23
Nov-2014

Cordoba – flea markets and art

Saturday, 22nd November
We arrived into the bus terminal of Cordoba at around 9am after a not too bad night’s sleep. It was broken but unlike the bus rides we actually had some sleep. I remember waking up about every hour or so but with the seats being a bit more comrtable than usual, having paid the extra, I didn’t feel too bad in the morning. Cordoba bus terminal is much like any other city bus terminal and we quickly found the exit. We thought about walking to the hostel but opted to take a cab after spending a few minutes trying to figure out which way to walk. Without backpacks walking the wrong way and figuring it out on the way isn’t really a problem but when you are weighed down by luggage every step counts. The cab only took five minutes and we were at the ‘Hostel Rupestre’ checking in by around 9:30am. Check-in wasn’t officially until 12 noon so we had a couple of hours to kill. The hostel is in the ‘Neuva Cordoba’ neighbouood, where all the students hang out apparently. We were also close to downtown though and today being Saturday thought we would check it out with everything likely to be closed tomorrow, being sunday.

Córdoba is located in the geographical centre of Argentina, in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas, about 700 km northwest of Buenos Aires. It is the capital of Córdoba Province and the second-largest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires, with about 1.3 million people living there. It was founded on 6 July 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who named it after Córdoba, Spain. It was one of the first Spanish colonial capitals of the region that is now Argentina. The National University of Córdoba is the oldest university of the country and the second to be inaugurated in Latin America. It was founded in 1613 by the Jesuit Order. Because of this, Córdoba earned the nickname La Docta (roughly translated, “The Learned one”). It’s apparently the culture capital of Argentina, with arts and music over the city so we thought would enjoy hunting this out. We have two nights here, two full days, and only plan on looking around the city. Some people come to Cordoba to visit the Sierra Chicas close by, it’s the second most visited region for tourists in Argentina and the most popular with internal tourism. Perhaps another time though.

Downtown Cordoba is the usual collection of historic monuments, buildings and commercial strips. It was very busy today, being a typical Saturday morning, and we went for a walk checking out the major sights. This included the Manzana Jesuítica (translation, Jesuit Block), a 17th century group of buildings, the Colegio Nacional de Monserrat (one of the most prestigious schools in Argentina) and the colonial university campus. These were situated along a pedestrianised street which also had the usual handicraft market stationed there.

Manzana Jesuítica

Manzana Jesuítica, Cordoba (Jesuit buildings)

Streets of Cordoba

Old historical streets of Cordoba

We stopped for a while at a cafe to grab a couple of orange juices and rest our legs. It was nice to sit a while and watch the world go by. We walked back to the hostel via the ‘Disco’ supermarket and bought some groceries for lunch. A simple ham salad was the choice. Once lunch was done we got our room key, showered and flaked out for a bit on the bed.

There is an art gallery nearby called the ‘Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa’ or MEC for short, which we walked to check out. It was only 15 pesos each to get in and had four floors of contemporary art. It was an excellent gallery, great space and lighting and the the art was fantastic. Far better than what we were expected, having been in a few regional art galleries on this trip and the contemporary ones in particular being a bit ’too’ contemporary for us. Two artists stood out for me ‘Raul Bottaro’ and a collective called ‘Mondongo’ which translates as ‘tripe’ in Spanish. The work by Mondongo in particular was breathtaking. They created works of art out of threads, wax, plasticine and in one piece ham and cheese. You really have to see it to believe it. They were so realistic from a far, then you get close and see how they are made. Quite astonishing. On the top floor there was a singing guard listing to a walkman and belting out tunes. He had a really good voice and was making use of the acoustics of the gallery. He obviously gets away with it, you could hear him from two floor down. After the gallery we went for a wander around the area next tot he museum that houses the ‘Faro del Bicentenario’, a tall monument built for the country’s bicentenary. There was also a curious building the roof than doubling as a banked walkway so you can kind of walk up and over the building. You will have to see the photos to see what I mean. It was really hot by now so we walked back the hostel to relax in the shade on our rooftop. Also, being siesta time, the city was really quiet with not that much going on and most shops and cafes shut for a few hours.

Museo Provincial de Belles Artes Caraffa

Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Caraffa, Cordoba

Museo Provincial de Belles Artes Caraffa

Gallery of ‘Mondongo’ art-works

On the weekends here they have a flea market close by in the ‘Guemes’ district, the ‘arty’ area. When they say a flea market it is mainly handicrafts and homemade sweets with just a few traditional ‘flea’ stalls. It was nice to walk around in the dusk, just browsing. The market runs from 6pm until around midnight and we went fairly early by Argentinean standards, at around 7pm, so it wasn’t really fully going yet. Once we had satisfied our browsing urges we stopped for a drink at a nice looking bar and restaurant called ‘Mercado Central’. I had a ‘Patagonian Bohemian Pilsner’ and Kirsty had a Gin & Tonic. Again, it was nice to sit and watch the street action from our comfortable sofa, facing outwards towards the road. We did think about eating at this place as it looked really good but the prices made us think twice, not really being that hungry to take full advantage of the menu. We had found a sushi place flyer earlier in the day so for dinner we headed to ‘Sushi World’ on the main drag of ‘Avenida Ambrosio Olmos’. Sushi places are few and far between in South America and this one was pretty good. We shared some rolls and gyoza for a light dinner, after which we wandered back to our hostel. We ate at around 10pm and even this seemed early, being the first in the restaurant. When we left after 10:30pm the place was full. It is clear here that everything gets going a lot later than other countries we have been to. It isn’t unusual to have dinner close to midnight apparently.

Flea Market

The flea market in full swing

Flea Market

Busking at the flea market

Sunday, 23rd November
We had a good sleep-in today, with the shutters keeping out the sunlight. Our room is up on the roof of the hostel, literally. There is a communal rooftop area with seating and a large paddling pool to cool off in and our room is in the corner. The hostel isn’t that busy though so we weren’t kept up by people out on the roof luckily. We got up around 10am and I went out in search of a ‘blue market’ money changer or an ATM followed by a supermarket for some groceries for breakfast. It was dead outside, being a sunday, but felt more like Christmas Day where the roads and pavements are devoid of any souls. It was obviously the money changers day off as I had no luck in finding any. I ended up taking some cash out of an ATM at the official exchange rate. We have arranged to exchange a bundle of US dollars with our AirBnB hosts in Buenos Aires so I didn’t take out too much. We have been offered 12.5 pesos to the dollar by our hosts in Buenos Aires, a full 4 pesos more than the official rate (around 50% more value). I picked up some eggs from the oddly named ‘Disco’ supermarket on the way back to the hostel and cooked up a ham omelette with a side salad for an early lunch.

Plaza San Martin

Plaza San Martin, Cordoba

Faro del Bicentenario

Interesting architecture of Faro del Bicentenario

We didn’t have a any plans for today, opting instead to lounge around the hostel. It is really hot in Cordoba at the moment and plenty of people head out to the local countryside, which is meant to be beautiful, but we were content to take it easy in the shaded confines of the hostel. There is the rooftop for when we felt like some sun. I planned out the accommodation for the rest of our South American trip and, pleased with myself, went and got myself a large beer (a ‘Quilmes’) to relax on the roof with. We also stocked up on groceries in the way of snacks for our bus ride tomorrow. The supermarket was true to form and took forever at the checkouts. It is seemingly the only one around as it’s very busy and sunday seems to be the day when everyone does their grocery shopping. That, combined with the more than slow checkout person and the fact that most shoppers paying for their groceries did so in more than one transaction (to take advantage of the vouchers or something I think) and the tills not having any change, meant I queued for around half an hour to get the groceries paid for. Our dinner was a hostel cooked affair again and we had some potatoes fried up with some chorizo I bought from the supermarket. Very nice, with a bit of salad on the side. The flea market was on again tonight so after eating, at around 8:30pm, we went out for a wander to walk off the food and see what was out and about. We were later at the market than yesterday and it was much busier. The same stalls were there but the crowd was larger and there was a rock band busking on the street with a full set-up. It was a good atmosphere, people out and about milling around, chatting, eating and drinking and browsing all the wares on the stalls. We stayed for around an hour then walked back to the hostel for bed. We have a bus booked for 9am to take us to Buenos Aires tomorrow so would be up at around 7am. We opted for a day bus, not wanting to overdo the night buses.

Monday, 24th November
We got up around 7am and I cooked up the rest of the dinner we had last night with some eggs for breakfast. It was tasty but greasy for that early but did the job. We had a full day on the bus so wanted to have a big breakast. We left for the bus terminal at around 8am, walking the short distance. It took us around 20 minutes with our backpacks and were boarded and off by 9am. We have enjoyed our time in Cordoba, not really seeing too much of or around the city but checking out the main parts. It seems to have a lot to offer for a city but we were happy with our two days there. We were excited by the prospect of spending a week in Buenos Aires. We have rented out an apartment in a neighbourhood called Palermo, in the thick of the action and intend on making full use of the location and having our own space for a week. On the list are seeing a football match, shopping, eating steaks, drinking fine wines and going to a tango show.

The journey to Buenos Aires from Cordoba was down main highways to start with not much to look at other than farmland either side of the road. We had seats up the top at the front again so had a good view out the front windows but not as scenic as the last day bus we took through the Andes. This bus is a stopping bus which means it stops off at all the main towns on the way to Buenos Aires to drop off and pick up passengers. We went through around ten towns of varying size  and got a good look at some other places with way, from up high on the bus. It also meant for a slow ride though, stopped every hour or so. We passed by plenty of cows, being reared for their steak and leather no doubt, the first cows we have seen here in Argentina. I guess it’s too dry where we have been for cows to graze. The steak is meant to be so good here because of the grass the cows eat. We would be finding out I hope in Buenos Aires.

We pulled into the Retiro bus terminal around 8pm, so-named after the neighbourhood it’s situated in. The area around the terminal leaves a lot to be desired, one area had shanty looking housing, burning piles rubbish and groups of police standing in the streets like something was about to happen. We did think ‘where have we come too’ initially but our concerns were alleviated when we walked out of the bus station on the other side which was completely different and not quite so alarming. We caught a cab with no problems, tipping the local hanger-arounders who whistled us one and loaded or luggage in the back. Our neighbourhood of Palermo looked nice on the drive in and instantly we were very pleased with Kirsty’s choice of apartment when we arrived at the apartment building and met our hosts. The place itself is really nice, compact but with everything we will need for the week. Our hosts run this like a business and the place had everything you might find in a hotel to help us with our stay here, even a mini-car in the fridge! Once settled in we went out onto the main street near us, ‘Avenida Santa Fe’ and just got some oven chips for dinner. Not very adventurous but we weren’t up to much tonight after all day on a bus. We are also here for a week so have plenty of time to get out and about and I think it’s safe to say we would definitely be enjoying our time here in Buenos Aires

As a side note, an update on my recent hair loss. After some forensic work, studying the hairs that have come out, in their entirety and with the root intact, together with some googling, I think I have found the cause. This kind of ‘hair shedding’ can be caused by a shock to the body such as a high fever. Back in Costa Rica, at the end of August, so about two months ago, I had a pretty high fever which lasted several days and this timeline matches with what’s happening now. It was quite interesting reading about it and I feel better now I think I have found the cause and am not simply going bald! It takes a few months to resolve apparently so not sure where to from here but having lived my life so far with a head with too many hairs I will now experience life thinner on top. It will be good for the hot weather in Cuba I think.

 

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  1. Dad /

    Hey Kirsty. What is Michelle Macklin doing walking down the Old historical streets of Cordoba?

    • Kirsty and Peter /

      Just one of the many look-a-likes we’ve seen. There’s still room for an Argentinian or Cuban Tony though.

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