Sometimes when you are in a place, in a big city, you don’t really understand the culture, and the language, or much of what’s going on, but you just feel a particular vibe. Here’s what Buenos Aires experienced with locals has given me, beyond the usual touristic places.
I am not much of a city tourist, but I do try to make the best out of it when I pass by one, and between one side and the other of the country I ended up spending in Buenos Aires four or five days, not consecutively.
There are so many online guides about the attractions of this city to make it really superfluous to repeat any of it here. What I can say for sure, is that I felt from the very start a mix of positive and relaxed atmosphere with a kind of nostalgic, hidden side to it. In many ways, Buenos Aires feels like a European city, with all its layers of cultural complexity. All the people I talked to, went on about their origins from Italy, or Spain, or the family they have here and there.
The ties with the old continent are still strongly felt. At the same time, it is definitely not a European city: that distinctive South American vibe is fully perceivable, with its mix of extravagant joyfulness paired with soap opera style drama, and a little touch of chronic sadness. I couldn’t help but think of some Eighties TV shows my grandmother used to watch. It’s as though the wild landscapes of the country have become part of its people’s souls, in a romantic and adventurous way, while their origin keeps them at bay, forcing them to dream of a quest they have yet to understand. Perhaps it is identity, perhaps freedom…
Or perhaps I am just imagining things because all I did was really to have a lot of fun in Buenos Aires.
On my first night there I checked one of those online city guides and ended up in a kind of open-air electro-folk concert in a neighbourhood I knew nothing about, quite out of the usual radars. It looked more like a cultural centre of some kind, lots of beers, cheap prices, easy going crowd and cheerful music. I and my buddy met some locals there and continued the night with them.
The following day we were invited to join a small group of people to a sort of after work drink taking place on a rooftop of an office building. It was a close group, but I felt really welcomed and I could discuss (bits in English bits in Spanish) about anything. Later in the night, I went with some of them to a jazz bar, a little more pricey and classy, yet not snobbish setting, where we enjoyed a couple of hours of very fine music.
And that was my best time in Buenos Aires. I also visited colourful La Boca, and San Telmo, and Palermo, and the very interesting museum of contemporary art (MACBA), and paid tickets to see a tango show. All very nice, no doubt, but not as authentic.
In the end, nothing was more interesting and fun than mingling with the locals, even though for a very short time, see where they hang out, understand what they think about their politics, how they perceive faraway worlds, and how they enjoy their time or deal with the burdens of life.
COLONIA IS A NO GO
Many tourist guides insist that a daily visit to Colonia, Uruguay’s UNESCO patrimony and very easy to reach by boat from Buenos Aires, is worthwhile. Well, it is not. I did it, and it was an incredibly boring day. The old city is cute but tiny, in half an hour the visit is over, and for the rest of the day there was nothing else to do. Going to the beach is a no go, because of the estuary Rio del Plata, which makes the water nicely brown, and the area does not offer any other distraction for the day. I am sure Uruguay is a very nice country to visit, but not like that, and not from Buenos Aires. I really regretted not remaining in Argentina and spend my day differently.
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