Lost in Buenos Aires

… or how complicated it can be to take the bus in Argentina – and also with some tips for your vacation. I don’t know when I felt so lost the last time, but I was sure I would laugh about this story afterwards.

 

DSCN4240

 

First time in South America

In September 2015 I left for the first time Europe. A friend from Buenos Aires invited me to visit him in his home country. We met circa one and a half year before in Madrid. We were both on vacations and slept in the same room in a hostel with six other strangers. Okay, for me there were only five other people strangers because I was travelling with one of my oldest friends to visit some places in Spain and met another friend during her internship of Teneriffe.

My Argentinian friend Fabi lives in Banfield, it’s really near to Buenos Aires. He picked me up from the airport and brought me to his flat. Unfortunately, he had to leave and go back to work. So I was on my own. After freshen up I planned to go to the city centre. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem … but I’m afraid the bus system is really hard for Europeans.

 

No timetables and hidden bus stops

DSCN4243Maybe it’s because I’m German. You will know the clichés about us. We’re always very punctual and busy. I wouldn’t sign this for everyone. But yes, our buses have fixed timetables (not all of them are always on time) and routes. Actually, I wasn’t so sure if Buenos Aires also has this. For sure they have no timetables. So sometimes the same bus line comes in a row, sometimes you wait for a really long time. The routes and bus stops were absolutely confusing for me. The most buses stop after every second block. – Argentinians count everything in blocks. However, you will not recognise these stops so easy because most of them don’t look like bus stops and aren’t named. I believe they have a sign, but really not easy to find. 

But these are not the only problems you will have as a tourist – like me. When you first take money from a cashpoint, you will only have paper money. But you can pay the bus only with coins or a bus card. I had this problem. So I had to ask someone to pay the bus for me, because I couldn’t pay it with my money. I think, it’s not so hard to find someone who will pay your ride. All Argentinians I met were so friendly and really helpful. The bigger problem will be to find someone who will understand English (if you speak Spanish, you won’t have a problem). After I asked five persons I met a girl, who spoke English. But she had to go to the other direction. However, she asked another girl to help me. It was really complicated, because she didn’t understand a word and I had forgotten every word in Spanish I ever learned. We stand there and waited for the right bus – over 30 minutes. She stopped a few buses and asked them something, I only understand something like “Inglesa” (English) and “chica” (girl) and recognised she were talking about me. But the bus driver always shook his head and she came back to me. I was really afraid she had to wait for another bus because of me. 

 

Shaking busses and no “Inglesa”
DSCN3932
Obelisco, Buenos Aires

Finally, a bus came we could take. In Buenos Aires, you have to stop the buses by showing them the palm of your hand. They won’t stop automatically when they see passengers waiting and when the buses are too full, the driver won’t stop. Public transport is really cheap in Buenos Aires. Maybe that’s why the Argentinian girl didn’t even want to have some money back (I tried), but I believe also because Argentinians are so friendly. The girl went off the bus just a few stops later. Before she left, she introduced the bus driver to tell me when to get off (she explained it to me with the help of a translating app). But of course, the driver also didn’t speak English. I sat in the first seat next to the bus driver and observed all the people and places I saw. The bus was so fast, it gave me a really good shaking. The doors were already open when the bus stopped and the bus started after the last passenger was on the bus even if he hadn’t paid yet. 

I sat more than one hour in this bus. I felt so lost because I really had no idea, where I was and also not sure how to get to the place, I wanted to meet Fabi. I just hoped the bus driver would drop me off the bus at an alive place. I saw everything, from really bad streets with deep potholes to narrow alleys and multi-lane roads with pompous buildings. Nonetheless, for one second I forgot all of my problems because for sure I saw one of the prettiest sundowns on the highway. 

 

The dangerous city

After thousands of stops, the bus driver found a woman who spoke a little bit English. She explained me, that I had to change the bus two times. When I showed her my map of Buenos Aires and asked her, where I was, she said it wasn’t on the map. This is the moment when you believe you will never find the right way. The woman helped me to find the next bus, I had to catch. She called her mother to explain me everything in English because she had some problems with the language. I was so thankful. After a few stops we went to the next bus, and after a longer time, we changed again. She paid the bus for me and went out. So I was alone again and had no idea at which bus stop I had to leave the bus. Another woman appealed to me. She asked me in English if I were a tourist and where I’m from. I explained everything to her and asked her if she could tell me, where I have to leave. She said I should leave the bus at the last bus stop, but it won’t be so safe there. She said if I wouldn’t find my friend, I should take a taxi, it would be too dangerous for me to walk. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. It reminded me of my sister who told me I should send her a message every second day so she will know I’m okay (later she said every fourth day would be also enough). The woman left the bus a few stops before me. Actually, the bus driver told me when I had to leave the bus.

 

Happy End and my résumé
DSCN4837
Torre Monumental, Retiro in Buenos Aires

The main streets of Buenos Aires are really big with many traffic and thousands of people (it was a Friday evening). I was so confused with the thousands of streets, that I had no idea in which direction I should go. I was at the Retiro station. There are many different stops and stations for buses and trains. I was looking for some trains if probably one would bring me back to Banfield. But in the end, I was lucky. I finally caught Fabi on his cell phone and we met at the big clock nearby Retiro. I was so happy to find him. 

So my résumé: If you are the first time in Buenos Aires it’s really difficult to find the right buses and to know where to get out. Friends of mine were also in Buenos Aires and told me, they tried to take the bus, but the left at the wrong stop, because they couldn’t count the stops so easily. I think I took only two bus lines until the end of my vacation because these lines were the only ones I knew where to get off. It’s so much easier to use trains and metros because they have names for every station and will stop at every station, so, it’s kind of the same like in every other big city. So my advice would be to take trains and metros. To take the public transport you need a Sube-card. You can buy a card in most of the drugstores (kioskos) and load money on that card to pay.   

By the way, Argentinians have a special word for buses, they call them “Bondi”.

 

 

 

Carnival of Cultures

Berlin is a really multicultural city. And this is exactly what the citizens celebrate at the “Karneval der Kulturen” (translated in English it would be “Carnival of Cultures”), every May in Kreuzberg. The highlight of the festival is the big parade on Sunday. 

 

DSCN7131

 

Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg

“Karneval der Kulturen” (Carnival of Cultures) is a big urban festival with an open programme for free on four days in Berlin-Kreuzberg. At the festival are different stalls with all kinds of different food and drinks from all over the world and of course also clothes, toys, music instruments, jewelers and other beautiful treasures. The festival has also a green area and many stages, where several artists and musician present their art.

 

 

Empanada from a Uruguayan stall

I really liked the little stalls with the different food. I was happy to find an Uruguayan stall with Empanadas and Alfajores. Unfortunately, all Alfajores were already sold out, but I was lucky and could catch an Empanada con Carne (with meat). I was in South America one year ago. That was when I first tried Empanadas (and Alfajores) and felt a little bit in love with this dish. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries. They are filled with different meat, vegetables, cheese or others.

20150908_190801
Empanada and Tartes

When I told the stallholders that I travelled to Uruguay on my own a half year ago, they looked really surprised or even a bit sceptical (perhaps because I’m small and blond). Even more, when I told them I took the bus from Colonia del Sacramento (it’s a small city in southwestern Uruguay, only one hour with the ferry from Buenos Aires, when you cross the Río de la Plata) to Montevideo. The man looked at me and asked all the time “For sure?”
By the way, the Empanada from Karneval der Kulturen was tasty, but not as good as in South America. 

 

Many guests visit the Carnival of Cultures
Fruits and vegtables
Relaxing in the park with live music and beer
Alpaca pullovers from Peru
Key chains and dreamcatcher
Colourful pants, bags and scarves
Bohemian cakes
The green area
The end of the festival was at midnight
Different stalls

The stallholders at the Karneval der Kulturen sell much different DSCN7168stuff. They have pretty and exotic clothes but also accessories like necklaces and bracelets. There was also a tent with a fortune-teller. One man tried to sell me a flute, it was really pretty and handmade. But I’m afraid I’m not such a good musician. Once I wanted to learn guitar, so I bought the cheapest guitar on the internet I could find (If I remember right, I paid around 33 Dollars), but my passion went away so I never learned how to play. But I really liked his beautiful rattles.

 

Parade and street fest in Berlin
 
Almost ten hours needed the parade to come from the beginning point at Hermannplatz to Yorkstraße/ Möckernstraße
Different caravans presented dances and showed their beautiful costumes
 
Brazilian dancers in her costumes
 
Blue Avatars
 

Large parade in the streets of Berlin

One of the highlights is the big parade on Sunday. About 1,3 million people come together. Dance groups, musicians and other artists celebrate and dance through the streets of Kreuzberg (from Hermannplatz to Yorckstraße/Möckernstraße) and turn them into the biggest stage of Berlin. This year the parade started at 2.30pm and ends at circa 09.30pm and had over 70 groups. The audience can join the parade and celebrate with them. I did this with my friends. To be honest, it wasn’t my favourite music (a lot DSCN7198of Techno music, it’s really common in Germany to dance to electronic music and Techno), but the atmosphere was great and the people really happy and also kind of crazy (and perhaps some a little bit drunk). But the streets were full of dancing people, and this was a really cool feeling. All streets were closed for traffic. It felt like a really big party and the whole city was part of it.  

Official page from “Karneval der Kulturen”

 

 

 

 

Food Market in Berlin

I love to taste new dishes from foreign countries or eat some meals I already know from my last vacation (it remembers good times there). That’s why I was really happy when I hear about the food market at the “Görlitzer Bahnhof” in Berlin.

 

Arepas

 

From Switzerland to Peru …

In Berlin, you have the opportunity to choose between different food markets. I was with a friend at the “Markthalle Neun” (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Berlin-Kreuzberg) nearby the “Görtlitzer Bahnhof” (U1) and wanted to taste some foreign dishes. The market opens every Thursday between 17.00 – 22.00 o’clock (5pm-10pm). You can find all kinds of different food from all over the world. From Switzerland to Peru, from Vietnam to Italy, you can choose between different stalls with dishes from special countries. 

Sommerrolle

Our first dish was something Asian, they called it “Sommerrolle” (translated in English it means something like summer roll). It’s filled rice paper with tofu, pepper, cucumber, rice noodles, Chinese cabbage and fresh herbs with peanut-hoisin sauce. It was really tasty. My friend bought something like Samosa filled with meat from an African stall. 

 

The location of the food market: Markthalle Neun
"Sommerrolle" at one of the Asian Stalls
Kimshi, a typical dish from Korea
A Naanwich with meat from the Indian stall
A place to sit, drink wine and relax
Little delicious cakes
My desert: Mousse au chocolat in a fluffy waffle

 

Naan bread + Sandwich = Naanwich

It was really hard to decide what to eat because there were so many creative dishes which looked so delicious. In the end, we decided to eat a “Naanwich”, the word combines Naan bread (typical Indian bread) and of course the word sandwich. So you will already guess that it’s Indian food. You could choose between meat (12 hours cooked pork) and tikka cheese (paneer) combined with salad, different vegetables, coriander and mint yoghurt sauce rolled in bread. Not easy to eat, but it was really good (actually, I really love Indian food).

 

 

Fluffy waffles filled with Mousse au chocolat

My friend decided to taste some of the wines they offered. I wanted to save my money for a desert. I forgot the name of the dish, but it was kind of a special waffle (very fluffy) rolled until it looked like an ice-cream wafer and filled with Mousse au chocolat. You could, of course, choose between different fillings like Baileys, strawberry, banana, Nutella or just very common with sugar and cinnamon. The evening was very nice, why we will come again and after the closing hours we went into the next bar to drink a beer. 

Official page: Markthalle Neun

 

 

First time in a mosque

When a West European girl visits a mosque for the first time …

 

 

DSCN6717

 

 

Visit the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

The most immigrants in my home country Germany are from Turkey. Nonetheless, I never knew much about the Islam. A really good friend told me once something about the five pillars of the religion. His mother is from Turkey, so he knows a lot more about the religion than me. Actually, I really had the wish to visit a mosque a long time ago. I got this chance when my unversity in Berlin had an exchange with Istanbul. This should be the first time I would see a mosque from inside. It was really exciting for me.

Actually, my first “connection” with the mosque was already three days before the beginning of the exchange. When we went to the city a Muezzin started to call and pray from the minaret. For me, it felt really strange at first. We started to scream a little bit against the calls from the Muezzin to continue our small talk. But maybe you can compare it with the bells from Christian churches, they also “call” the believers into the church.

Washing rules and blue scarves

DSCN6727I really like the architecture of the big mosques in Istanbul. We visited the Hagia Sophia. First of all, you have to wash themselves before you are allowed to enter the mosque. There are different water taps outside, one side for men, the other for women. They have kind of a fixed process how to wash themselves and when. One of the five pillars is praying, so Muslims should pray five times a day. But the most important prayer is Fridays.

After washing face, head, and feet (actually, most of our group just watched like the others did), we enter a line of people. In front of the mosque, they distribute blue scarves for women. Because when a woman wants to enter the mosque she has to cover her legs, arms, and hair. So we all tried to hide our hair with the blue scarves and wear long blue skirts (actually, I don’t know why we had to wear these skirts because all of us had long pants, but the men at the entry said to us our legs are too skinny). The last stop before entering the mosque is a floor where you have to take off your shoes. Everyone gets a plastic bag for his shoes. 

With selfie sticks in the mosque

Finally, we were allowed to went into the mosque. The Hagia Sophia is really big, beautiful and has – I believe as every mosque- many domes. The whole mosque has carpet. One of our German exchange students meant walking without shoes on this carpet feels a little bit more home. We should perhaps do the same in our churches. 

The mosque seemed very bright and colorful with his beautiful windows, painted domes and pillars. The lamps hung really deep, this was special for me. In the Hagiga Sophia are many tourists. It looks a little bit strange, the women with their scarves on their heads, posing for a photo with their selfie sticks. 


It was really interesting to be in a mosque for the first time and hear something about the second biggest religion in the world.