Gem and Lob's Big Adventure
Cordoba: Including a Revolutionary Special, a look at some lovely churches, and a few days trips to the Sierras. We arrived in Cordoba after a bit of a mess of a journey, having missed our bus from Rosario and having to wait until 5am for the next one... in any case it was eventually fine, and we arrived in Cordoba city early afternoon to, well, nothing really. as it happens they're pretty serious about their siesta here, and in any case EVERYTHING shuts at 2 on a Saturday and pretty much stays that way. Added to the horror at the Ghost Town we'd just spent the night watching to catch a bus to, was the fact that the previous hostel, which was supposed to be making us a reservation in Cordoba, had got the date wrong, so we were being charged 30 pesos for a missed night! Not the best start really, but nevermind. The next day, the sun came outand showed Cordoba to be actually a really pretty city. One of the main reasons for this being the abundance of churches. There are 12 at least that are definitely worth a look, and a few that really aren't, so we resolved to see as many as we could. (see photos for details, though hopefully not too many) Apart from the architecture, which includes the oldest church in Argentina, and i think the oldest building in general in the Jesuit block, the main reason people come to Cordoba (and Argentinian tourists flock here) is to visit the surrounding sierras. So after a few days sightseeing and church going, we got the courage to get ourselves to the minibus station, and have a go... Alta Gracia (and part one of the Revolutionary Special) Our first foray into the wilderness surrounding Cordoba was to this very sunny and picturesque estancia town. Alta Gracia is famed for two things, a very old (in Argentinian terms) Jesuit Estancia and being the hometown of Che Guevara for the early part of his life.. The house where Che, or "Ernestito" as it was then, and his family lived most of the time they were in Alta Gracia, where they went for the supposedly healing air to ease his asthma, is now the Museo de Casa del Che.This, far from being a tacky museum, was a really worthwhile and informative visit. It was good to see 'Che - The Early Years, especially with all of the excitement in the city about Fidel's visit. We were obviously trend setters as well - 3 days later Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez decided to visit too! They had their pictures taken by the little statue of young Ernesto like us, we've "borrowed" a photo from the internet so you can compare... You can see from the pictures how beautiful the estancia was, especially in the glorious sunshine and warmth that this Argentinian winter is giving us! Argentina is full of Jesuit Estancias - so a brief explanation of what they are/were. The Jesuits came here with the Spanish to educate the people in the ways of Christianity. At some point or other, the King or the Vatican stopped sending them money, so to pay for the work they were doing, and the university they had set up in Cordoba city, they bought and ran a kind of combination of farms and church/worker based communities. (Or something similar, that seemed to be the gist of it anyhow, otherwise, look it up!) It was a really lovely day, and our appetites were certainly up for some more trips out, but not just yet... Fidel comes to town - (Revolutionary Special part 2) Back in Cordoba city, things were really starting to liven up. A couple of days previously, the papers had brought news that none other than Fidel Castro himself was coming to town, as part of the big meeting of Latin American presidents that was happening at the end of the week. There are a few pictures of the demonstrations that were now all over town each day, and there was a real buzz starting to come over the place, a marked difference from the day of our arrival! On the day of the big meeting, we decided to potter down to see if we could catch a glimpse of the building where the summit was happening, but when we got there it looked as if it had finished, so it seemed a good idea to wander into the park and grab some lunch there. As we did we heard some kind of concert going on in the distance... we investigated and found what we thought was just an average left wing rally/gig thing. After an hour or so we got a little bored and nearly went home, but the security folk said it would only be another hour, so we stayed. We were VERY glad we did, about 10 minutes later, we were being addressed by Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, and after an hour of him, giving a rousing show of anti-imperialism, on came Fidel Castro. FIDEL CASTRO! Right there in front of us. We were pretty well gobsmacked. Not so gobsmacked that we didn't sneak out and hour and a half into his nearly 3 hour address mind... (it was in Spanish, it's not our fault) but we did witness 15,000 people singing happy birthday to him, which was very cool indeed. The pictures are a bit dodgy, but you get the jist. It was fabulous. After all this excitement (and if any of you are still reading...) came a nice easy 3 days in the sierras to calm us down. Villa Belgrano This 'traditional german town' was described to us as a 'muy lindo' mountain town, what we found though was rather different... Villa Belgrano is basically a theme park. It seems to be how a Thorpe Park designer would recreate a German town. I think the pictures gove you a flavour of the absurdity, and greatness of the place, but cannot capture it fully. EVERYTHING was made of wood and there were traditional bavarian hats and clothes for sale everywhere. There was even 'traditional'German folk music being blared by one shop, however Gem's language skills noted that the singer was just counting! Jesus Maria & Villa Carlos Paz Jesus Maria is described as a "sleepy town", which unlike the description of Villa Belgrano, is entirely accurate. It was nice, and the 2 Jesuit Estancias which give it it's name were very pretty, but that really was about it. In Carlos Paz there is a tall mountain, see in pics, which we were told had access to the top by a lift. However, we did not realise it was in the style of a ski lift - so just a metal seat with one bar in front, being lifted by wires, stopping you from falling over the vast chasm below you. Not quite the best way for Lisa especially who let's say has a few height issues (stature included ;0) ) We would have more pictures but strict orders were given on the lift to make no movement at all and hold on with all your might!! We did manage to brave the return journey and it was worth the effort, we even saw llamas - our first here, very exciting. At least all these heights should stand us in good stead for the next part of our trip, to the wine producing region of Mendoza, and the Andes....