Bee visited Buenos Aires on a short trip in 2018 and told me on her return that I would like it. I imagined it more like Montevideo turned out to be, and in some ways, there are also similarities between these two cities, but they are different after all.
It’s a BIG city…! The 5th biggest metropolitan area in the Americas after São Paulo, Mexico City, NY and LA, with a population of 15 Million people. Upon arrival, when driving through the streets, it immediately reminded me of NY, one of my favorite cities on this planet, so there is no surprise that I liked Buenos Aires as well. After Bee and I fell in love in the summer of 2015 in Europe, she had to get back to start her new job in NY in the fall. We would often be in each other’s towns if we didn’t meet in other countries. I am writing poems from time to time and this one-liner expresses my feelings of that time very well:
New York – Vienna
When the fall leaves are touching the ground, here and there, they do it with the same heartbeat.
So New York was always the city of my love, and we also got married there in 2018.
Both Brooklyn, where Bee used to live, and Villa Crespo, the neighborhood in Buenos Aires where we stayed, had a sizable Jewish population. We soon noticed they served the traditional Jewish NY deli pastrami sandwich in many places. I had my favorite sandwich, with authentic rye bread, in a place called Malvón – ¡Que rico!
Next to Jewish delicacies, I also tried different delicious kinds of pasta, which you find on most menus throughout the city. There were also several pasta shops near our apartment where you could buy freshly made pasta. This and the fact that Porteños, as the people of Buenos Aires are also called, speak Spanish with an Italian melody and use their hands when speaking, makes you sometimes think you are in Italy. I immediately caught sight of the use of the word birra (Italian for beer) in Buenos Aires too. And let me tell you: we found a craft beer brewery unlike any we have visited in South and Central America. Strange Brewing in Colegiales offers delicious beers, and if you are into craft beers, especially New England IPAs, this is a must-visit. My favorite was the NEIPA “Citra a Ciegas”.
While in Buenos Aires, we also traveled to the Iguazu Falls for our 5th wedding anniversary. After Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia, these were the second of the big falls I visited. We stayed in the nice town of Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side of the falls. Both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides were breathtaking. I was blown away by the beauty and force of the falls.
Argentinians love to drink Mate tea, just like the Uruguayans. We never tried the tea in Uruguay, but I got myself a traditional cup, straw, and some Mate tea in Buenos Aires. My first attempt at preparing it was not great because I used too much tea for my taste, which made it very bitter. I haven’t given up on it, though, since I felt it has to be good when so many Argentinians and Uruguayans seem to be obsessed with it, and I brought the tea, cup and straw with me to Ecuador. I like Mate now and could see myself drinking it more regularly here in Cuenca, although I will also have to try Guayusa, the Ecuadorian sister plant!
Villa Crespo also had something which reminded me of Vienna, the soccer team Atlético Atlanta, whose colors are the same as the colors of the team I support in Vienna, blue and yellow. I am not a big soccer fan AT ALL, and the only reason I went to games of the First Vienna FC back in Vienna is that its fans are so cheerful. They never get nasty in their songs and will always positively support the team, even when they lose. The fans will never get mean towards the opposing team fans and just want to have a good time. Furthermore, they openly stand up against racism, homophobia and sexism. In essence, they are the opposite of many European soccer fans. The First Vienna FC was founded in 1894 by English gardeners of Baron Nathaniel Rothschild. As a thank you for the support they received from Nathaniel Rothschild in their founding days, the team took up the colors of the coat of arms of the Rothschild family, blue and yellow. Throughout Villa Crespo, you can see murals in those colors honoring Atlético Atlanta, which made me pay a visit to one of the games as a kind of nostalgic homage to “my” team in Vienna.
Buenos Aires has a city bike system in place and cycle lanes too. We took this opportunity to ride a bike from Villa Crespo to the Japanese Garden and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires in Palermo Chico. I also purchased some art, a print from a painter in la Boca, a unique neighborhood of Buenos Aires full of colorful houses. La Boca is also the home of the stadium of Boca Juniors. That’s the team in which Diego Maradona played before transferring to FC Barcelona, continuing his career in Europe, and at the end of his career when returning from Europe. Diego Maradona is such an icon here that you can’t escape him in Buenos Aires and always run into him (pictures, statues, flags).
The public transportation in Buenos Aires seems to be pretty good. It was easy and fast to hop on a subway train or bus. Unfortunately, we had difficulties getting the “Sube” card, a prerequisite to using any public transportation options. But once we had the card (thanks, Pablo!), the city was ours, on bike, bus and in the subway. If you plan to take an Uber to or from the airport, it’s good to know that you might have problems using a foreign credit card within your Uber account. Make sure to have enough cash on you and switch to cash payment in the app if the credit card is not accepted (which could suddenly happen, even when it has worked before in Argentina.) You might not be able to get the Sube card for public transportation at the subway stations. In that case, try one of the Lotería Nacional branches.
We had a perfect time in Buenos Aires and I could imagine living there for a long time. Buenos Aires has a lot to offer, and its people are friendly and helpful too. It’s very walkable and I always felt safe. Buenos Aires is definitely among my most favorite cities in Latin America!