Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dog walkers are a common sight here. This man had more than ten dogs!
                                                      Each mausoleum has its own architectural style and decorations.

Caskets rest in shelves in the mausoleums and there are stairs the lead underground with more.

Yerba Mate, Argentina's national drink

 It is 2 am in the morning as I write this post. The sun doesn't set until 9:30 pm so it is easy to forget what time it is. Today we visited the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta. The cemetery opened in 1822 and was built by a Frenchman in Recoleta, a neighborhood known for its exclusive and expensive real estate. The cemetery entrance has tall greek columns and as you walk in you are overwhelmed with which direction to go. The narrow passageways and high walls make it seem like a maze. The mausoleums, most sitting side by side though some standing apart on their own, are made out of marble and granite and contain elaborate designs and an array of different styles. Names like The Alvears or The Estradas are posted proudly in big bold letters across the top. The cemetery is home to some of the most prestigious and powerful families in Buenos Aires. As we weaved through the jungle of buildings, it was clear the most popular site was the grave of Maria Peron or Evita, the first lady known for her contributions to the women's suffrage and worker's rights movement. There is no vacancies in the cemetery but you can purchase a grave if you can find a willing and perhaps desperate owner. If you want the honor and prestige of enjoying the afterlife in this haunting and historical place, one thing is for sure- you better have a lot of money!

Yesterday we tried the national drink yerba mate. The starter kit includes a hollowed out pumpkin cup, a bombilla or a metal straw with a filter at the end, and yerba mate tea which is looks like dried out leaves and twigs and comes in a large bag. I have seen people drinking it here as they work at their desk or as they hang out in the parks. One lady we met claimed she was addicted to it. For this reason or perhaps just for convenience, it is normal to carry a thermos of hot water along with you. An avid tea drinker myself, I was excited to try this unusual custom. The first sip hit our taste buds hard. It has a sharp, bitter, unsweetened smoky flavor. We started to think maybe we didn't prep it the right way so I reread the directions and prepared it with hot, not boiling water and shook it instead of stirred. Second batch  tasted a little better but still too sour to drink more than a couple sips. Matt and I might have to ask some locals how to prepare it before we try it again.

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