Coming from a country where the whole population count is around 5 million, I was very excited to see how life looked like in a city with half this number of people. They always say, the best way to experience a city is with the locals, and that is exactly what I did. I got the chance to exploit my best friend’s hospitality and move in for a month. Feeling like Bilbo Baggins, gleefully telling anyone who would listen that I was going on an adventure, I embarked on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Arriving at the airport full of excitement, I remembered to be cautious, as I had been told horror stories about handy thieves that steal all of your possessions if you get distracted. But I was fine.
As it is in true Argentinean fashion, I was welcomed with a house full of friends and family, with a line of people all trying to kiss my cheeks, a common practice there. Plans were already made for a party I could not miss, and sentiments such as ‘I just travelled a whole day’ or ‘it’s Sunday, who parties on a Sunday?’ seemed to be lost in the conversation. Mind you, nightlife in the capital begins after 2am and continues until you can stand on your feet (sometimes, not even that is necessary), so it is truly a commitment. Whether you enjoy a fancy club with a river view or a more urban feel, Buenos Aires provides in all aspects.
After a refreshing nap, I was greeted by the delicious smell of an ‘asado’ -Argentinean barbecue- typically made on Sundays. You could see smoke coming out of every chimney in the neighbourhood. This was truly an unforgettable dining experience. I noticed no one seemed to be in a rush; eating is a ritual accompanied with good wine and even better company, and it can go on for hours. Food in Buenos Aires is simply divine, they might be mostly famous for their beef but there’s so much more. I especially fell in love with the variety of sweets, from ‘chocotorta’ to ‘alfajores’ and ‘flan’; everything must contain ‘dulce de leche,’ a caramel like paste, and it is no wonder that I became addicted the minute I tasted it.
The city itself is a mixture of everything. You can clearly see the strong European influence in the architecture, with Avenida de Mayo resembling Champs-Élysées, but with a local touch. The name Buenos Aires makes complete sense, while I expected a polluted city, instead I found clear blue skies, trees and parks everywhere, and surprisingly very few traffic jams. Not even a month is enough to truly explore the city but I sure did try.
There are a few must-see places, such as the famous La Boca, the neighbourhood founded by early European settlers from Italy, where colourful houses are built on top of each other and where you can enjoy a meal while a couple dances tango next to your table. But if you want the true local experience, you can change the tourist crowd for those born and raised there. One of the best ways to spend an afternoon is at one of the many markets all over the city. In particular, I fell in love with a picturesque antiques market situated next to a railway station in the San Isidro area, easily accessed from the city centre with a twenty-minute drive. But there are many others such as the Plaza Serrano market, where you can practice your Spanish while trying to bargain for a better price.
Of course, as any other city, it is not perfect. The line between the rich and the poor is an obvious one and it is prominent in most parts of the city. Nevertheless, Buenos Aires will charm your socks off with its vibrant lifestyle, and you will find yourself reminiscing about the good times more often than not.
Image: Jasmina Kerla