5 – 9 October
The next two places on my agenda are located in the province of Buenos Aires, near the capital of the country.
I daytrip to Tigre, a small town and perfect city escape one hour north of Buenos Aires. Tigre sits at the same river as Santa Fe, however, due to the fact that the Paraná river and the Uruguay river join at this point the name changes into La Plata river. Even though it is a small town, Tigre has quite some things to offer and features a massive casino, a theme park, a beautiful promenade, boat trips to some islands in the river delta and a famous crafts market along some piers right at the river front. Although, when I get there on a Wednesday I have the feeling that I am in a ghost town as most of the shops, restaurants and attractions are closed and there is hardly anyone in the streets.
It turns out that Tigre really is a full-on weekend destination, mainly for porteños (this is how the locals from Buenos Aires are called) that want to escape the big city life for a day. Anyway, it is a pleasent walk along the lush and green promenade on this changeful day that is a typical springy day with sun, rain as well as cold and warm temparatures…
La Plata, just south of Buenos Aires, is the capital of the province. It is quite a remarkable city as it was planned from sractch in the 1880ies. It consists of a grid structure and a very symetrical layout, street-numbers instead of street-names, many many plazas and greening as well as impressive buildings designed by local and various European architects that give La Plata a very European touch. The main reason of my visit is my friend Lucas who I met in Ecuador about five-and-a-half months ago and who lives here in La Plata. It is awesome to meet again and we have a great time catching up while exploring his city together. Actually, it is rather him introducing me to his city and its interesting background since he his a professional tourist guide – what a lucky coincident. While strolling around the city he explains me that it was too difficult to only have one city (Buenos Aires) serving as the capital of the province and of the entire country at the same time, thus, a new capital for the province was built next to the country’s capital. And not just any city, but one that was perfectly planned, beautifully designed by some of the most skilled architects and equiped with the best materials that could be found. We get to see some of these buildings not only from the outside but from the inside as well and visit parts of the university, the cathedral, the old train station that now functions as a cultural center and the municipality. Nowadays, even though the initial glitter of these wonderful buildings is still present it is fading little by little as the government sadly does not invest in maintaining these properties.
There is one more magnificent aspect about La Plata. Right next to where Lucas lives is a park called Republica de los Niños (republic of the children), an educational park with the purpose of teaching kids in a playful and very tangible way how all the different governmental bodies (like the house of justice, the parlament, etc.) work. Somehow, this mini-republic has similarities with Disney Land and it is a fact that the inventors of Disney Land did visit La Plata including the Republica de los Niños before they came up with the idea of creating Disney Land. In conclusion, some people believe that the Republica de los Niños has inspired them and maybe even planted the idea of Disney Land in their heads. To me personally that thought does not sound too absurd actually…
On my last day in La Plata Lucas and I continue our cultural exchange and visit the Oktoberfest, a funny experience to see how the German beer fest is celebrated in Argentina. Other than in Germany, the festival here is all about artesanal beers similar to the ones that can be found in Belgium. It is a nice and sunny day with good food, cold beers, old friends (of Lucas) and live music – the perfect way to wrap up my stay in La Plata.