, 1 piece of bread and canned pears for dessert. Where is Andesmar with their hot chicken when you need them. ----Holy Smokes--I can't believe it here comes the hot meal! It's beef and potatoes in a sauce and the "mozo" just came to refill the wine. The beef was not up to "Parilla Raul's standards but what the heck, it's on a bus. With the two glasses of wine and beef who cares about Andesmar--and there are still canned pears for dessert.

With the darkness outside and the bus cruising along smoothly, I have the impression--aided by the wine-- of being on a trans-Atlantic flight only to wake up after 2-3 hours sleep at Iguazu Falls--one of the world's most compelling sights. The only "fly in the ointment" is that damn Charles-Dickens-type movie blaring in English somewhere on the road heading north to Santa Fe, Corrientes and the Paraguayan border--hey, it is Oliver Twist.

Then to my surprise the "mozo" comes back down the aisle this time sporting champagne glasses and bottles of "bubbly"--and I am muttering to myself "This is unbelievable, how can Expreso Singer provide this kind of service" on a 19 hour bus ride for 120 pesos--$48 Can.

I would like to go back to reading my biography of Eva Peron but the wine and bubbly have slowed me down. It has had the same effect on the whole bus--it is extremely quiet and at 22:21 it's lights out.

Signing off, somewhere on the road to Iguazu Falls. Occasionally I have to pinch myself or engage my own personal GPS--in my mind--to realize that I am in South America and enjoying it.

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