Buenos Aires

Gardens in the city

A busy roundabout with a statue in the center, very European

Green grass and a high rise building

Decorative wooden panels

Tombs in the Recoleta Cemetary

Tombs in the Recoleta Cemetary

Tombs in the Recoleta Cemetary

Tombs in the Recoleta Cemetary

The Palacio del Congresso

The Palacio del Congresso

The obelisk in Plaza de la Republica

The obelisk in Plaza de la Republica

A historic building

Eva Peron's notebook

A fountain in a busy plaza

The Casa Rosada

Pedestrian walkway on Ave. Florida

The view from Plaza San Martin

Statue in a plaza

Columned facade of a historic building

The tango on the streets of La Boca

Memorial in the plaza

Colorful sheet metal houses in La Boca

Colorful houses in La Boca

The waterfront at Puerto Madero

Old building near the main plaza

The Casa Rosada

Statue in the main plaza

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Center of Argentina

May 6, 2008

If you should go skating on the thin ice of modern life

Dragging behind you the silent reproach of a million tear-stained eyes

Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice appears under your feet.

- Pink Floyd

Arriving in Buenos Aires on Argentina’s Labor Day was probably not the most ideal day to arrive as almost everything was closed. But after a 36-hour bus ride through boring scenery I didn´t have that much of a desire to rush out and start seeing the city anyways. I also had to figure out where the US Embassy was so that I could go there on Friday to get more pages added to my passport, as it was almost completely full. It was quite the task to find where the US Embassy was because the street that it is on, Columbia, doesn´t appear in any Buenos Aires online map databases, but there is a Columbres in a totally different neighborhood. In the end I located it and found my way there on Friday morning expecting to wait for hours or having to leave my passport there until Monday, or even longer.

After going through security, which in keeping with the trend in America had been outsourced to a local Argentine security force, I only had to wait about an hour while they stitched and taped new pages, which look completely different, into my passport that now looks rather homemade. From the embassy location in Palermo I then walked through the botanical gardens and Japanese garden before walking south to some of the art museums on the way to Recoleta to see the famous cemetery. The cemetery was quite nice, smaller with less grand mausoleums than the cemetery in Santiago, Chile, but with a much more intimate feel to it. Strolling through some of the main streets on the way back to the subway I noted how different it was from the small towns and cities in the south of the country, especially seeing the wide streets lined with multi-level stores of virtually every worldwide brand.

The next day I wandered through the nearby areas of Palermo Soho, a pleasant but rather pretentious area of overpriced boutique shops and restaurants packed with upscale Argentines and tourists soaking up the sunny weather. Sunday I had hoped to go to the Boca Juniors game against River Plate, a huge rivalry between the two main club soccer teams in Argentina but I had arrived a bit too late to get any reasonably priced tickets so I had to settle for watching the game on TV, which proved harder than it should have been. Practically every place was totally full with people and many had minimum orders of 20 pesos per person to even enter. The streets were emptier than they would normally have been and I think more or less the whole country came to a stop during the game, which ended up 1-0 in favor of Boca.

Monday I spent the day wandering all around the city center, looking at the old buildings and monuments and the famous Avenida de Julio with a large obelisk in the center bordered by 7 lanes of traffic on either side, which in turn are each separated by grass medians flanked by 3 more lanes of traffic for a total of 20 lanes. The road has to be crossed via four separate crossings and is supposedly the widest avenue in the world. Unfortunately during my visit two of the main attractions in Buenos Aires were closed for restoration and renovation, the Colon Theater and the Government House, known as the Casa Rosada or Pink House. The other government buildings can only be visited on guided tours which are run at various times throughout the day and week, often with no signs or information, making visiting a bit difficult.

Tuesday was my last day in Buenos Aires and I spent it walking through San Telmo and La Boca. San Telmo was a smaller and more down to Earth version of Palermo Soho while La Boca was vastly different than the other parts of the city I had visited. It was much older and run-down, with the exception of the cleaned up touristy part around the soccer stadium, which was too fake for me. The district was filled with old buildings, many with colorful but often faded sheet metal siding and crumbling facades. Many parts of this area aren´t that safe during the day and it´s certainly one of those places where you wouldn´t want to be wandering around at night. However, it was a nice contrast to the more touristy attractions of the city center and in Palermo and Recoleta.

Overall, I thought that Buenos Aires was the nicest and most modern city that I had visited in South America so far on this trip. Santiago was just as modern and cleaner but with much less to do, while Quito and Bogota both had better scenery with the surrounding mountains. Buenos Aires had a good mix of everything, although the surrounding area didn´t seem to offer as much as some of the other cities. I enjoyed my time there and got to hang out with some great people as well, which usually makes all the difference.