We arrived in Córdoba this morning after an overnight bus trip. It was comfortable enough. We slept right through the night and arrived 40 minutes ahead of our scheduled 7:30 a.m. arrival. This caused some confusion being awakened from a sound sleep with flourescent lights and an anouncer saying something like, "Córdoba, y Córdoba unicamente." So, what the hell does that mean? Half the passangers got up and off and the rest stayed behind. It was not yet 7:30, so I showed the porter my ticket and asked him if this was my stop. He said, "No, el proximo." So I got back on the bus. He came to my seat and asked for my ticket again. He looked at it and said, "No, por aca." So we got off the bus. And the bus pulled away.
Monica, our hostess, said she would meet us at the platform, but, as it was 40 minutes early, we just waited until after 7:30. Mostly I waited because I dreaded figuring out how to use the telephone. This may seem like a small thing to you--trying to understand how to use a public phone--but, half asleep and not even entirely sure I was in the right town, I just was not up for another challenge no matter how small.
I managed to make the call, and she met us a few minutes later. We went to her house, had some coffee, and then she took us for a look around Córdoba. At 1.3 million, Córdoba is Argentina's second largest city. It has a good collection of Spanish architecture left over from the time of Spanish rule. Monica took us to the oldest part of the city.
We spent the morning in and around plaza San Martin. Gen. San Martin is the George Washington/Simon Bolivar of Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Every town has a park with a statue of him, and he always faces west--toward the Andes where he made a daring horseback mountain crossing to liberate Chile and force the Spanish from Southern South America.
Here, we toured two churches. The Catherdral de Córdoba was started in 1577 and not finished until 1785. This 200-year project shows signs of changing styles and construction methods. The Baroque interior is magnificent. Another interesting part of this church is that the outline is reproduced in the tiles of the plaza below it.
Next to this is the Cabolito Historico, the colonial town hall where people gathered for over 300 years to discuss the politics and issues of the day. During the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, it also served as a prison and torture facility for political disidents.
La Iglesia Compania de Jesus is the other church. This stone structure was built in 1640. The interior dome is made from the wood of a ship's hull.
At the nearby Universidad National de Córdoba, the first University in South America, we witnessed a unique ritual. When students complete their final exams before graduating, they are drenched and doused with sand, their hair and clothes are chopped with scissors before they sit down to food and drinks with friends and family to celebrate. There is a fascinating old library that is closed to the public, but Monica got us in. She even got us into the restricted area where we saw a set of maps that once belonged to the King of France.
We returned to Monica's house where we met two of her sons--Nicolás and Eduardo (Edu for short), Nicolás' girlfriend, Gabriella, and Monica's husband, Eduardo, and her adopted son, Juani. We played guitars together before taking a ride to see the city at night.
I have been in Argentina for 10 weeks now and finally saw the night sky for the first time unobscured by city lights and tall buildings. I got my first glimpse of the Southern Cross.