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Published: November 18th 2007
We did most of our sightseeing in Tucumán in the evenings when the temperatures dropped
I think we could easily have spent our entire trip exploring North-West Argentina, as it's a beautiful region, the weather is perfect - well a little too hot, perhaps - and there is plenty to see and do, much more than we had initially expected. We had originally planned two weeks in the north west, but that quickly became three, and would easily have become four had we not taken the decision to move on. Tucumán: Where the siesta should be obligatory
San Migual de Tucumán (or Tucumán as practically every one calls it) is the largest city in the northwest but we spent less time here than in any other place we visited, with only 12 hours between our arrival from Tafi del Valle on the bus and and our departure on an overnight bus to Córdoba. After the journey down from Tafi we bought our Córdoba tickets, dropped our bags in left luggage and spent the day exploring the town. The plan was to quickly see the main sights in the centre, but it was far too hot to do anything other than sit in the shade. Hence, our afternoon consisted of moving slowly from a cafe
Park in Tucumán
With no hotel to go to during siesta time, Parque Nueve de Julio was the next best place
to the leafy main square to the huge park near the station, where we spent a few hours reading in the shade.
Not until the evening when the temperatures dropped were we able to do anything more strenuous. But at this time the city really comes alive, and the main square which had been almost deserted all afternoon became incredibly crowded. Tucuman is a large city, but it's not a big tourist destination. Having said that, there are plenty of interesting buildings in the city centre and many good cafes and restaurants. However, if you're looking for a city as a base for exploring the region I think Salta is a better option. Walking around the city centre that evening we bumped into two girls we had met in Tafi, on their way to a light show. It amazes me how often the same people cross paths on this trip, even in the big cities... Cordoba: Argentina's Second City
One of the best decisions we've made on this trip was to "save" our blankets & eye-covers from our British Airways flight, as we've used them on every overnight bus journey. As any backpacker knows, overnight buses
One of the many impressive buildings around Córdoba's main square, Plaza San Martin.
are the best way to travel when your journey is about 8 hours or more as you save more time for sightseeing during the day and you save a night's accommodation. The drawback is that you arrive bleary eyed and exhausted at your destination, and often spent the next day like a zombie. Still, that's what coffee is for!
Córdoba is Argentina's 2nd largest city, and while there is an attractive enough centre to the city, to us it was just too big and too hot. We stayed two days, but really we should have kept it to one and moved onto Villa Belgrano earlier. We're now about two months into our trip, and we've noticed that the bigger cities tend to tire us out while in the smaller towns, where the countryside is more accessible we always have much more energy and much more inclination to go and do something like a long hike or climb a mountain.
After so much time in the quieter towns in the north-west, where there aren't so many tourists, it was quiet a shock to the system to arrive at Córdoba Backpackers Hostel and see a whole room of gringos watching
Man Utd v Arsenal. Still, it was a very friendly place, and our room was away from the main hostel across the street so it wasn't too noisy.
That first day in Córdoba we took it easy, for the first few hours going no further than the supermarket to buy lunch. We had a TV in our room so we watched local "Cordobese" David Nalbandian playing in the Paris Masters. He played pretty well too and ended up beating Rafael Nadal to win the tournament.
The next day we started exploring the city properly. Our hostel was very close to the old Jesuit area, which contains the most impressive buildings in the city. We walked into see Cordoba University, originally founded as a Jesuit college, and managed to avoid paying by doing the old "No hablo Espanol" routine! The best place we visited in Córdoba was the Belles Artes museum. My favourite paintings here were by Emilio Caraffa, who we know absolutely nothing about, other than the fact he painted some great pictures of the region around Córdoba. Villa Belgrano: You can take the Germans out of Germany....
There were many attractive-sounding options for day trips
Villa General Belgrano
Bavarian style houses & chalets, apfel-strudel, leber-wurst. This, of course, is Argentina
from Cordoba, but the one we chose was to Villa General Belgrano, named after an Argentine hero from the War of Independence, but a town very German in character, where you have to keep reminding yourself that you're in the centre of Argentina rather than a Bavarian village.
The town was initially founded by two German immigrants in the 1930's, but it was the arrival of members from Graf Spee ship, which was scuttled outside Buenos Aires in 1943 following the WW2 Battle of River Plate, that led to the growth and development of the town. After the ship was sunk, the crew were rescued, and brought to Buenos Aires. The UK and USA didn't like the fact that a large number of German Navy were in the capital so they pressurised the Argentina government into moving them on. As Villa Belgrano had been founded as a German colony it was a logical destination for the Graf Spee crew, and many of them arrived here over the next few months. After the war, the Allies again wanted the men repatriated to Germany, but by this time many of the crew had settled here and married local girls, and they
At the summit of Pico Aleman, a 45 minute steep hike from Villa Belgrano
and their descendants live here to this day.
It's a culture shock to come upon a place like Villa Belgrano as there is nowhere else in Argentina. There might not be anywhere quite like it even in Germany! The town celebrates an Oktoberfest, there are Alpine style houses and chalets everywhere, and you can even drink German beer, or eat traditional German food like Apfel-Strudel or leber-wurst. To be honest, it's all a bit touristy and you can't help but feel that the German theme is a bit overdone. The Germany they left behind was ruled by the Nazis, and presumably that was the Germany that most of the settlers here knew. Thankfully none of that is remembered - instead it's all beer-halls, lederhosen and fine food and drink.
The town is in a great location, and there are fantastic hikes into the nearby mountains. We climbed to two of the nearby peaks, Cerro de la Virgen and Pico Aleman, both of which overlook the town. A well signposted path leads to the summits, which are very close together, though it's a difficult enough hike on a hot day. After a quick dip in the pool at our
Bierhaus in Villa Belgrano
You can take the girl out of Wales...
hotel we explored the town and did an easier "climb" of the clock tower, which was built for the 2002 Oktoberfest. Like everything else in town it looks very German!
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