Having said my goodbyes to my friends in Buenos Aires, I jumped on yet another overnight bus heading towards Argentina’s northwest and arrived in Cordoba during the Christmas/New Year week. The city was quiet, the students mostly gone back home for the holidays, and most shops and attractions were closed. The city is easily navigable, with art cinemas housed in old buildings and wide, straight boulevards through its heart.
I am here for the art galleries and churches, as well as the Manzana de Luces, or Block of Enlightenment, a UNESCO Heritage Site located just behind the city’s main square. The skies are grey the first day I set out to explore the sights, and it rains intermittently as I wander the streets. There is a joy, and a freedom, to traveling alone and I spontaneously decide to take a day trip to Alta Gracia, where a Jesuit estancia awaits only an hour and a half away. The other major attraction in Alta Gracia is the Che Guevara museum, which is well worth a visit.
After my jaunt, I spend a full day wandering the city, peeping into the Iglesia Cathedral overlooking the Plaza San Martin (incidentally, is there any country in South America that does not have a plaza, street or boulevard named after San Martin?!), and enjoying the roof of the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus with its inverted ship’s hull shape – the architect of the church was, not surprisingly, a boat builder. To complete the trinity of holy places, I walk by the marvelous confection of the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus de los Capuchino – the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Capuchin monks, with its Gothic shape and exterior.
Cordoba is known as a centre of history, religion, art and culture, and I cannot leave the city without at least checking out some of the galleries here. The creamy pink Palacio Ferreyra is my first stop. Designed in a French style, the building was a private house before being converted into a gallery. There are Phillipe Starck chairs at the cafe, housed in what must have been the grand ballroom, complete with parquet floors, and an imposing double staircase greets visitors as they walk into the central hall. The art here ranges from lesser-known works by Picasso, Courbet, and Goya, amongst other local artists.
Close by is the Museo de Bellas Artes Emillio Caraffa, a gorgeous gallery named for one of Argentina’s most loved painters. His work is mostly impressionist. Although not from Cordoba, he lived and worked there most of his life. The museum itself is purely post-modern, the artwork unabashedly contemporary. Entry to both these galleries were reasonably priced (ARP$5 for the Emillio Caraffa museum at the time of writing), with clean facilities, cloakrooms, guidebooks, audioguides and extremely helpful staff.
The pace of life in Cordoba is quieter than Buenos Aires, especially during the holidays, when the students that usually throng her streets are away, but I enjoyed the respite from the hustle. Cordoba is the perfect rest city, chilled, local, and relaxed.
Next stop: horse riding and wine tasting in Mendoza!