Arriving in Buenos Aires after a 24 hour bus ride from Bariloche was like arriving in Argentina. While locals might argue that this megalopolis doesn’t really represent the true spirit of this country, I was relieved to find an authentic place, which doesn’t cater solely for tourists. Buenos Aires has its rough edges that plague every capital in the world: Noise, pollution and the daily life full of stress. The city is divided into 48 ‘barrios’ (districts), covering a surface of 203 km2. According to the latest census, over 3 million people live here.
On my arrival, I was welcomed by a tropical heat, something that I’ve missed in windy Patagonia, where a sweater to fight the chill was the mandatory day-pack.
Here I also reunited for a day with Carlo, whom I met a while back in Puerto Varas (Chile) and Francisco, his friend from Buenos Aires. The three of us visited first the area of La Boca. Parts of this district are a bit touristy by having loads of souvenir stands and tango dancers in the restaurants.
But being with a local, we quickly got away from the beaten path and found ourselves in the famous football stadium of ‘La Bombonera’. I have never seen a stadium where the seats are located so near to the sports field. It’s almost as if you’d be able to touch the players during the game. Unfortunately, there was no game during my stay, because I would have loved to be part of a cheering crowd. Some of the seat rows are stacked upon each other. This allows for a very small footprint of the building, which looks as being roughly half of the size of similar structures back home. However, the total capacity is an enormous 57’000 people.
Being home of the team ‘Boca Juniors’, history tells that the founder of the club struggled to find the team colors. He decided to choose the ones from the first vessel’s flag sailing into the harbour. It was a Swedish one. Blue and yellow therefore became the team’s color and the whole stadium follows the same colour scheme.
Since the ‘enemy’ team (River Plate) from the other part of the city uses red, this colour is completely absent in the entire place. They went as far as to negotiate with Coca-Cola – the team’s sponsor – different colours. Consequently, long before the introduction of ‘Coke Zero’, the advertising for the drink in the stadium were painted – as a worldwide unique feature – in black and white, instead of the corporate red.
Other parts of the city we did visit show a bustling commercial area, where new buildings are built continuously. The city is actually pretty old: Founded in 1536 at the location of today’s San Telmo, Buenos Aires is one of the older cities on the South American continent. Still, the whole metropolitan area is booming these days and the vibe downtown shows definitely positive and relaxed signs.
It is actually fun to watch businessmen drinking ‘mate’ (a herbal infusion) while walking around in the business district. Mate is otherwise very common around the countryside, where people would drink using straw pipes from mate gourds (bowls) by squeezing a thermos canister with hot water under their arms. Seeing this national drink still being celebrated in busy Buenos Aires, is the best sign to show how representative of Argentina this city is. Although I usually tend to hate big cities, I definitely ended up liking Buenos Aires. Will be back one day.