Markets, Tours and a Little Bit of History

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San Telmo market

My sleeping habits were slowly improving! I managed to stay awake for a little longer than the night before and we were feeling energised and raring to go on Sunday. We explored the goldmine of San Telmo market, a hodgepodge of fascinating junk located just down the road from our hostel. Amongst the random array of bits and bobs were typewriters, erotic novels, maps, vintage postcards, Christmas cards with messages in them, journals from the 70s, hair pins, screws and bolts, far too much cutlery, personal memoirs, mate cups and much more. It was a collector’s paradise. However, being a vocal anti-hoarder and, more importantly, possessing an already overfull rucksack, we firmly walked through the market, trying our hardest not to spend anything.

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Ollie thinking he’s Will Self and getting excited over the typewriters

Ignorant as we were, we mistakenly thought this market was the famous San Telmo Sunday Market but it was just the regular, everyday market. We came to realise this after walking down a few more streets to Plaza Dorego where we discovered the real Sunday market. Here was an even more excitingly eccentric mix of gadgets and gizmos ranging from matchstick art to knitted Pokémon balls. I secretly loved the hipster vibes of San Telmo although I wouldn’t admit that to Ollie…I do think he felt the same though. We were certainly mesmerised by the unconventional charm of the barrio that we called home for that week.

‘We can’t miss this tour again,’ I told Ollie and we laughed at the thought of never experiencing a guided tour around Buenos Aires because we were too distracted by food. But then we stopped laughing as we realised that the odds of that were far too likely. Sacrificing a sit down lunch for take away empanadas, this time we managed to make it to the tour early and met our guide, Fernando. Sporting a steaming mate cup and an orange rain jacket, he gave us an overview of the political history of Argentina whilst taking us to important landmarks in the central area of the city. We all stood with our coats zipped up to the top to keep the cold out, standing under any shelter we could to avoid the rain, eagerly listening to his stories. Did you know that the British invaded the Rio de la Plata area of South America (modern day Argentina and Uruguay) not once but twice? Classic Britain.

Fernando also described what he referred to as Argentina’s “party” period in the late twentieth century where 1 Argentine peso was equivalent to 1 US dollar. He painted a picture of luxury but reminded us that all highs are followed by a low. The peso is currently one of the world’s worst performing currencies, along with the pound sterling…

He also informed us about Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women whose children were “disappeared” between the years of 1976-1983 during the military dictatorship. He told us that during the dictatorship, groups of more than two were banned from public areas and anyone who challenged the regime was “disappeared”. In protest, the mujeres wore a white scarf around their heads and, in groups of two, walked around all the major parts of the city, including Plaza de Mayo right outside the President’s Casa Rosada (Pink House). People are still fighting for justice for the disappeared people and Fernando said that women still wear the white scarf and parade around the Plaza every week.

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Symbol of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo

Café culture is huge in Buenos Aires. Walking past a seemingly never-ending line of people braving the cold and rain, Fernando informed us that what they were queuing for was a seat in the oldest café in the city. We managed to get a peak inside this renowned eatery as one of our guide’s contacts on the inside kindly let us enter, but the exasperated faces of those at the front of the queue stopped us from staying. Our tour ended with a recommendation of submarinos y churros, a particular type of hot chocolate and a pastry dessert, which, as it was still pouring with rain, we quickly found ourselves ordering in the closest café before we had even decided that it was a good idea. We didn’t regret it.

 

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Actually, they ran out of submarinos y churros so we had cafe, torta y medialunas instead

As per usual, our weekend ended with me falling asleep before dinner.

 

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