Or WHY should Rosario travel be part of your itinerary in Argentina
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
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.
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.
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.
The story could be littered with the charm of tree-lined avenues and parks
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”).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!)
Has the story of any city made you feel happy about traveling there? Tell us in the Comments!
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