Note: To sound like a real argentino, say /COR-do-ba/, not /cor-DO-ba/.
***My first impression of Córdoba was This is the Philadelphia of Argentina.
Córdoba is a big city. With a population of over 1.3 million, it's a far cry from my little La Rioja (less than 350,000 inhabitants). A quick geography lesson: Buenos Aires is on the east cost of Argentina, and slightly north of the latitudinal center. La Rioja is tucked into the far north and west. Córdoba is about in the geographical center of the country, if not slightly northwest. The other big city is Mendoza, which is in the west and slightly north of Buenos Aires. I am still mostly ignorant about the souther half of Argentina.
It surprised me how completely modern and developed a city Córdoba was. La Rioja seems to less developed than a typical country town in the US. Naturally, I expected Córdoba to be less developed than a typical US city. Bur Córdoba struck me more developed than a US city, at least the section I visited (Nueva Córdoba, a fast-growing neighborhood where most of the city's university students live. It is also home to the central mall and the numerous disco clubs). Maybe developed isn't exactly the right word. What I mean is, the streets are wide and clean, everyone has a car (instead of a motorcycle), the signs on the shops and restaurants are all professional and well designed (as opposed to a typical kiosco in La Rioja, with a sign simply painted on the wall... freehand. Storefronts in La Rioja are reminiscent of an old western movie). In Córdoba there are rows of shops of expensive cloths with prestigious brand names. The parks have pristine sidewalks and elegant fountains. Everyone gathers in the green, well kept park El Paseo del Buen Pastor at about 7:00PM to lie down in the grass and enjoy mate and snacks. The city does not feel congested like New York or Philli. No shop looks like it's trying to cram itself in between two others. There's plenty of space for shopping districts, parks, and cultural centers (museums, theatres, concert halls). There seemed to me many less cars and pedestrians on the street, but that could be because I missed rush hour.
I came here with my host brother Mauricio who came to visit his girlfriend Juliana who studies at a university here. Universities! that's another notable aspect of Córdoba, it's full of universities. The public and private institutions of Córdoba are renowned as the best in the country. Juliana studies law at a private institute and lives in an apartment with some girl friends. The apartments! They're really nice! At least Juliana's was. It was spacious, clean, and had a beautiful view of the cañada (the [clean] gully that runs through the middle of the city). The elevator was really small. Only two people could possibly squeeze in, I've never seen an elevator that small. Bad news for claustrophobics in Córdoba.
Anyway, Mauri and I show up in Corboda at 6:00AM on Saturday. (We got on the bus in La Rioja ten minutes past midnight on Friday). We meet up with Juliana and eat breakfast in her apartment. As I'm sure I have mentioned, I hate breakfast in Argentina. It's bread, sometimes a croissant ("medialuna"), and that's all you get. After "breakfast," which I will hereafter refer to disparagingly as breadbite, Marui and I go to our hotel. What a dump. A few dirty mattresses with yellow sheets, a shower with no curtain, and a toilet with no flush handle (ie. - you have to reach into the tank to flush manually). That's was you get for $90 pesos (about $24 USD) in Córdoba; I guess we were asking for it. Anyway, Mauri and I crash in the hotel for a few hours and then go to lunch with Juliana at the famous central mall Patio Olmos. Nice mall! Three stories, with trendy modern architecture on the roof. At the food court, Marui and Juliana get McDonalds (there's no McDonalds in La Rioja); I get a garden salad from a hippie-vegetarian salad bar (which earned me some ridicule from Marui and Juliana, but the truth is there's virtually no salad in La Rioja either). Then I got the city tour.
The tour brief: famous cathedral (la Iglesia de los Capuchinos - easy to remember because the church is the same color as cappuccino), an art museum, El Paseo del Buen Pastor city park, and the pleasant shady walkways inbetween. I fell in love with Córdoba. This would be a really cool city to live in. I really want to show you guys pictures, but with the internet situation here loading pictures is a nightmare. I'll do my best, but no guarantees.
I'm personally and art junkie, so I liked the museum best of all. Córdoba's Museo
superior de bellas artes Evita met my high standards for a good museum. It featured all types of genres from impressionism to postmodernism. A good portion of the works were painted by artists from Córdoba. A scholarship program allows painters from Córdoba to study in Europe, and the artists return must send their best paintings back to the museum. Admission cost three pesos (80¢), half the price of a large coke.
Later that evening, I learned that the night time schedule in Córdoba is about the same as in La Rioja. The fun starts a little after midnight, and doesn't stop until seven in the morning. Mauri, Juliana and I went to a folklore (fo-KLO-ray) concert. Folklore is a famously Argentine musical style played with guitars, little guitars, and wind pipes. It's got an upbeat, folksy, cowboy, and native american (native south american) feel to it. It's pretty fun!
On Sunday we did nothing. For almost 7 hours straight! Argentines are experts at doing nothing for prolonged periods of time. I thought maybe it was just in La Rioja were people did nothing, because it's out in the country, but the big city is just the same. Mauri and I woke up at about 12:30PM, too late to eat breadbite, So after a 1:00PM lunch we sat down in a park and talked about nothing for four hours. Then we ate a snack, went to another park, and talked about nothing again for another three hours. Wow!
We finished our weekend of fun by jumping on a bus at midnight, and now I'm back in little La Rioja. However, before I left I threw a coin in the fountain at El Paseo del Buen Pastor. According to the superstition, throwing a coin in the fountain means you will return to Córdoba again. I'll personally see to it that that superstition holds true.