Rosario and Cordoba
13.05.2011 - 20.05.2011 19 °C
Occasionally we have been left perplexed by the massive disparities between how a guide book describes a place and our own experiences of it. Rosario is considered by many to be the second city of Argentina, although Cordoba is bigger, and the books all rave about it...as have other travellers that we have met. However after the grandeur of our (undeniably middle class) Buenos Aires experience we found Rosario an altogether much dingier place. To be fair to the city, I think it is a spring and summer place as there is a lot of focus on the river and we were experiencing some nasty drizzly weather when we arrived. There are certainly some beautiful buildings and interesting monuments to see. For example the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera (monument to the flag) which contains the crypt of the flag designer, General Manuel Belgrano. Pop Quiz readers.....who designed the Union Jack? The Argentinian flag is massively important here though - if you look through the photos you'll see hints if the blue and white everywhere - even in that crazy button shop. You can travel in a lift to the top of the tower for views of the city of Rosario.
This bird built his nest on the shoulder of a statue...we thought it was a very regal place to make your home...if slightly precarious!
We also walked to Parque Independencia to see the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes which is apparently one of the most important art museums in Argentina. The building itself was looking ....well.....mouldy. Our ticket was 4 pesos - about 75p which should have been our first clue. The fact that it says the museum is filled with European and Argentine fine art and it looked more like an end of year show at a 6th form college should have been our second. (It was probably some very important modern art but as I think most of that is a load of arse I wouldn't know.) Well it turns out that it was some kind of temporary exhibition and I think they may have been doing some renovations during 2011. A disappointing experience all round.
However we did take a shine to this band who were playing in the town centre.
We left after a few days and caught a bus to Cordoba. Well, that makes it sound much simpler than it actually was. Our bus broke down about 5kms outside of Rosario. It's times like this that it really sucks that we don't speak better Spanish. We were luckily picked up by another bus company about half an hour later but no longer has assigned seats so everytime we stopped and people got on the bus we were preparing for them to ask why we were in their seats. You know what....the Guide to South American Spanish was not all that helpful! We were also sat by the coffee machine which spat coffee at Noush everytime we went over a bump - she was literally covered in the stuff and SO GRUMPY!!!! My seat was broken so I had a choice of 90 degrees or 170 degrees for the next 7 hours. I actually found the whole thing quite entertaining.....but our bus luck does seem to be quite bad.
Cordoba brightened our spirits though. We spent 4 days in a cool hostel in the city center and we had a brilliant parrilla (BBQ/steakhouse) just round the corner....what more could you ask for. The city itself was a great mix of ultra modern and old and really easy to walk around. We spent a couple of days just wandering around the city and taking it easy. The cathedral was stunning - more gold leaf than you can shake a stick at. There was also a clever reflection of the cathedral in silouette in the pavement outside in marble - had never seen anything like it.
There is a large university contingent in the city so there are also lots of music venues and modern spaces for events that we hadn't seen anywhere else. The art galleries were also a real treat and all free on a Wednesday so we saw some brilliant exhibitions which made up for our Rosario disappointment. The staircase of one of the museums was entirely covered in black cowhide - not sure how vegetarians would feel about that but I'm not sure that is often a consideration of the Argentines! And we got to play on the disco floor.
Cordoba is flanked by countryside and we decided it was high time that we got our walking shoes on again. We arranged to go with a guide to Quebrada de Condorito for a hike. There were 5 of us, all women interestingly and our guide Martin (is this the nombre de guia? Remember Martin in Chile?). We drove for about 2 hours from Cordoba and to about 2000m before we started our walk. The area is a conservation site for condors and we were lucky enough to see lots of them as well as eagles, vultures and this little fella who was particularly interested in our lunch.
We didn't see either of these though - guess we should be thankful for that although it would have been cool.....from a distance.
It was a good 6 hour hike - although I am coming to the realisation that after about three hours I get really bored! Unless the landscape is ever changing I lose interest pretty fast...and then it just becomes putting one foot infront of the other. It was great to get out in the fresh air though and some of it was really beautiful and serene.
At the end of the day it was all we could do to freshen up and go and eat a lomito before crashing out. The next day we were getting an overnight bus to Salta in the northwest of the country....would our bus luck change for the better?