Last week, I started to compile a list of the top 9 things I learnt during my travels through the snowy mountains and vast lakes of Argentina including my new ability to sleep in public transport and the powerful flavours of the country’s world famous wine.
This week it’s all about…
1.) Red meat is better with sides
Argentina is famous for its meat and with good reason. It is really very delicious (sorry to any vegetarians out there). However, it comes in huge portions and pretty much on its own. Asado (BBQ) is a big thing and if you’re lucky you’ll get some bread and sauces alongside the different cuts – I highly recommend tasting Chimichurri! BUT, you can forget salads, vegetables and the like.
And, after a while, it gets a bit much…
I’ve been assured by the Argentines I met that they don’t eat like this all the time. But the evidence in the streets and restaurants suggests quite the opposite!
2.) You can be hot on a glacier
Patagonia is filled with kilometres and kilometres of ice. These glaciers have existed for thousands of years and make for some pretty spectacular viewing.
Although you’d have thought that it’d be mighty cold with all that ice, strangely this isn’t the case. And, after a day of ice climbing, I got really rather hot!
3.) Not all Argentines like to tango
Although Argentina is known for its melancholy tangos, only a minority of its population actually knows how to dance it. In many ways, it has exported better to foreign shores that within its own far-reaching borders.
I did manage to find some spontaneous tango dancing in the streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, but otherwise I came across little else to suggest that it was a country of tango lovers.
4.) Yerba Maté tastes like drinking tabaco
Yes, Argentines drink as much yerba maté as their reputation suggests. These pungent leaves are a staple and every self-respecting Argentine is always equipped with a thermos of hot water, yerba leaves and their precious maté (made from hollow vegetables, wood, metal or even glass – take your pick).
The rules of etiquette underpinning maté-drinking are strict. However, the most important thing to remember is that it’s a really convivial moment that creates an instant bond wherever you are – even halfway up a mountain!
Although I tried hard to like the stuff and certainly shared a few sips with my newfound friends, I have to admit that I’m not yet 100% convinced. I think the blocking point for me, as a non-smoker, is the overwhelming taste of tabaco.
If have chance, give it a go though – it’s full of anti-oxidants and bags of caffeine!!
5.) Yerba Maté can be « smuggled » through customs
As I got into the plane, I suddenly had doubts about whether it was sensible to transport bags of suspicious-looking leaves into Europe. Oh well, it was too late!
I didn’t seem to have any problems and retrieved by rucksack safety in Paris. But maybe I was just lucky!
6.) In Argentina, you don’t feel like a foreigner
One of the nice things about travelling in Argentina is that you just blend into the crowd. Ok, so the clothes, cameras and maps may give the game away, but otherwise, there’s a fabulous mix of different shapes, sizes and colours from stereotypical tall, dark Italian-looking men to small fair-haired women and decidedly more indigenous features. No one knows where you are from and it’s very refreshing!
Well, that’s the end of my list. I learnt a lot of other stuff too, but I’ll save that for other day. I’d definitely recommend going to Argentina – however, in many ways it’s quite European (given the strong Italian and German influences from 19th mass immigration), so don’t expect a massive culture shock.
Are you been travelling recently? Let us know all about it! What culture differences did you experience?