Friday, 17 April 2015

Buenos Aires (17/04/15 - 20/04/15)

I think Buenos Aires is definitely my favourite big city in South America (that I have visited). Also, the air seems much cleaner than in Santiago, there was no cloud hanging around the city when we landed. I really enjoyed it - cannot quite put my finger on it, but it was great.

So, instead of paying lots for a taxi I decided to make my own way this time. First problem was to get some coins for the bus, but I managed and got a chocolate bar out of it as well - winner! Than the bus driver didn’t want my coins, so I rode for free! I had no idea how long it would take - after 1 1/2 we finally reached somewhere that was on my map in the guide book and after 2 hours we finally got to where I wanted to get off! So I reached my hostel “Portal del Sur”.
Old meets new - I quite like the combination (and the reflection!)
Old meets new again. This building is a church.
Buenos Aires had some of those “Free Walking Tours” as well. Firstly, I had to get some money though. I had heard about the black market before as you get 12 instead of 8 Pesos per USD. As our tour guide said, the black market for exchange is so secret that the exchange rate is advertised in the newspaper! So, I went to the street where it was happening and people immediately started advertising. I picked one of the first people and followed him. I got a little worried when he lead me into a building that looked like a shopping mall, however none of the shops were open. I was expecting to be mugged any minute … But than he just brought me to a little office (looked like a normal money exchange place with a counter) and I got my money changed - the smaller the bills the less you get by the way. That was exciting!
Avenida 9 de Julio (independence day in Argentina). The (nearly - but don't tell the Argentinians apparently) biggest avenue in the world - this is only a third of it and it takes about 2 1/2 minutes to cross.
Our tour guide was really good again. One of the first things she explained to us is that the argentinians are all very proud and think they are the best at everything. That is why they are trying to build the biggest of everything and so on. At the same time they wanted to be the Paris of South America and tried to build everything like it was in Paris, apart from the fact that they made the buildings much bigger than they would ever be.
One of many buildings that look French but are too tall.

They have got quite a lot of parks here in Buenos Aires which is nice. Most of them have got big playgrounds for kids and areas to stretch and do some training for people who go for runs (like chin ups and stuff).
This is one of the bigger parks: It has a massive rose garden and lots of things to do like hiring a boat for the lake. I am still amazed by seeing roses with palm trees in the background.

This is the memorial for the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) war. I decided not to discuss the topic with pour guide but it was interesting that she had still gone and spend half a year in Glasgow - not everyone has a big grudge than. The picture below the memorial shows the tower that was donated by the UK to Argentina (nothing to do with the war). They call it the Argentinian Big Ben. It was surrounded by a park called English Garden. However, after the Malvinas war the park was bought by the military and it is now called something like Argentinian Military Park - how ironic ...

I also visited the well known cemetery. It looked pretty cool. I did not expect to see so many new looking tombs - I guess I just thought it was something they used in the past. It looked a little spooky as some of the older ones started to fall apart - it was like a city of the death. Luckily it was bright daylight and not dark!

The corner of this picture has a church in it with quite an interesting story. The wealthy womAn who got it build had a son. Her son was in love with someone who he wanted to marry but as far as I understood this woman was not good enough for him as she did not belong to a traditional rich family (she was rich too though!). So, to get back at the mother, she ended up building this massive living building in front of the church so that no one could enjoy the view of it. Lesson learned I guess, don't mess with a woman in love :D

This building is called the pink house because of its colour - it is the government building:

In front of the building is a round place with these symbols on the floor. It is for the sons and brothers that went lots during the military dictatorship. The mothers and sisters who asked about their whereabouts were told back in the day that they probably just went to Europe! Demonstrations were obviously forbidden and a gathering of more than 4 people counted as a demonstration. So, they decided to put on a white scarf as a sign and walk in front of the pink building in a big circle every day. Nowadays, to remember the lost people, they still do this every Thursday.

When I walked home in the evening I came across this. It was the end of a show at a market. Music was playing and people just danced in the street - it made me wanting to join in :)

Tango dancers in the street. They were amazing!

There were Milka shops everywhere, I thought that was quite funny:

The obelisk in the evening:

I don't know why but I really like the look of the public busses:

Another street market I visited with lots of handmade things, lots of little bands making music and someone building a sand castle:

La Boca - the most touristy place in Buenos Aires with lots of colourful buildings. I am glad I walked there and wasn't brought by a bus like lots of other tourists - at least I can see something on the way as well. It was very small and not too much to see. It was nice but I was done after 5 minutes. On the way back I walked past a dead dog - a woman was crying and shouting in the street. The dog had blood around its head - I wonder whether someone kicked him. However, there was a police car about and they just got out. So I quickly got out of the way.

On the way back I also found another park with massive chess figures as the decoration:

On my last day I went to the Natural Park that was by the sea. It looked very beautiful on the outside but unfortunately it is closed on Mondays (which I didn't know) so I couldn't go inside. But walking up and down it on the outside was already pretty good.

I didn't know that Buenos Aires bloomed earlier because of its location as a major port in Argentina. It was very successful for a while.

Unfortunately, a large amount of waste around the wildlife.
An abandoned bus on the side of the street - it was not the only one.
Mowing, I guess!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Santiago (14/04/15 - 17/04/15)

The first big city and I managed not to get run over by a car! Or get too lost or get mugged … I think that is a good start. The flight was amazing. It was clear when we flew over the mountains with glaciers - still get excited by the sight. 

I was supposed to get picked up by a taxi from the airport. However, no pone was there holding up a sign with my name. So I ended up finding my own taxi. Was a little pricy, but I did get the price down a bit … The taxi driver was able to speak a little English and complained that I didn’t speak Spanish - my bet, oh well …
Turns out, I still love reflections  when taking pictures. So here is one: the reflection of the old in the new!
I stayed at Che Lagarto Hostel which is a chain and much less personal than the one in Punta. However, it was clean and a bed to sleep in. The roof terrace was very nice too for eating lunch and in the evenings they had a little bar. I met quite a few nice people!
Plaza de Armas - this used to be the place to be in the city. When it was attached, everyone run here, grabbed a weapon and defended it - hence the name!
So, I finally tried to buy a lock to secure my valuables - I guess hiding it underneath the  mattress might not do anymore. So I got one and rushed back to the hostel (I wanted to join the Free Walking Tour at 10am and the shops only opened at 9am). When I tried to close the lock it turned out tobe too small!! I ended up just making it look like it was closed!
This is the post office. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what it used to be.
I joined the tour in time and it was really good! The guy was so motivated. Free Walking Tours comes from Europe. Apparently, someone was really disappointed by an expensive walking tour they did in Berlin and decided to set up this company. At the end everyone can give a tip if they want to depending on how good the guide was and what the budget is. I learned a lot about the history and politics. Another thing I didn’t know about was “coffee with legs”. They are cafe’s where the waitresses were very short skirts (very short!) and serve coffee. Lots of business people go there for coffee during lunchtime … 
This is a statue that was donated by the German's to Santiago.
This little fellow followed us for half the tour. Apparently, he joins regularly. Stray dogs are very well looked after in Santiago. They all look well fed, in the parks are quite a few little dog huts and in the winter people give them jumpers! I also did not see that much dog poo around considering the amount of stray dogs ...
Another funny fact about Santiago: it was apparently founded by someone who was running away from the inquisition as they wanted to be together with their affair. :D
San Cristobal
One of the biggest hills around is called San Cristobal and it is a nice walk up there with parks on the way and the statue of the virgin on top. A little train thing takes you back down - not quite sure whether it would pass safety standards ;)
View from the top with more hills and than the Andes in the back. It looks amazing how the city was built around all those hills - a bit like a lake in the valley.
The statue of the virgin at the very top of San Cristobal. 

The little train back down.
The next day I went to the vineyard Undurraga. I was the only one needing a tour in English and was therefore given a private tour. It was really nice, especially as I finally like wine!
The garden of the vineyard.

Roses are planted in the garden of a vineyard to pick up on any bad insects coming in that could become a plague. For white grapes they plant white roses and for red grapes, red roses!
The grapes were probably the sweetest ones I have ever tasted!
The barrels for further refining the wine. 
The wines I tested in my own personal wine tasting! I was even allowed to keep the glass - I hope I will get it home in one piece. 

Several different places belong to the vineyard as different grapes grow better in different climates.
In the evening I went to see the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” which was performed by the Santiago ballet group. It was really nice! I have definitely missed things like this! I also realised that the TV show “The Apprentice” uses the music from the ballet. Took me a few seconds to figure out where I had heard the melody before …

I only had 2 whole days and now I am leaving for Buenos Aires. This time, I am not taking the taxi though - first the underground and than the bus. All went well! This means that I will take the bus in Buenos Aires as well as it is supposed to be much cheaper.
The national flower in tiles on the floor.