As you know, as a result of interesting coincidences that came up on my way I found a chance to live in Chile (and I always dreamt of going to Chile someday). The time has arrived but it’s not easy to go to Chile just like that. There are no planes that go directly from İstanbul to the most further South American country. So, first I flew to Buenos Aires from İstanbul, since I was here I decided to spent a few days in town, then moved on to Santiago. (I’ll tell you how to go to Santiago in other ways different than I followed in my writing about Santiago. But now, our point is Buenos Aires)
THY has flights to Buenos Aires from İstanbul. Even though they do not inform you while booking your flight, after a 14-hour-long flight first it stops in Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo passengers get out of the plane as if you’re in a bus, cleaners come and clean the plane but while all this is happening you’re not allowed to get off the plane, you have to wait an hour. And then passengers who will go to Argentina from Brazil get on the plane (they’re usually Brazilian so after this point you become one of the a few Turkish people) and after another 2-hour-flight you’re finally in Buenos Aires.
When you arrive in Buenos Aires after 17 hours, you claim your luggage and go through customs and you go out of the arrival gate effetely. At this point, if there’s no one waiting for you or come to pick you up, THY’s estimated departure-arrival time is kinda definite, your plane arrives in Buenos Aires around 11 pm and in that time there is not much of a chance to use public transportation so the most reasonable thing to go to city center from airport is to take a cab. But not just any cab. Argentina’s economy is rock bottom. I’ve been warned by many that sadly some people are in the mood that they can do anything for a Dollar. So, I’ve been told to avoid people that ask “do you need a cab ma’am?”. Probably they see you as walking Dollar sign and they tend to take a tour around the place you need to go and make the number on taximeter go as high as possible. I heard some of them don’t even have a taximeter, so be careful. Therefore, as you get out with your luggage, go to the stand you see right in front of you saying “Official Ezezia Taxi”, tell them the address that you want to go, render your payment and wait for your driver to come. It cost about 40-60 Dollars depending on the place you want to go and it’s safe.
There’s another tricky point that I should mention about BA right away: there are two different Dollar exchange rates, official and unofficial, in the country. All expanses that you spend on your credit card and all amount of dollar that you’ll exchange in the official exchange offices or at the airport will be exchanged on the official rate and it’s not going to be nice for you. If you don’t have Argentine peso you’ll start spending money when you take a cab from airport. You can start avoiding the official rate by taking your change in Dollars. For example, let’s say you paid 100$ for the cab that costs 40$ and take 60$ for change. Don’t listen to them saying “Let me give you the change in peso so you’d have some cash with you” because 60$’ exchange in official rate is much less than it’s unofficial rate that you can exchange in a hostel or an underground exchange office in town. That’s the situation.
Okaay, we got to the town without being tricked or overcharged by the driver. It’s been almost 24 hours since we left home when we’re dealing with the check-ins, drivers, airports. Let’s have a good sleep. We can wander in the city and see places tomorrow, right? Yes!
Buenos Aires is a big city with it’s population of 12 million including the suburbs. The chaos that one might expect from the soul of South America is present, so from this angle they’re similar to us, the Turkish. A rich neighbourhood is aparted from the tin shanties by the train rails. Streets and buildings that reflect the glorious days of Buenos Aires lay together with the brokenness of today, they’re combined, together and one, that’s why it’s so real and feels alive. Of course there are sides that has make-up on but there’s also another Buenos Aires that took an oath to make tourists sick of Tango. It’s up to you what you want to experience. Everyone I met is so sincere and helpful despite the warnings I heard before “Do not be overcharged by the cab drivers” or “be careful with your purse and things” etc.
I was looking for a place to stay in Airbnb, as always. I prefer Airbnb or hostels in most of my travels because it’s possible to have much better experiences that you can’t find on Lonely Planet kind of guidebooks when you live among the local people. In Palermo Hollywood, there are nice places that has reasonable prices. I narrowed down my options to two and communicated with the owner of them both and at the end I decided to stay with a couple. I told the the other guy that I picked some place else and I wouldn’t go with his. Even if I wasn’t staying at his place, he suggested that we meet when I go there. He had travelled the world for 2 years, he is also an architect that had been to over 150 countries. Since I didn’t know anyone else in the city, I said why not. So, Tomas took me to his favourite buildings in Buenos Aires, showed me around the city, gave me amazing advices. He connected me to his architect friends in Santiago and gave me a lift to the bus terminal the day I was going to leave the city. The couple I stayed with were also amazing. They helped me buy my ticket (and I would have had a hard time if I did it all by myself) We had lovely chats over a glass of wine one night when I was too tired to go out. As far as I’m concerned this helpfulness and sincerity is prevalent in the most of the South American countries. It’s the same in Peru and Chile.
When you’re in Buenos Aires, you should eat Milanesa, drink Fernet and taste their amazing icecream and dulce de leche. If you like steak, you’re already in the right spot. In a monday evening you should also go to this amazing drum show called La Bomba de Tiempo and dance until your sweat drops down from your hair. You should definitely meet the local people, discover the streets of Palermo, wander around the Japanese and Botanic Gardens, not go by without taking a look at the La Recoleta Cemetery, I know it sounds touristic but you should see San Telmo and watch the Tango in the streets. And in the light of these, you may fall in love with the city like me.
Neighbourhood: Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho
Palermo of Buenos Aires, the neighbourhood with boutiques, cafes and colourful walls full of street art, is divided into 3 districts through 2 overpasses: Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Viejo.
Palermo Hollywood stands out with its restaurants that tourists and ‘elite’ Argentinian people hang out, and its night life.
Palermo Soho, there are lots of boutiques and cafes. And the prices are very reasonable.
Neighbourhood: San Telmo
The oldest neighbourhood that’s formed by colonial buildings of Buenos Aires is actually a pretty touristic neightbourhood. A market is set up on Sundays where antiques and souvenirs can be bought. San Telmo is more tranquil in the weekdays. Nisa will tell you more in detail :)
Meat that’s fried with egg and fine white flour like schnitzel, tomato sauce on it, melted cheese and a slice of salami on the top with some thyme. You don’t have to go to restaurants, you can have it at bufes. Cheap, delicious.
We can roughly say that empanada is the Argentinian version of our “börek”. It is fried dough with fillings like cheese or minced meat in it.
Argentinians drink Fernet, distillated grape liquor that has a refreshing herd and spicy smell, with coke the most. The result is a slightly sweet and refreshing cocktail.
Taste: Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche is something like honey or caramel. There’s something so similar to it in Chile called manjar. The argentinian version is everywhere, in icecreams, in desserts, spread on breads in the mornings. They eat it a lot and for me it’s extremely sweet. It turns me off after 2 bites. But taste it when you’re there.
Activity: La Bomba De Tiempo in Ciudad Cultural Konex
La Bomba De Tiempo is an improvised show that is made by a conductor and an orchestra consisting of only the drums. The whole thing started as an underground show but they became famous and eventuallu it became a touris attraction. It’s so impressive that you can’t stop moving and the setting is amazing, too.
I suggest that you go there around 8 pm. There’s still an hour ‘till the real thing kicks off, you take your fernet-cola in your hands, sit down on the ground and enjoy the nice weather until sun sets (actually until the masters of these young people you see in video come onstage) You dance until you lose yourself for like 2 hours. Everybody is high but it’s unknown if it’s because of the dance or something else. Everybody’s free! If you’re in Buenos Aires in a monday evening go and see it.
Price: 70 Argentinian pesos (the rate is so unstable as I told you before there are two different rates, official and unofficial. It makes 7-8 $. Even though it’s a high price considering Argentina’s average, it’s reasonable for a performance like that)
Just follow to the drummers that take you to afterparty when you exit, there’s a mood of carnaval on the street afterwards!
Art: Regazzoni Arts – El Gato Viejo
Everything is made of recycled metal in this art place near the train rails: sculptures’ main material is metal containers, old train and rail pieces, skeleton of a wrecked car, screws, and all kinds of metal wreck are in this garden that resembles an open-air museum where you can walk in around free of charge. Artist Carlos Regazzoni who makes scluptures out of industrial waste and calls himself El Gato Viejo organizes workshops in this place. It also turns into a restaurant where experimental menus are presented. For reservations and further info: http://www.regazzoniarts.com/el-gato-viejo/?lang=en
Restaurant: Las Cabras
We went there, my airbnb host ordered something and a gigantic dish, with every kind of giblets and meat cut in different shapes in it came in the middle of the table. We paid 10$ each -three of us- including wine, salad and french fries. It’s impossible to be a vegan here and possible to have gout. No reservations needed, this awesome local restaurant is in Palermo.
Its breakfast menu is outstanding, a cafe/patisserie with a European style.
La Salamandra (dulce de leche & mozzarellla bar)
They’re too assertive when it comes to dulce de leche and mozerella. Their sandwiches, salad, coffee and desserts are also pretty good. Prices are okay. It’s close to the cool shops in Palermo Soho. And they have wi-fi.
Everyone speaks highly of night life in Buenos Aires but it disappointed me a bit, I think it’s not my style. It’s not comfortable as Europe. Some places take a look at your outfit, your look. Most of the girls put on high heels, most of the guys put on white shirts. Expected, usual behaviours of a third world country like my own. There’s a pointless discrimination in South America. Blonde, white people are hosted very well in all places while brunettes are treated as if they’re second-class people.
Streets, out of the pubs are much more comfortable. Instead of going to clubs and dancing I did “out of the pub” hanging. But I didn’t go out at night enough to make comments and judgements about Buenos Aires’ night life anyway. These are just first impressions.
Pub / Bar: Bangalore Pub & Curry House
Restaurant in day, pub at night. You need to give a fight to get in and take a beer but it’s atmosphere is nice when you go out.
Bar: La Adorada
A bar that has a nice setting, cocktails in an alive street in Palermo Hollywood. I recommend it.
Nisa’s Buenos Aires
Nisa whom I met in Glastonbury festival last year came to visit me in Santiago this year, and like me, she went to Buenos Aires first. She had a great time there. And I hope that I’ll take her advices next time. But I’ll share them with you in her words today, anyway, because she’s a ‘good traveller’ too.
“Let me share a few things about my express trip to Buenos Aires. Since I had limited time to see the city, I stayed in San Telmo, older yet more touristic part of the city. There are three places I’d like to share and recommend without getting into the detail of touristic spots.”
San Telmo Market
“San Telmo Market’s set up in one of the longest streets of San Telmo. I went there the day I got to the city. It’s possible to have a nice time here without even shopping, just watching people, seeing people dance tango in little squares on the way. And of course you can buy every kind of souvenirs you want to take home from Argentina, with some bargaining.”
Steak Restaurant: La Brigada
“While walking the market that’s set up on sundays I took my lunch break in La Brigada. Parillas (a kind of steakhouse) are too common here and La Brigada is an old and well known restaurant. Inside of the restaurant is decorated in a way that reflects the football passions of the restaurants owner. But after you taste that delicious meat and drink some fine Argentine wine you don’t care about the decoration.”
One of the musts of Argentina is Tango. As I mentioned before, it’s possible to see tango in the streets, to see people start dancing by joining in a group as couples suddenly. I got carried away by my curiousity and wanted to go to and evening of Tango.
Tango: Bar Sur
“Since generally a lot of Tango clubs are tourist traps (local people mentioned that there are disco balls hanging in some of those clubs) I did my research and went to Bar Sur which is one of the oldest Tango clubs in the city.”
This place has a capacity of 10-12 tables maximum and generally takes reservations beforehand. There are times that they don’t let anyone else in even though there’s room. Because the place is established upon the elements of sincerity and coalescence. Like this: after a while our tango dancers and singer spend some time onstage, dancers approach to the tables suddenly, take people up for a dance and start teaching them how to tango. They also introduce tables to each other and in that way an amazingly warm set is formed. I even have a family photo with the team.
Neighbourhood: El Caminito, La Boca
“El Caminito (meaning little street) is a street that has an outdoor museum quality in the area of the city’s legendary Argentine Club Boca Junior’s neighbourhood. It’s famous for it’s colorful houses and tango songs which are sources of inspriation.”
“When I got to El Caminito I felt like I was in Legoland. Because the houses look like they’re made of by the unity of different colored lego blocks. It’s not possible to feel unhappy when you look around. But here, the thing I actually want to talk about is the real life around Caminito. La Boca is a part of the city where rather poor people live and tourists are advised to be careful here and not to go away from the main street.”
“Since I didn’t sense a danger, I did some discovery and kept on walking. Mostly the dominance of colorful houses continued and graffitis and wall writings were added to it. I saw such a colorful scenery that I was in a situation which I wanted to take a picture of every single house. As I told before, their football team Boca Juniors is one of their main passions. So there are lots of football themed graffitis around. Their stadium La Bombonera is rising up with it’s great yellow-navy walls by completing this image.”
the traveling journal
the traveling journal
As you know, as a result of interesting coincidences that came up on my way I found a chance to live in Chile (and I always dreamt of going to...