My first impressions of Buenos Aires (which in English means Good Breeze) were that of a rough and tumble city similar to many belonging to developing countries, with concrete buildings and chaotic traffic. From the taxi ride into the city, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would suggest that BA is a European city in South America.
I enjoyed my first real adventure this morning upon waking up to find I was unable to unlock my bedroom door, forcing me to climb out the window, and scramble up a few tiles into the hostel’s open air corridor that connects rooms. It looks like that will be my main method of entering and exiting the room from here on out.
Today’s explorations took me away from the city centre, to the vibrant and colourful neighbourhood called La Boca; safe by day, AVOID at night.
The focus of La Boca is Caminito, one particular street and its surroundings, which are decorated with the most colourful weatherboard, brick and tin buildings.
The air is filled with tango music whilst professional tango dancers elegantly perform for the restaurant crowds. It already looks to be my favourite part of the city; colourful, energetic, bohemian. What more could I want or need?
I found the European Buenos Aires, and a whole lot more. This place has it all.
It’s got the wide and elegant Parisian avenue in Avenida de Mayo, the billboards and theatres of Broadway in Avenida de Corrientes, and the repetitive shopping strip of Oxford Street in Avenida de Florida. The latter is one I’ll definitely have to avoid, having little luggage room and less expendable money for the temptations about.
And by temptations I particularly mean bookshops. The exist in Australia (especially in the UNESCO City of Literature, Melbourne) but are greatly diminished; the US is going the same way.
But Argentina – Buenos Aires – they know how to do a book store. They all occupy about three floors of antique buildings, with wrought-iron staircases and total class.
I find myself drawn into them despite their paltry (or often non-existent) English section. Yet the shelves of Spanish-translated classic novels (Jane Austin in espanol) still entice. It was a true test to turn myself away. And even then, I returned to my hostel with two books in my bag. Oops.
My expansive walk today included a trip to the highly-dodgy area where the bus stop is at, so that I could book myself on onward journey.
You hear stories and advice, from fellow travellers and locals alike, about kidnappings, muggings, and more. The current local newspaper has an article about the murder of a Frenchman as he was taking a photo of a monument in a square. Today, I visited the spot where the murder occurred, marked by a simple bouquet of flowers and the man’s picture. Had I known better, I wouldn’t have picked it for a particularly dangerous place to be.
On my first night, the my hostel receptionist pointed out the room where two French girls stayed who were later murdered in northern Argentina. Such talk tends to make you paranoid, and having been told not to loiter in the area surrounding the bus terminal, I clung to my bag, ensuring the hundred pesos shoved into my bra was well concealed, and got the hell out of there as soon as I bought the ticket.
But sometimes I wonder if there’s true cause for such distrust of my fellow race, or whether it’s all just talk if you’ve got your wits about you. It’s a different world out here, in regards to language, safety, attitudes towards girls, and the environment.
But in many ways it’s also much the same as anywhere else. People striving to be happy, to make connections, to dance, to smile, to love, to live… We’re all the same in the end.
Ready to Explore Argentina
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