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February 23rd 2015
Published: February 23rd 2015
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Buenos Aires, the city of Tango, Evita Peron, amazing cemeteries, coffee shops, outstanding bookshops and an amazing atmosphere. I can tell you that this city is by far the best city I had the pleasure to explore in South America. Having spent only 7 days there, which is not enough in my books to really get to know this town, I can tell you that I would be more than happy to live there. Well, that is from a tourist’s perspective and I am aware that reality is different. But what a place…..

Carla and I took the plane from Brasilia to Buenos Aires early on Sunday morning. We didn’t fly together as Carla’s flight was purchased with points and I had to pay for mine. So Carla's flight departed at 5.00 in the morning and mine was scheduled at 7.00 in the morning. With a 4 hour stopover in Sao Paulo I finally made it to Buenos Aires at 15.00 and went to the hotel where an exited Carla was waiting for me, barley letting me put my backpack down before we were out the door to explore the city. You see Carla has been in BA a couple of times and it is one of her favorite cities in South America. And I can now fully understand why….

The first thing I wanted to do at arrival was change some money. As I mentioned in a previous report that Argentina has a parallel money exchange systems; one is the official, and legal, way to change money and that is you go to a bank or money exchange office to change your hard earned cash, or you turn to the ‘blue market’. And of course the blue market is illegal, but it is so ingrained into the Argentinian economy that even the newspapers and other media outlets report the ‘official’ blue exchange rate.

The ‘blue market’ exists since years and is a reaction to the official Argentinean policy that normal citizens are not allowed to keep foreign currency. This is because the government tries to pay back their foreign depth back in US dollars so they try to get their hands on as many dollars as they can. But they also devalued the peso so much over the years that the Argentinian population desperately want to exchange every penny they can into US dollars. And that is why when one comes to Argentina they should carry as much US dollar with them as they need. The official exchange rate is about 9 pesos for one US dollar, but on the blue market you get 13 pesos for it.

Beside the US dollar the Argentinians are also after the Euro and the Brazilian real. Carla exchanged 100 reals for 430 pesos and she was pretty happy with that considering that the official rate would have pocketed her 320 pesos. That is one of the reasons why you find a lot of Brazilians in Argentina

Now considering that Argentina is a rather cheap place as it is and take the blue market rate into account you can live here like a king. Its simple incredible. But with changing money illegally comes risk as there are many unscrupulous money exchange people that give you fake money. So when changing the money always try to find a place that is in a fixed location, like a shop or one of the many kiosks around town. Also never change a huge amount at the beginning. Just start with a hundred bucks and see if they are trustworthy and do the right thing. And trust me it is an experience to blue change money. We found our place at the back of a small news agency and it is funny to be in a cramped place with stacks of money around you……..

We were lucky that our hotel was right in the center of BA and everything was pretty easy to get to. The city was pretty dead on the day we arrived, as it was Sunday, and I was amazed on how wide the main boulevards were. Not far from the hotel was the Plaza De Mayo and the Casa Rosada, translated pink house, which is the presidential palace. The colour of the palace is pink because when they build the palace they mixed blood of bulls into the building material as a symbol of strength.

The plaza is also well known for the place to demonstrate against anything and everything. There is a permanent tent from the Falkland war veterans that were not on the Falklands but supplied the troops from the main land. They want to be recognized by the government as Falkland veterans but as they were not on the island and only served as supply units they are not considered veterans. Pretty screwed up if you ask me…… But it was interesting to speak with the veterans and get a bit of an insight of the conflict.

Now Buenos Aires has a hell of a lot of places to see and one of them are the cemeteries; they are simply amazing. One of the main cemeteries is located in Recoleta, a very upmarket neighborhood, and here you find the mausoleum of Evita Peron. Evita Peron was, and still is, idolized by the Argentinians and treated like a goddess, so it was surprising to see her mausoleum being rather simple and without the pomp you expect. The money the people have spent to build themselves these fantastic tombs is amazing. Huge building with bigger than life statues, marble palaces, grandiose monuments. Just walking around in these cemeteries is an experience that is unique and if you ever go to Buenos Aires it is a must see place to go. And it is interesting to read about some of the stories behind the mausoleums, like the story about Rufina Cambaceres, a girl that was buried alive by accident. When she ‘woke’ up she scratched the coffin to the point of breaking but she couldn’t get out and she ‘died’ again, just this time forever. A statue shows the 19 year old girl holding the handle of the tomb, symbolizing that she either wanted to get out or enter at(get rid of at) the world of the dead. Just interesting…….

Another great place to visit is Palermo, a very sophisticated neighborhood where you can find the Japanese Garden and the Evita Museum. The Japanese Garden is beautiful full of bridges, bonsai trees, festive shrines and pagodas and was donated by the Japanese community. Interestingly here you find about 170 trees which “survived” to the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and they are called "Hibakujyumoku”. The museum of Evita, formerly a lodge for Argentinian women who moved to Buenos Aires to find work, is full of personal stuff from Evita and videos about her speeches and achievements. As I mentioned before she is a goddess here in Argentina.

In BA you also find one of the biggest Opera Houses in South America, called the Teatro Colon, and I can only recommend to do one of the guided tours. This place is amazing and shows you how rich that city must have been at one stage. Because of its acoustic, the architecture and for the size of its horseshoe-shaped auditorium, with more than 2000 seats and standing room for 1000 people, it is considered a “rival” of the Alla Scalla Theatre, in Milan, Italy, and the Opera in Vienna. Something that is amazing is the area with sculptures of famous composers like Beethoven, Bellini, Bizet, Gounod, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Wagner. It doesn’t matter if you are an opera fan or not, this place is a must see and money well spent for a guided tour.

Now people who know me know that I am a bit of a bookworm and love bookstores. And I heard that they have some pretty cool bookstores in town so off I went to find out how cool they are. And oh boy was it amazing. Here you find bookstores that are specialist in only art books, foreign languages, paintings, antiques, etc. One of the bookstores I went to was the El Ateneo store which is over 100 years old. The ‘store’ is an old theater full of books, reading rooms and a pretty cool café. Man, I wish I could own a place like this…… Amazing.

I mentioned the Falkland war before and I can tell you that this war is far from over for the Argentinean. I have spoken with a lot of the Argentinians here and it doesn’t matter if they are left or right, rich or poor, they all believe that the Falklands is theirs and not English. The government has opened its own Falkland museum and if you want to see propaganda in action go there. The museum is located inside the former headquarters of ESMA, which today is memorial to those persecuted in the Military Regime. Now I believe that the Falklands belong to Argentina, but after a visit to that museum I was about to change my mind. The aim of the museum to underline the claim to the Falkland is just over the top. Before you do the tour you have to watch a propaganda movie that includes several images of the Queen of England covered in blood and English soldiers being monsters. What the museum showcased very well was the reactions of Argentinians in 3 moments of the conflict; at the beginning, when the people were very excited because they wanted a victory over the British, during the conflict when the media lied through their teeth saying that the Argentinians are close to victory; and at the end, when the than General Galtieri couldn’t continue the war anymore and the people got pissed off. The people wanted to continue the conflict until the end and considered Galtieri a “coward. Ah well, state propaganda in action. I have to ask myself what has changed in all these years. Remember the weapons of mass destruction?

One of the most impressive buildings in BA is the Barolo Palace whose symbolism is based on on Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy”. The Lobby arcade displays dragon heads, hellfire motifs, gargoyles and verses. The building itself is divided into Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. And everything is in the Neo-Romantic and Neo-Gothic style - very impressive. Unfortunately the daily tours that show you the whole building wasn’t operating on the day we were there, but there is always a next time.

Now everybody who knows a bit about Argentina knows that the Argentineans are not only passionate about football, but also about Tango. And that is very evident when you walk the streets in BA. In nearly every plaza or big sizable locations you find people dancing the Tango. Now I am not a dancer myself, but watching the couples dancing the Tango makes me wish I could do that. Carla and I went to one of the oldest Tango theatres to watch a show and it was rather impressive. Argentinians are nuts about Tango and you find many museums dedicated to the dance and its famous dancers and composers, like Carlos Gardel. His museum is rather nice, but what I find cool is his tomb at one of the cemeteries. Here he is in a lifelike statue and people put a cigarette in his hand and take pictures with him. Like it… By the way, I still think that the Tango was the dirty dancing of its time……..

So after a week of seeing some amazing museums, walking through cemeteries, browsing bookstores, eating in some amazing restaurants and walking the streets at night it was time for Carla and me to part ways again. Carla had to catch a flight back to Brazil and I had to continue with my trip up to the cold north. The night before she left was also Valentine’s Day so we booked a nice restaurant and had some fun. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, but it never is…………

So here I sit in Villa Maria in the north west of Argentina on my own again. And guess what; I have caught up with all the travel updates. I have to admit it was a struggle to keep up; so much to see, so much to do. But I will try to stay on top of it from now on……

Hope you enjoyed this update and as usual leave a comment or two. And if you ever have the chance come to Buenos Aires. This place is great…….

Enjoy life my friends………..

Additional photos below
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23rd February 2015

Colon Theatre
Colon is among the 5 best theatres in the world, recognized by people like Pavarotti and the Wagner family. People like Strauss and Herbert von Karajan presented themselves there.
23rd February 2015

Facts are not Propaganda
The issue regarding Oil and its extraction in Malvinas (or Falklands) is obvius. The only thing I disliked at the Malvinas Museum (the name of the place), because this, yes, I faced as propaganda, was the end of the first video (we watched several in truth), when they showed the faces of Lula, Chavez, Fidel, Cristina Kirchner, Evo Morales & cia. I think they could show the history about the place, its first peoples, the invasions, the war, but connecting, in any moment, to any political leader or ideology (*of any type*) can sound as propaganda. I don’t like to know this “left wing”, with “Autochthonous” excuses, uses serious issues, such as Falkland/Malvinas, dating back long time ago, much before their existences, to their ultimate goal: take everything from so called “bourgeois”, as they imagine – the interesting is that bourgeois as me don’t handmade boots in Italy, as Fidel does, nor have a mansion in a paradisiac island as he has – one of the habitual guests was Left wing writer, admired in the world, Gabriel Garcia Marques. Who started that war was Galtieri, an Argentinian who strongly hated Communists. No, I’m not defending Galtieri, but just noticing how they use genuine causes, which go back to the 19th century or before. It is even scarier when I know they ally themselves to Russia, Iran, India and China. Even the term “Bolivarianismo” has nothing to do with the directions of today, Bolivar was nothing as they portray…. So, to end: only thing I dislike in that video was the “happy ending”, with the face of corrupt people, who criticize “bourgeois”, but all have a very comfort life. Chavez is the worst example: he inherited Venezuela in a phase in which the price of oil rose to the stratosphere. However, of all the wealth that oil generated, instead of turning Venezuela into a "world power" as he promised (the government brainwashed people with their TV programs saying Venezuela would "take the place of the U.S. and Europe"), he distributed what didn’t belong to him, helping Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador - not to mention, of course, the expense of buying Pharaonic armaments to Russia and China. People here have a general dislike for military, because of the past of military dictatorships (most don’t admiring nothing in military terms, even in an aesthetic level), but they forget that Chavez, for example, was not a Native American, an Indian or an Aboriginal who came out from some Amerindian village. No. He was a military. It is a misconception belief, widely disseminated over here, that the military is necessarily an ultra-catholic conservative, “right wing”. A quick look at history belies this assertion. The South American military regimes generally lacked any ideology, were just a kind of state-of-site extended. They were not genuine Conservatives in any way, but individuals trained in the Positivist tradition - strong in the military up to today, the same that gave a military coup at the end of the 19th to dismantle the Brazilian Monarchy, when the country achieved in fact the greatest stability in political and economic terms: it is, like Marxism, one of the two main wings of the revolutionary movement. The truth is both Galtieri and Thatcher used the war somehow to gain popularity among its peoples with forms of nationalism… He faced dissatisfaction in Argentina because of the dictatorship and she wished to keep control of England, which passed through a deep social and economic crises. Things I considered interesting at the museum: - the flora and fauna of the island, showing a wolf (similar to the Guará found around Brasília) which was extinct by the English in the 19th century (they feared the animal could kill the sheep they brought to there – there were no sheep when Gauchos lived there); - the original houses, Gaucho style, as in farms in the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul. Definitely totally different from the English style of Architecture seem today; - the first women: a Gaucha almost Indian, 2 or 3 of French descent and a Spanish descendant, called, Malvina, by the way. - The sinking of the Belgrano ship: this act is considered a War Crime (not by me, but by international organizations). The British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror caused the death of more than 300 Argentinian marines. It is considered a crime because the attack occurred out of the exclusion zone stablished by British government around the islands. It is the only case of sinking of a war ship, torpedoed by a nuclear submarine since the end of WWII. - I think it is bad that the cemetery for Argentines in Falklands is forbidden to have any signal remembering Argentina, no flag, no memorial, nothing… Only their crosses there. The Brazilian soldiers who died in WWII in Northern Italy, for example, have Brazilian flag, memorial, and sculptures remembering them… While the dead Argentines in Falklands don’t have the right to those things….. Because the British government don’t allow it. Well, Brazilians won by the side of English and American, while Argentinians lost (it is said that those who lose don’t have the right of memorials and their version of facts is always faced as “propaganda”); It is important to remember that references to the conflict are all over Buenos Aires…. - At the Plaza San Martin there is a memorial with the name of each Argentinian dead at the war and every day at 6pm they fly the Argentinian flag in honour to them; - The Church Basílica do Santíssimo Rosário is a symbol of resistance when the English tried to invade Buenos Aires in 1807. In that church, the English soldiers refugeed themselves and there are still kept the English flags as a form of memorial.
23rd February 2015

Malvinas will always belong to Argentina...
The issue concerning Falkland/Malvinas (independent of ideologies) is legit (independent of races, social classes or ideologies: The Islanders (or Kelpers) once were another people, mostly Gaúchos, who were expelled from the place in 1833. The area is situated at the continental platform of Patagonia and the name “Malvinas” has a French origin – “Îles Malouines”. This name reflects the support the French gave to the Spaniards, when they sold the island and decided to remove themselves from the contest. The French Crown recognized the Spanish sovereignty. The French navigator Louis Antoine de Boungainville, who had occupied the region, gave it to Spain in exchange for a certain value. Long before all this, Americo Vespucci, in the early 16th century, passed through the archipelago. The Spaniards were there from the mid-18th century until the early 19th century. After Argentinian independence, the Spaniards gave the island to Argentines. During the first years of the Argentine independence, the new government ignored Falklands/Malvinas, and only occupied them in 1821. At the same time, the beaches of the archipelago began to be visited frequently by fur hunters from the U.S. and England, which caused conflict with local government. Then the British arrived again, but this time to stay. The Clio frigate anchored at Puerto Soledad and, pointing their guns, demanded the governor José Maria Vernet, to depart with the population. The English put there a small population (today around 3,000 people) to sound like it is an English territory while they expelled people who lived there. Some Gauchos stayed there and resisted, being arrested by British Empire and prosecuted in London. Around Malvinas, Argentina also disputes the sovereign of some places in Antarctica that, today, are administered by United Kingdom: South Sandwich, Aurora and South Georgia – which means Argentina reclaims almost 1 million of Km2 in Antarctica, in which constitutes “Argentinian Antarctica” (even though those continental reclaims over Antarctica are suspended in virtue of the Antarctica Treaty of 1959). The staunch Argentine-Italian, anti-communist, Leopoldo Galtieri, in a government strongly supported by the USA, received the endorsement, in the Falklands War, of the USSR, Cuba and Moammar Gadhafi (admired by so many for their unconformity), while England received at the time the support of Israel – there was Argentine military who accepted this support, but refused to travel to Cuba at the time. As USA sponsored the military dictatorship in South America, they thought they would find support to fight with UK. But the United States never accepted an offensive against UK, its main ally, since always, together with Israel (people who destroyed Dresden and Hiroshima, for example…. What they would do with mere “mixed people”, “Gauchos”, from “Falklands”)... I try to imagine the reaction of English to those “exotic” resistant Gauchos in Falklands who were prosecuted in London. Except for Chile, which supported UK and USA, I think everyone here sympathized with Argentina (even Brazilians, which historically has a known rivalry with Argentines...). Today I see this imperialism in a way with leaders like Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales (which I hate and don’t represent myself in nothing!), but in historical terms there’s no way to compare Northern Europe and South American “imperialisms”. The difference between both is the global colonialist vision of the British Empire, while Argentina had regional adventures of colonialist interference, for example, supporting advisors with military coups in Bolivia and sending experts to help the “Contras” in Honduras to increase its sphere of influence. The British imperialism was almost everywhere and influenced the fate of South America in crucial points (especially Brazil, the creation of Uruguay and Argentina –invaded Buenos Aires in 1806 and 1807 and their flags remain inside a church……………. I can talk about this because my maternal great-great-great-great-grandfather was an Englishman, who, like many Brits, decided to live in Brazil and fight in battles in South America as mercenaries, as part of their loss of influence in the British Navy during the beginning of the 19th century - a long story. I know several stories about him and I know that if he was here right now he would defend all these British triumphs, especially the hegemony achieved in South America (Portuguese monarchy and its heir, the Empire of Brazil, were totally subservient to the British Crown… The external debt in Brazil started by English influence – and not American as people imagine… English started putting Portugal in serious problems, since an earthquake long ago in Lisbon). I respect his personal life story, but, unlike my great-great-great-great-grandfather, I am not English, I live in this part of the world and for this reason I can notice certain peculiarities... I’m interested in the history of my family, they transmitted to me worldviews and influences, but I’m also not silly… the monarchies of Portugal and Spain were the largest affected at their colonial capitalist participation, since the beginning, by England, much more than their settlements. The English ended invading Buenos Aires because of the support Spain gave to Napoleon Bonaparte. So Great Britain started plans to obtain more influence on the Spanish settlements. In 1806, the English went to the Plata River taking first Montevideo and later going to Buenos Aires. John Whitelocke, a general of the British Crown, commanded a frustrated attempt to take Buenos Aires, trying to transform the whole Plata Region in a typical British settlement. The result is Spanish and Argentinians took part in a true rebellion, as they English came back again in 1807 with 11,000 soldiers, walking on the streets of Buenos Aires, confident of their supremacy. But the people from Buenos Aires resisted, even throwing boiling water at the heads of the English, avoiding with this the conquer of the city. As Brazil, Australia, Canada and USA and Argentina received settlers and immigrants in massive waves. So, the argument “Ah, but Falklands, Spaniards massacred Indians as well, so can’t accuse the English of massacring original population of Malvinas”………. First of all, Portuguese and Spaniards persecuted Indians, the same way English persecuted Native Americans in USA and Aboriginal in Australia. Around this, people forget that the Indians in Brazil and some in USA united themselves to Portuguese or English as a form to combat their enemy tribes (people also forget that several Indian leaders subordinated to the Kingdom of Spain encouraged their daughters to marry to Spaniard captains)…. So, no, some “noble” arguments don’t convince me, even because, I wonder why the replacement of settler population for a native population is accepted to some societies and not to others – this is evident in the global collective imaginary – and why taking natural resources of others, such as oil, is accepted by some societies and not others……. Well, here it is my opinion and observations.
23rd February 2015

Even British descendants support Argentina in this...
The issue is so serious that even Welsh descendants stay by the side of Argentina - the country has more than 10,000 descendants of Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English (mostly in Patagonia): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/argentina/9169222/The-Welsh-Argentine-who-fought-the-British.html "The new colony was the idea of Michael Jones, a Nonconformist minister and ardent Welsh nationalist from Bala, who believed that the best way to preserve his people’s culture was to isolate it, establishing a community as far away as possible from the baleful influence of Victorian England. “These people felt oppressed,” says Señor Rhys. “They were not allowed to know their own language. Many of those who came later were miners who had suffered in terrible conditions. They did not know how to farm, and the land here was hard, but they were free.”
24th February 2015
Gardel museum - Buenos Aires

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25th February 2015

I love Buenos Aires. I live at 400 km. from there and I try to go as often as I can. Very good description of one of my favorite cities. Hugs.
25th February 2015

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25th February 2015
Boca district - Buenos Aires

Great blog of an amazing city. To us it was a city of past glories. Yet a hum and vibrancy that the past can continue to be glorious. This pic just as I remember it...yet contained behind a strong chickenwire fence.
30th March 2015
Boca district - Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires
Hi Dave. Sorry for the late reply and thank you for your comment. Appreciated. I don't know when you have been there but I was tolda lot changed the last years due to the economic situation. I hope they can solve that soon and restore this great city to its former glory. Take care
2nd March 2015

Buenos Aires
7 days is never enough but I'll bet they will let you come back. After reading your blog we're ready to book our flight. Just wish it was time for us to travel. It would be fantastic to see a performance in the Opera House. Thanks for another great blog.
2nd March 2015

Thank you ....
.... So much for the comment. Buenos Aures is s fantastic city in a fantastic land. And if I inspired you to go back I hope I also inspired people to go there for the first time. There is a totally wrong conception in most parts of the world about South America and people have to experience this continent for themself. I blame the 'fun' media for that. Again thank you for your comment and stay in touch. You at going to love my next update... Welf

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