Bienvenido to Córdoba, the second-largest city in Argentina, smack bang in the middle of the country with 1.3 million people.
Arriving Saturday morning off the seven-hour overnight bus with little sleep we ventured to the hostel, who, thankfully were more than willing to let us check in at 9am. Loading up with a little coffee and fresh bread for breakfast we ventured out to have a look around the city. We wandered through the pedestrian mall, past a few of the Basilicas and the main Cathedral and onto a pizza place where we had lunch. Córdoba was founded in 1573 and is home to the oldest university in Argentina, which, was founded in 1613 by the Jesuit community. Córdoba has a lot of history hidden within it, including the Jesuit block, which is a UNESCO world heritage listed site, Plaza San Martin and multiple Cathedrals.
We spent much of the day finding a few of the key points on our map and investigating the historic buildings. Given how old some of the buildings are, the architecture and conservation of them is pretty impressive. In the evening we wandered through to the arty area of Córdoba, stumbling across street markets with the standard set of knick-knacks, and an upstairs restaurant to view the sunset from. It was pretty cold outside so we bypassed the sunset for some warmth and took the option of involuntarily having a saxophonist play for us, being accosted by the Hare Krishnas, as well as Dee accidentally ordering a non-alcoholic beer (which was the same price as the alcoholic beer WTF mate?). With Dee quickly managing to rectify the beer situation, we felt that it was appropriate to counteract the lack of healthy options chosen so far with salad, and a delicious banana smoothie for James. The salads were less than desirable: a little lettuce, two pineapple rings from a can, glacé cherries, dried shredded packet cheese and “chicken” (which mysteriously hadn’t appeared in the salad)… The way it was written on the menu sounded much nicer than the finished product, but hey, food is food and we needed to eat.
Sundays are pretty quiet in South America with most places being closed at least until lunchtime, if not all day. We spent the morning taking a proper look around the city and really taking in the history and age of some of the buildings. We stopped by parliament for a photo along the way; it was a surprisingly architecturally insignificant building compared to some of the others in the area. Córdoba is home to many universities and a lot of governmental agencies, as well as being home to the bank of Argentina. Most of these buildings are stone, with the occasional rendering; it was astounding to realise that some of the places we’d visited were more than 400 years old! In saying that, we did come across the Cordobian Civic Centre, which was completely different in structure to everything we’d seen so far; we spotted it from the main street in town, it really stuck out like a sore thumb!
Lunch was going to be one of the local specialities of Córdoba, a Lomito – a big burger with a lot of flavour and toppings. The place we’d chosen, Betos, had the best reviews we could find and was less than 200m from our hostel. Discovering that they didn’t start serving Lomitos until fairly late on Sundays we decided to hit up the Asado instead. This place was by far the best barbecue we’ve had on our trip, it was one of the few places that asked how we wanted our lamb ribs cooked, gave five star service, and were more than willing to accommodate any request. Not the cheapest of restaurants for us to visit but definitely worth every cent!
For the evening, it was James’ turn to organise date night. The restaurant found wasn’t open and we struggled to find somewhere affordable with light meals. Stumbling across what we though was a bar with food, we discovered a hidden gem of a restaurant! James found a pasta with spicy sausage (spicy food doesn’t really seem to exist in Argentina) which, was a pleasant surprise, and Dee managed to find a delicious prawn and avocado salad. Winning at dinner!
Breakfast at our hostel, Babilonia, was pretty good. Many of the hostels have had a mixture of stale bread, a sickenly sweet type of “jam” (i.e. coloured sugar), and dulce de leche – caramelised condensed milk. The further we’ve travelled the poorer the taste in coffee as well; we’ve started heading into instant coffee territory! Suffering a few first world problems we were pleasantly surprised to have freshly baked bread, crepes and really awesome coffee in unlimited supply at our hostel. Stumbling out of bed to fresh coffee we decided it was time to organise our bus tickets to head to Salta, our hostel could organise these for us, less organisation on our part and more time to do the fun stuff!
We’d started getting a little tired of each other’s company, nearly eight weeks since leaving Brisbane and avoiding arguments was starting to take it’s toll. Spending a little time apart in the morning, wandering through the city and taking in a few more of the sites we met up for a very exciting lunch at the hostel. Dee managed to scrape together a few bits and pieces of random foods, including carrots, biscuits, pate, leftover breakfast bread, and what we later discovered was ham flavoured cream cheese. The afternoon was spent writing, chatting and cooking in the hostel. We met a few Canadian ladies who we compared travel stories with, along with chatting to the staff and Dee trying mate tea for the first time.
Mate tea, or yerba, or cimarrón has been defined by law as the “national infusion”, it is a green leaf of some description, steeped in hot water then drank through a metal straw with holes that is traditionally made from silver. The cup the tea is made in is called a gourd; whilst in Argentina we’ve found many of these made from materials ranging from fake animal feet to wood, lined with ceramic or silver. The tea is highly caffeinated and fairly potent, one try was enough for Dee, though most of the locals we’ve seen carry around a flask of hot water, a gourd, the spoon and a full packet of mate. Dinner was a quiet one for the evening, packing a good soup full of veggies and heading in for an early night, checkout from our hostel was looming and we needed to fill in a large chunk of the following day.
Following another breakfast of fresh bread and hot coffee on Tuesday, we packed our bags and left them at the hostel while we ventured out to Sarmiento Park. The park is home to the local zoo and a lot of small blocks of land dedicated to founders from other countries. We walked up the giant staircase to overlook the city and took in the beautiful view whilst watching the hustle and bustle of the city below us. The park itself is quite large and has many of the museums, art galleries and notable landmarks of Córdoba encompassed within it, including toilets for Dee (again, nothing different to the usual). We came across a few unusual structure in the park walk including the cultural centre with a big stick, and what appeared to be a skate bowl that wasn’t allowed to be walked, skated or run on. Appreciating the greenery we hung around for a little while and watched the world pass by, then headed back to a Scottish restaurant for Argentinian beer (From Salta) with a little food to settle the stomachs before heading to the bus for the afternoon.
We got massively ripped off in the late night taxi from the hostel to the bus station, neither of us realising the price was multiplied by 10 until the next day, but being tourists it was inevitably going to happen at some point again. We settled into the second of our front-seat double decker bus experiences; this included wine, a half decent snack, Bailey’s and a pretty awesome sleep on our way into Salta.
Go see all the photos from Córdoba