Monday, March 6, 2017

Check Out Argentina's German Themed Town of Villa General Belgrano

So I know I said I wouldn't be traveling for a while, but life is unpredictable... and so am I. So a few days ago, a good friend of mine invited me to go to Villa General Belgrano, a heavily themed German town two hours away on bus from Cordoba Capital, where I live. I'm told that the reason for the German influence is due to a heavy concentration of immigrants that sought refuge in Argentina after the Nazi regime crumbled in 1945.
The scenery heading towards this small mountain village of 6,260 inhabitants was amazing.
We got to the bus terminal in Villa General Belgrano at around 12:30 and we were starving. So after getting a map at the tourist center, we started heading into town.
It wasn't long before we started noticing the German style architecture  of some of  the buildings, as well as the German flags displayed in front of businesses.
The street signs were carved out of wood and honestly, it was easy to forget that we were still in Argentina, until we saw that the words on the signs were in Castilian.
We kept looking at the menus in every restaurant we saw as we explored this beautiful village. Most restaurants had the same items on their menu like a variety of German sausages, as well as sauerkraut, black beer, and items that were more atypical for Argentina like pizza, empanadas, and milanesa (breaded steak). On average the price range of the meals were between 130 and 170 Argentine pesos ($8.05 and $11 USD).

Of course, there wasn't a single gift shop that was devoid of beer mugs made of wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, or glass and they all had a German Crest on them, usually the familiar symbol of an eagle. 

Old Munich... I swear that the old gentleman was in the wrong place at the wrong time when I took this photo, but it wasn't intentional.

After window shopping through the various shops and exploring the village, my friend reminded me that it was two in the afternoon and that the restaurants would likely close by 3 p.m. for the siesta. So we wound up choosing Tante Leny and ordered the special along with an appetizer and of course, black beer. 
Now I'll admit, I'm not a big drinker. I'm not even a light drinker. If I drink any type of alcoholic beverage more than three times a month, it's too much. So I really didn't know the difference between conventional beer and black beer. But after tasting it, I realized that black beer is a lot smoother and I enjoyed it.
The special was this huge sausage along with a smaller sausage on the side, and mash potatoes, but unlike any I'd ever tasted before. It was actually pretty good, but I don't know if they mixed it with sauerkraut or something else, and I actually got a bit buzzed from the beer so I forgot to ask. The whole lunch cost about 400 Argentine pesos ($25.86 USD) and that included the drinks.
Afterwards we headed for the Torre Mirador, or the Watchtower. It cost 20 Argentine pesos ($1.29) per person in order to climb 94 steps up a narrow, winding stairwell to the very top.
I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm only a few months away from turning 40 or what, but I was pretty winded by the time we were all the way up. Fortunately, my 20-year-old friend was too, so I didn't feel that bad about my lack of stamina.
When we got there we accidentally interrupted a couple that was looking for some alone time, if you know what I mean. 
So after they left, I took some photos from the Watchtower, but as impressive as the view was, we ended up seeing a lot more rooftops than anything. So after five minutes, we headed back down the dizzying stairs.
You can tell that Oktoberfest must be awesome here. Aside from celebrating big during the "Fiesta Nacional de las Cerveza" (The National Beer Festival), they also party during the "Fiesta del Chocolate Alpino" (The Chocolate Alpines Festival) too.
After we caught our breath from climbing up and down the steps of the Watchtower, we headed for Castillo Romano, which is this amazing museum with remnants of the past.
The outside looked a bit like a village from olden times full of farming equipment and carriages to tend to the garden around the castle. 
The inside had an impressive collection of artifacts, some of which dated as far back as the 1890s. 
The tour guide claimed that men were afraid of this one because it reminded them of their mother-in-law.

There were three marionettes too, but that giant puppet was by far the creepiest, and it moved too, but with the help of the museum's tour guide, who turned a lever that gave it life.
We also got to see a variety of old telephones, video cameras, and audio instruments from the 20s all the way up to the 80s, and in the process, we learned about their history as well. It turns out that the predecessors to our modern day MP3 players were invented in Germany (again, according to the museum's tour guide. I don't know if this is true or not. Please don't kill me).
There was also a wall full of weapons ranging from swords to firearms and they were pretty old too judging from their appearance.
You could also find toys and books that were practically antiques.
The tour guide told us that this wasn't used for cooking. It was used to wash men and women's undergarments in boiling water during a time where diseases ran rampant in Germany.

The cost to enjoy this little trip to the past was $70 Argentine pesos ($4.53 USD) per person and it was worth every penny.

Well now that looks interesting ;-)

After leaving the museum, we walked around the village for a bit before heading back to the bus terminal. There were certainly other things we could have possibly seen and done, especially if you love nature, but admittedly, seeing a bunch of trees and standing in front of a waterfall really isn't my thing, and it wasn't my friend's either. So, since we were satisfied with our trip, we said goodbye to Villa General Belgrano and headed home.
Now one thing I'd like to point out is that in comparison to Cordoba Capital, Villa General Belgrano had a heavier police presence, which I actually prefer because it deters crime. The village was also very focused on recycling. There were receptacles practically everywhere for regular trash and recyclables. 
The only downer would be that it became a ghost town after 3 p.m. and there were no McDonald's or Burger King around. So would I come back for a visit? Absolutely! Would I live here? Probably not.