This however has to work with the day to day stuff you take for granted at home. Where am I sleeping tonight? Where is my next meal coming from? I am becoming adept at sleeping in different places. I have been in Buenos Aires for 9 nights and have slept in 5 different places. Wake up, where am I this morning? If my host has to work, get up early to grab a shower so I’m not using the bathroom before they have to go to work. Can I get back into the flat during the day, if not, what do I need with me for the whole day? How many clean cloths do I have left and do I need to do laundry today?
After several days trying I finally made it on my free walking tour around BA
. We started out at Congreso, the site of Argentine Parliament, walked down to Plaza de Mayor and ended up the Obelisco. Buenos Aires has lots of beautiful, older, European style buildings. In some places you could swear you are in Madrid, or Paris or possibly even Melbourne. The only problem is many of them are not maintained, so their soaring facades are slowing crumbling and falling into disrepair. There are plazas and parks with massive statues dotted between grand avenues and winding, higgidly piggildy streets and lanes. The main road is Av 9 de Julio, allegedly the widest in the world (but since superseded by somewhere in Rio). It is a massive, rather unpleasant arterial road with lanes apon lanes of fast traffic divided by sort of park like nature strips that takes you several minutes to cross as you have to wait for about 3 sets of lights. At the centre is the Obelieso, a rather phallic statue (every city seams to have one) where many public celebrations and performances take place on a huge outdoor stage set up in the middle.
Plaza de Mayo is Buenos Aires’ main plaza, a site of many national celebrations, protests and day to day people watching. The ‘pink house’ Casa Rosada where the president works is located at its head. The plaza is divided by a series of tall, spiked, temporary looking fences. At either side of the plaza are several more fences stacked in rows
. At first I thought these were temporarily there due to the national celebrations on the 25th. Our guide tells us however they have been there for about 10 years now. If a large protest approaches the pink house the side fences can be quickly put into place, cutting off and protecting the president from the approaching mob. The most famous protest in the plaza is probably Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. During the military rule in Argentina from 1976 – 83 around 30,000 people ‘disappeared’. At the time it was illegal to protest or form a group that might be a protest in public and you would get moved on. A group of mothers wanting to protest about their missing children started gathering in the Plaza. In order to comply with the law they split up into small groups and started walking around the plaza, keeping enough distance between them so as not to form a ‘protest’ but still making their point. The group has now split into some different factions, some becoming political with others keeping to their original purpose to find peoples lost loved ones and reunite families where possible. The white head scarves are the symbol of the group and on Thursdays they still walk around the plaza, still raising awareness of their cause.
I am becoming familiar with BA. I know a bunch of the major streets. I can get around and negotiate the subways and more or less the buses. I know how much I should pay for a coffee and where to pick up cheap snacks and supplies for meals.
My lovely host Sonia took me to a milonga, a local dance hall in Palermo. Dancing and Tango has seen a revival in Buenos Aires in recent years. A popular social activity is to go to your local milonga for the evening
. They are large halls with table and chairs around the sides where you can have a drink or even a proper meal, dance lesions through out the night of Salsa and Tango and demonstrations by the advanced students. They are very real places with people of all different shapes and sizes, from young couples in sneakers and jeans to older gentlemen in shirts and ladies in swish dresses and sparkly healed dancing shoes. I managed a few basic tango steps in the beginners class, despite the lesion being given in Spanish and most of my dance partners not speaking English!
The other argentine institute I am becoming familiar with is the cartoon character Maflda by local artist Quino
. Mafalda is a 6-year-old girl who is deeply concerned about humanity
and world peace
and rebels against the current state of the world. The comic strip she features in ran from 1964 to 1973. She is everywhere in BA, the comic strips in on the subway walls, she on t-shirts and graffiti and papers. In the picture here she is pointing to a globe, saying this one is very beautiful because it’s only a model, the real one however had many more things wrong with it!
A final high lights of BA so far has been the amazing Cementario de la Recoleta but I think that will have to wait for the next post, I have been sitting at this café for ages!
When you are travelling your daily priorities rapidly change. Of course you want to see and experience a place. To walk around the place, see the 'must sees', try the local food and talk to local people.