Just about exactly six months ago it was fall and we were in Córdoba. Here it is six months later and it’s fall again – that came around fast! – and we’re in Córdoba again. Weird. The first one, of course, was in Spain, in the northern hemisphere. Now we’re in the southern hemisphere, fall again, but this time Córdoba, Argentina.This Córdoba, with about 1.3 million people in the middle of Argentina, is the country’s second-biggest city, after Buenos Aires of course. It hosts the country’s oldest university dating from 1613 (and thus 23 years older than Harvard) and is very much a college town. Mark & I discovered one implication of that when we went out mid-morning one day to explore a supposedly “happening” neighborhood. Turns out that in a college town if you go out at 11:00 on a Sunday morning the place is d-e-a-d; there wasn’t a soul moving besides us and a couple stray dogs.
We weren’t great tourists in Córdoba. We didn’t go to any of the museums and pretty much just wandered aimlessly when we weren’t hanging out in San Martin Plaza, the city’s main square. We did manage to wander around the UNESCO-recognized Jesuit Block, a group of 17th century buildings founded – not surprisingly – by the Jesuits. We found some pretty good restaurants, though doing so is a bit of a challenge. One of our typical strategies is to go out around 7:00 PM or so after doing some TripAdviser research and just see what looks good. You do that in Córdoba and the places you’re looking for are closed up tight. Not a soul moving or setting things up. That doesn’t start until 8:00 or so and places don’t get busy until maybe 10:00 PM. We’d make reservations for 9:00 or even 9:30 and we were still among the first in the restaurant.
Two other strange things about Córdoba. I went out for morning runs a couple times and by 7:15 or so there were already a number of people lined up at the door of banks, waiting for them to open a couple hours later. What’s that all about? There must be something really inefficient or screwed up about banks there that people would line up for hours in the morning to get in.And then when it was time to leave we went to the airport to catch our flight to Montevideo, Uruaguay, where we’re going to spend a few days. The woman checking us in insisted we couldn’t board the plane to Uruguay unless we could show her a flight reservation that we were going to leave Uruguay. Now, Uruguay doesn’t even require a visa for Americans – it’s a remarkably easy country to get into – and our plan is to catch a boat from Montevideo to Buenos Aires whenever we’re done with Uruguay. We don’t have a reservation because you don’t need one for the boat, and we don’t even know precisely when we’re going to leave.
Ultimately, after conferring a couple times with management, she gave us our boarding passes, but another woman from the back office came out and explained to us that you always need to show an outbound ticket to get into a country; they want to make sure you’re not going to just stay. All this on the third anniversary of leaving Cambridge when we’re pretty savvy travelers – Uruguay is our 50th country just since leaving the U.S. – and we’ve never had this experience. Strange.
OK, on to Uruguay!