The story of Rosario

Or WHY should Rosario travel be part of your itinerary in Argentina

Once upon a time, there was a river. A mighty river, the biggest in its land. It made the land rich. Trade flourished, the people were happy. It even gave birth to the brave and revolutionary – the likes of Che Guevara.

That’s how the stories of most civilisations go.

But this isn’t the story of how Rosario, the city on the banks of the river Parana became the third largest city in Argentina.

This could be the story of the Monument to the National flag of Argentina, the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera

Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, Rosario, Argentina

Over time, the trade across the river Parana receded. The people of Rosario deserted the banks of the Parana river. A once thriving heart of activity became lifeless. The Rosarinos lost their sense of pride.

One big idea – sometimes, that is all it takes to make a world of difference. This came in the form of the Monument to the National flag of Rosario.

Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, Rosario, Argentina

Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, Rosario, Argentina

It is a humongous 10,000 square meter complex. At the centre is a tower. It’s higher than the Obelisk in Buenos Aires – every Rosarino tells you with pride. For a small fee, you can go to the top of this tower by lift. (*Claustrophobia alert!)

It gets crowded here, in the tiny balconies jutting out of the tower. Take your time to adjust to this height, and mind your hair covering your face in the gusts of wind. 360-degree panoramic views of Rosario unfold.

A view from the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, Rosario, Argentina

A view from the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera, Rosario, Argentina

The Parana river itself dominates the scene. A defunct railway station (yet, so many families thronging to get in?) is to the right. Several identical structures dot the river bank to the left. Wonder what they could be? You hear someone say, “Those shrubs there, that’s the state of Entre Rios” – that’s the neighbouring province which shares the Parana river with this province Santa Fe. (Province is the equivalent of a state in India).

From the road facing balconies, you see a lesson in geometry. Neatly laid out parallel roads with perpendicular lanes merging in.

The entrance to the Flag Monument is lined with works of the famous rebellious sculptor Lola Mora.

Monument to Liberty in the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera complex in Rosario, Argentina

Monument to Liberty in the Monumento Nacional a la Bandera complex in Rosario, Argentina

Families on an outing, a game of rollerblading or just being out on a sunny winter afternoon – the vast open spaces of the Flag Monument give a perfect opportunity to understand what a day out in Rosario meant.

The story could be littered with the charm of tree-lined avenues and parks

Main avenue in Rosario, Argentina

“Let’s just walk down the main avenue”, we decided – to “get the hang of” the city of Rosario. We expected wide roads, traffic and shops. What we got instead were wide walking paths, a metal-back photo book talking about the history of Rosario, and a cycle hanging from a tree!

Lined by important looking houses – palatial architecture but now in a need of renovation. At regular intervals, this walking path broke at a crossroad, letting traffic crossover. The pathway gave way to a park. Another massive park called Parque Independencia.

(Remember, we are still in the middle of a “regular” city – not a “quaint little hill town”).

Main avenue in Rosario, Argentina

How big could a park in the middle of a city be? We imagined a few gardens, maybe some places for family activities. We looked into the map of Rosario on our phones – and decided to just stick to the outer parts. Parque Independencia was massive – there was no way we could’ve walked through the entire park.

Manicured gardens, lakes, sports clubs, skating rinks, stadia, open spaces for cultural events, fairs – and a good number of food trucks – the Parque Independencia has more than enough to spend an entire leisure filled day.

Leave home. Stroll to Parque Independencia. Find a tree. Spread out your mat. Open your book. Sip your mate (of course, this is Argentina!). Hungry? Grab a salchicha baguette from a nearby stall. Unless you have packed in some facturas dripping with dulce de leche! Afternoon siesta. Followed by a boat ride in the lake. Loosen up with a walk along the leafy paths. Play with the beautiful dogs who are enjoying their day out as well. End the day with dinner at a parrallia (Argentinian steak house). Followed by the famous helados (ice creams!) of Rosario.

Yes, it was a beautiful life we pictured, if we weren’t just on a short visit to Rosario, but lived here in Rosario, one with the Rosarinos.

Parque Independencia of Rosario, Argentina

The story starts to get warm and fuzzy with the “Community”

“Do you eat meat?”. It’s the first message we receive in the morning from Alexandro. We’ve never met Alexandro before. Which is quite often the case when you stay over as a Couchsurfing guest.

But here’s the thing about the Couchsurfing community in Rosario – we never ever wrote to anyone. No introductory messages saying “We are Sandeepa and Chetan, travelers…”

Our friend whose family we stayed with in Buenos Aires is from Rosario. He informed his sister we were visiting. That set the ball rolling. Between that message sent late evening and the early the next morning when we reached Rosario, we had heard from his sister who would meet us for breakfast. She was leaving for Uruguay that weekend, so couldn’t spend more time together.

She contacted Alejandro, who said we could stay with him. A hair stylist, trained in Europe, now teaching a practising in Rosario!

She also got us in touch with Mariella, a trained Bharatnatyam dancer. She met us at the park, with a few other couchsurfers – a reiki teacher, a singer, a software engineer. That evening, in Parque Independencia, we were given our first official lessons in how to drink the mate!

Sidewalk by the Parana riverfront in Rosario, Argentina

We also met Franco, who was saving up to buy a caravan in which he planned to travel all over South America with his dog. He spent the Sunday morning, walking around the artist’s market. Followed by a “proper” Rosario lunch – the Boga fish!

It was the “friends week” in Argentina. Celebrations here don’t end with a few “Happy Friendship Day” messages forwarded over the phone. Friends do really meet and spend time together. That evening Alejandro was meeting his friends over for as asado. Which is why he wanted to know if we ate meat. He invited us over to join him.

There we were – among a group of old childhood friends. Answering “are you allowed to eat meat?” several times over. Explaining how come we spoke English fluently. Talking about our travels, our lives back in India. Feasting on the sumptuous (none of these adjectives actually do justice to the real thing!) asado, grilled to perfection in the backyard.

Celebrating

An evening in the midst of such a close-knit group of friends – seeing them pull each
other’s leg, joke around, even act as kids! What a privilege it was, to feel the warmth of new friendships in a city we had just arrived, among people who till a few hours back, were complete strangers!

Through Couchsurfing, we have often lived with a family, had a real home in a new city. But during our visit to Rosario was the first time, we met a Couchsurfing community – who were a family. Welcoming guests together. We may have stayed at Alejandro’s but we were hosted by the city of Rosario. Was this the magic of the river Parana, we were beginning to wonder!

This IS a story of clown schools – and what they stand for

On our first evening in Rosario, after the visit to the Monument of the National Flag, we headed to the riverfront. It was a pedestrian only path, with the usual suspect of walkers, joggers, cyclists. Walking amongst them all with the Parana river on one side and gardens on the other, we hear sounds of clapping and laughter. Turns out, the sounds were coming from those tiny identical structures we had seen from above.

Sunset by the Parana river front, Rosario, Argentina

They were originally warehouses – used to stock the goods for trade through the port over the river Parana. After the trade receded and eventually stopped, the warehouses started rotting empty.

In such situations, someone comes up with a brilliant suggestion. And everyone – the decision makers, implementers and the common man – support it. Doesn’t happen often, in fact, happens very rarely. And in the case of Rosario, it did happen.

These warehouses – solid wood structures by the river – were converted to clown schools! Yes, there is such a thing as a clown school – we had no idea until we decided to travel to Rosario. These schools have 2- or 3-year programs. Students can master in various disciplines like acrobats, juggling, acting, magic – all the arts that leave people enchanted!

Students of EMAU (Circus school), Rosario, Argentina

Students of EMAU (Circus school), Rosario, Argentina Students of EMAU (Circus school), Rosario, Argentina

The claps we had heard were from a show the second year students from one of the schools had put up. It was an open-for-all, free-to-attend show. At the end, a hat was sent around, you could tip what you felt like.

The audience had many little kids, seated at the front. Many friends of the clown students. Someone was recording the entire show (presumably, a staff member, for evaluating the students). The rest were all Rosarinos, who had just chanced upon a “clown show”.

On Sunday mornings, the roads leading to the riverfront are closed for traffic. People get on these streets for all sorts of activities. Entire families are skating together. Children are out on the roads, cycling with their parents. Couples are jogging together. Friends have got together for a run. The happy faces of the Rosarinos are out on the streets.

Happy streets on Sunday by the Parana riverfront in Rosario, Argentina

After the morning activities, they will all head down to the riverfront. Climb the steps down from the pathways. There, right beside the river, on the open-air community parrillas – they will do what is best done by the Argentinians – make an asado! They will all sit together, laugh together, and enjoy their meal together.

Families enjoying the Sunday asado by the Parana riverfront in Rosario, Argentina

This, to us, was the biggest story of Rosario. Of the river not being destroyed. Of the riverfront not falling prey to mindless construction, in the name of development. Of the city reclaiming what it had lost. Of the “city going back to the river”.

Well done, Rosario, well done!

Travel Tips for visiting Rosario

  • It might sound obvious and redundant, but our first travel tip for Rosario is – include Rosario in your travel itinerary for Argentina. It generally gets overshadowed by big brother Buenos Aires and the likes of Iguazu waterfalls and Patagonia.
  • There are things to do in Rosario in the summer as well as winter. Rosario is studded with museums – from contemporary art to natural history.
  • The Parana river has created many beaches along Rosario, especially in the northern part of the city. Kayaking along the river delta and picnicking on one of the many islands is a popular summer activity in Rosario.
  • We stayed in the Hostel La Casona de Don Jaime 2 and Suites, Hosteling International (HI) hostel. The birthplace of Che Guevara is at a walking distance from this hostel. The family has now restricted entry into the house, though. Ardent fans can view the place from the outside.
  • Rosario is a four-hour bus drive from Buenos Aires. There are a number of bus companies plying between the two cities. And the bus terminal at Rosario – well, have a look! (No, it’s not the airport!)

Rosario Bus Terminal, Argentina

Has the story of any city made you feel happy about traveling there? Tell us in the Comments!

More travel stories from Argentina

People of Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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16 thoughts on “The story of Rosario

  1. Nisha

    Lovely, lovely story! Loved both the parts. I always like it when it involves people, their warmth, their emotions. So my kind of post. 🙂
    Marking this post for my visit to Argentina, whenever that happens.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hey Nisha, nice to hear from you! After a while, places feel all the same, right? Mountains, lakes, cafes, plazas. But the people – they make the lifetime memory. We are now friends with so many of the people we met in Rosario – through them, we continue to have a connection with Rosario, even though we are so far away. For Argentina, do have a look at the story we wrote about the people we met in Buenos Aires as well. Thank you once again, for writing to us and hope to see you here again!

  2. Alok Singhal

    There is that story, and then there is your story which makes the former come alive! Lovely journey for you, I saw some pics from your travels on Insta…amazing they are!

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hey Alok, thank you! So happy to read your comment about connecting the stories. That is essentially what we try to do always – tell the story of the place that we travel to through the story that we experience. Delighted to know you could feel the same! Rosario was such a wonderful story in our travel life!

  3. abhiray59

    Beautiful pictures. Such nice and clean cities. Such gorgeous architecture. Looking at these I feel so sad, why our cities cannot be as neat, clean and beautiful? Argentina is not very different in prosperity compared to India. Is it?

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Abhiray, you have related the exact same things that we felt travelling in the South American cities. Argentina, in fact, is coming up from a major economic meltdown. Even then, their big cities like Buenos Aires are way cleaner than our own. Rosario was a class apart. The way the people and the administration showed the will to restore the glory of their river Parana, preserved its value to the city – reflects the desire of the people to live in a “good” city.