Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buenos Aires: La Boca

If you've ever seen a picture of Buenos Aires, you've seen a picture of La Boca, a working class neighborhood originally established by Italian immigrants.


Due to its proximity to the river Riachuelo, the neighborhood was once home to a shipyard and fisherman. This maritime history is reflected in La Boca's architecture.


La Boca is known to be a rough neighborhood if you stray off the tourist path, so we made sure to stick to the main avenue as we walked there.


Our route took us by the river where a tango show was going on. For fifteen minutes, we joined the audience and watched a family of tango dancers spin, dip, and twirl their way across the improvised stage. In fact, they moved so fast that I wasn't able to capture any decent photos of them, just videos. It's said that La Boca is the birthplace of tango, but I have no idea how much truth there is to that statement.


El Caminito, probably the most photographed street in the whole city, is the heart of La Boca. This short, pedestrian street takes you past vividly colored paintings: sea greens, hot pinks, egg yolk yellows, fiery reds, and a painter's pallet of other bright shades.  


El Caminito is pretty much always full of tourists, snapping photos and not paying attention to where they're going. Local artists sell original paintings and stores are well stocked with souvenir trinkets.


Mini Bear stopped in a cafe to snack on some empanadas.


I don't understand what motivated this car's owner, but I couldn't resist this photo. Believe it or not, I've actually been called bossy myself.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Buenos Aires: sculptures, tombs, & drums

It was a gorgeous, sunny day today, so we planned our itinerary so we could be outside as much as possible.


The first stop was the sculpture garden in plaza des Naciones Unidas. Officially named Floralis Generica, but commonly referred to as the Steel Flower, the central sculpture was unveiled in 2002. A porteƱo named Eduardo Catalano created the eighteen ton sculpture.


In googling the Steel Flower to find its proper name, I discovered that the flower actually opens and closes. I've only ever seen it in the daytime, when it is open, but apparently at night, the flower closes its petals and emits a red glow. I'll try to catch it at night next time I'm in town!


Our group of three carried on to nearby Recoleta cemetery. Best known as Evita Peron's final resting place, the cemetery is a great place to visit. Wide, tree lined avenues splinter into narrow streets and alleys filled with above-ground tombs. Some are beautiful, some are falling apart, but all are fascinating to see.


The tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak is always crowded with spectators due to its uniqueness. Most of the tombs resemble phone booths in size and construction while hers is a green statue of herself petting her dog and standing on a podium. She died on her honeymoon after an avalanche in Austria and her body was sent home to her native Argentina.


Whenever I've gone to Recoleta in the past, I've always found Evita's tomb just by following the crowds. Today was surprisingly quiet and we had to ask for directions.


Lunch was across the street at a cafe. My ears perked up when I heard an accordion, so I grabbed my camera, recruited someone to take my photo, and dashed off towards the music. The accordionist was more than happy to have his photo taken with me and in this picture I am in fact moving his hand to my hip and away from other parts of my body.


After a long day out in the sun, we went out to a concert I had heard about from other backpackers months ago. La Bomba de Tiempo is a weekly improv drum circle that takes place on a stage in an old warehouse. This was an event I had been eager to see for months but as I had no idea when I'd next find myself in Buenos Aires on a Monday night, I half expected that I'd never see it. Even after the long wait and anticipation, it didn't disappoint one bit. There must have been enough energy coming off that stage to power Las Vegas for a week!


Fifteen musicians clad in red jumpsuits stormed the stage and took turns conducting the group. The conductor controlled the music with simple hand gestures. What impressed me the most about the performance was that such a large group of people could work together so seamlessly without saying a word. Each musician was clearly a skilled percussionist but, more importantly, was also able to follow directions and cues without the slightest hitch. It made me seriously wonder what the rest of society could learn about successful communication from these musicians.


The show lasted about two hours and they switched conductors every forty or so minutes. At this time, some of the musicians took the opportunity to shuffle instruments, going from bongos to cow bells to drums that I won't pretend to be able to name. Meanwhile, a new conductor might pound the drum in front of him to start a beat and draw the other musicians in.


Watching the conductors felt like something of a spectator sport. These guys definitely have rhythm but for some reason, they absolutely cannot dance! One conductor moved around the stage like Sideshow Bob wearing flippers. The audience also included some amusing dancers, most notably the hippies prancing and swaying about.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Buenos Aires: el mercado San Telmo

About sixteen hours after hopping on what was to become one of the longest overnight bus rides of my life, not in terms of hours but in sheer misery (in case you were wondering, Paraguayan bus drivers snore louder than anyone I've ever met), my trusty travel companion and I arrived in Buenos Aires. Here's a shot from the bus ride approaching Buenos Aires.


And here's what they tried to pass off as dinner. I think the ketchup packet was the only thing that wasn't deep fried. This is why I bring my own snacks!


So my first actual day in the city was spent eating, showering, and napping, in that order.


The next day, fresh as a daisy, we hit the weekly San Telmo market, which has been around for over one hundred years.


It's full of antiques and off beat, eclectic goodies.


It seemed like half of the city had descended upon the few blocks that comprised the market. People were out shopping, dancing the tango, and enjoying a glass of wine.


As night fell, we came upon a drum circle. The music was energetic and the crowd loved it.


We walked to Puerto Madero in search of dinner but ended up just taking photos of the lights instead. (These photos I didn't take. Stealing photos is an advantage of traveling with someone!)