I have been traveling with WifiTribe for five months so far: it’s very easy and comfortable to have everything set up, from the apartment to the wifi, traveling with old and new friends every month. However, I miss having some time for me or for exploring more on my own. Luckily, between a chapter and another, there is a “gap week” where I can do something different. Between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, I went to Cordoba alone and that was my first experience as a solo traveler ever.
The city of students
Why Cordoba? When I was living in Barcelona, one of my colleagues was an Argentinian from Cordoba, Luciano. We became good friends and, when he had to go back to his country, I promised him that I would have visited him if I ever went to Argentina. And there I was.
Cordoba is famous for being the city of students: its National University is the oldest one in Argentina and one of the most famous in South America, counting more than a hundred thousands of students. Since in Argentina university is free for everybody, people from South America (and from all over the world!) come to Cordoba for studying.
But now there is a complicated situation: due to a high inflation, the Argentinian Pesos is losing value every day and professors are asking for a salary raise. That leads to many street protests with students supporting the professors’ cause. Many universities have been closed, because they are afraid that people can occupy the buildings as already happened in past. Anyway, many professors are still teaching, but in the streets in front of the schools and anybody can join those Clases Abiertas.
Apart from that, being a city with so many students means, of course, an intense nightlife during the entire week and a lot of young people: there’s a district just for them to live, Ciudad Universitaria, and many districts where they hang out, like Güemes and Nueva Cordoba, full of bars and boliches (clubs).
Living like a local in Cordoba
As usual, what made my time there was meeting local people.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and I wanted to meet my friend Luciano, of course. But, guess what? He was sick! He was in the bed with a fever, the only weekend we could spend together. Great.
Well, I immediately posted in the Hangout section of the Couchsurfing app, looking for someone to have a beer with. Juan, a 22 years old Argentinian student, applied for it, so we met at a nice beer club in the Güemes district, where we talked about Argentinian culture, travels and he explained me many things about the city.
Later he brought me to an invite-only event with free pizza and beer. Then Mayra and Sofia, two Argentinian girls from Couchsurfing, joined us and we danced until 6 in the morning. Not bad for being the first night in Cordoba. Spot me in the photo below!
Saturday was a rainy day so, apart from sleeping the entire morning, I just had a walk on my own in the city. But Sunday was supposed to be sunny so, since Luciano was still sick, I didn’t want to waste the entire day. I posted on the Couchsurfing app, looking for someone willing to do a trip outside Cordoba.
Hernan, a young biology professor from Cordoba, answered me saying he was actually looking for someone to spend the day with, outside of the city: we could go with his car, sharing the fuel expenses. Cool, perfect!
The next day, Hernan picked me up and we started our adventure! After a few hours of driving, we arrived at La Cumbrecita, a little pedestrian town with German wooden houses. We had to leave the car and start walking: from this town, there are many nice hikes and we took the one to the waterfall.
After spending some hours there, we went to Villa General Belgrano, another village founded by German colonies, characterized by its typically Bavarian style architecture. Walking in the streets really feels like to be in the Alps but, instead of eating strudel or spätzle, we opted for an Argentinian asado! For less than $10, you can join an all-you-can-eat of grilled meat, including a bottle of wine and a dessert. Amazing!
Before leaving the village, Hernan wanted to teach me how to serve Mate, so that I can pour it while he was driving. Mate is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink, typical from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, coming from the indigenous Guaraní people. It is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and is served with a metal straw (bombilla) from a shared hollow calabash gourd.
Drinking Mate is a ritual. The cebador is the person serving it: he has to prepare it following a specific technique (putting the herbs in the cup keeping it at 45 degrees, then a little bit of water, then the straw, then more water…) and he should be the first one to drink it, in order to try that it’s ok. You can pass the cup to the following person only when it makes noise while sipping from the straw. The cebador has to take care of refilling it every time with hot water and keep it going from one person to another.
After spending the entire afternoon drinking Mate, it was a problem for me to sleep at night! At 4 am I was still awake, as I’m not used to so much caffeine! I will try to remember that, next time.
Argentinians love Italians!
Anyway, when we came back from the trip in the evening, I just entered my apartment, when I received a new invite on Couchsurfing: Xime, an Argentinian girl that I had never met in my life before, invited me to have dinner at her place with his boyfriend. Why not? I grabbed some beers and some alfajores (a typical dessert) and I joined them.
Xime and Daniel were very welcoming and open, they wanted to know everything about my travels and about Italy. It seems that Argentinians really like Italians: almost every person I met has Italian grandparents, many of them acquired the Italian citizenship and some of them also speak Italian or want to learn it. After the Second World War, there was an intense migration of Italians to Argentina, so the Italian culture influenced the country in many ways.
I feel like a VIP in Argentina: every time I say I’m Italian, everybody is excited and wants to know more about me, from which city I am… And usually they tell me that they have been to Italy or they want to go. When I was in Villa General Belgrano an old couple even asked for a picture with me! Like: “Hey he is a real Italian! Look, I’m touching him!”. Well, it’s very easy to make new friends when people are so open and welcoming to you.
By the way, my new friend Xime is also a very good cooker: she cooked for me homemade Argentinian empanadas! Lucky me!
The following day I finally met my friend Luciano and on Tuesday afternoon I organized another trip with Hernan. He used to play Polo and he knows the owner of a ranch just outside the city. So he picked me up and we went there.
They gave us two horses and, since Hernan is quite an expert, they left us free to go wherever we wanted! We trotted and galloped for an hour in the fields around the city: amazing! Every time I did horseback riding, there was always a guide that prevented me to run as much as I wanted, also because sometimes there are other people that don’t know how to do it. This time it was just the two of us, so total freedom. And it cost just 200 pesos!
After the ride, Gogó, the owner, invited us to walk in the fields, while having Mate. I was elected as cebador and I had to do my job, serving it. We then drove her to her house and she invited us to enter, showing the Argentinian hospitality: I found myself in a house with total strangers, having dulce de leche, salami and juice, accompanied with good talk and stories about Italy (she also showed me the Italian wedding certificate of her grandfather!). I just love those kinds of simple but very local experiences, totally unplanned and unexpected.
I concluded my week in Cordoba with a cinema night the next day with Hernan and Xime: we watched an Argentinian movie called El Angel, about the true story of a killer from Buenos Aires. And the last day I met Luciano and Hernan for a Milanesa.
Cordoba is not Buenos Aires: in just a couple of days you are able to visit the main area (you can also do a free walking tour as I did), but I wouldn’t stay there more than one week. Nevertheless, people are amazing: I’m really glad to have met my old and new friends. I felt like home thanks to them.
But now I want more. I want more time for myself, for traveling alone and meeting locals. I like to travel with WifiTribe, but I also really enjoyed this week on my own, so I’m sure there will be more like it.