Argentina means different things to different generations: to one generation it is Eva Peron, to another it is Ardiles, Villa, the Falklands War, for another it is Carlos Menem and the unforgettable Maradona, and for the youngest generation it is the living legend Messi. Even uttering “Buenos Aires” has a lovely ring to it. This is the city whose name can be translate as “fair winds.”
Are you looking for a little more than the rich atmosphere of Paris, with its bohemian lifestyle, stunning locations, and historical buildings? Then you will love Buenos Aires, a city where the sun sets in the most beautiful way -especially in the port. Here you will find another passion that you cannot find in Paris: football! The competition between River Plate and Boca Juniors is more than a city duel -it has become a universal game, just like fashion!
No city in South America can compete with Buenos Aires’s Superclásico. The Superclásico, with the silken rhythm of the tango, was first born in the city’s port and shanty towns, and was later inspired by the wide and safe green parks. This game, which was introduced by the English dock workers, has been re-invented by the locals, who have brought out its strongest colors and variations. Argentina has raised the stakes of football with players like Alfredo di Stefano, Mario Kempes, Diego Armando Maradona, and Lionel Messi. Why don’t we take a closer look at Buenos Aires, the city of fair winds, starting with River Plate?
The estuary, known as “Rio de la Plata,” where the Atlantic Ocean hits land, borders Uruguay on one side and Argentina on the other. While trade was developing along this canal and in this port, culture came along too; the passion that grew for football over the years here soon overtook the entire country.
The River Plate sports club was established at the beginning of the 20th century by the merging of the clubs Santa Rosa and La Rosales. While the builders of the docks were playing football, the founders of the club took the name “River Plate,” which was written on the side of the boxes arriving on the ships. The British used “The River Plate” instead of the Spanish “Rio de la Plata.” Thus, the estuary that separates Uruguay and Argentina inspired the club’s name. River Plate is the team that has won the most championships in Argentinian history, the team that has had the greatest success in continental championships, the team that has given 6 of the 11 best national team players, the team with the largest stadium in the country, and one of the top ten teams selected by FIFA. It is one of the six teams with close to 150,000 members, alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, and Benfica. Great names like Di Stefano, Sivori, Kempes, Francescoli, Passarella, Ortega, Salas, Aimar, Saviola, and Falcao have worn the River Plate uniform, as well as today’s legend Marcello Gallardo.
River Plate transferred Carlos Peucelle for 10,000 pesos in 1929, and in 1932, Bernabé Ferreyra for 35,000 pesos, establishing a record that would not be broken for 20 years. The team became affectionately known as “Los Millionarios” due to its financial power. In the 1940s, the club was way ahead of its time. No longer millionaires, the team became known as “La Maquina.” They had achieved a magnificent generation -this was to such an extent that the famous writer Jonathon Wilson wrote, “Everyone has started to see River’s success not just as that of Argentinian football, but as the blossoming of Argentinian culture.” The football prescription of La Maquina legend Munoz is that “tango is the best form of training.” “You keep a beat,” he continues, “then you change and take a long step forward. You learn the forms. You work your back and your legs.” River Plate is the best combination of tango and football. You cannot separate the story of River from that of Argentinian football. But one should not forget their rivals, Boca Juniors.
If you go to Buenos Aires, you can look into the rest of the story. There are too many details to fit into these pages! Whoever was a child at the end of the 1970s, will never forget Mario Kempes, and the confetti that flew from the stands into the stadium. If you are old enough to remember the anime TV series that related the journey and adventures of Marco Rossi from Genoa, who came to Argentina to search for his mother who had traveled here to earn money, I have some advice: before you go to Buenos Aires, get a bag like the one Marco carried all his things in, and hang it across your body. Put inside a copy of Jonathon Wilson’s book that tells the history of Argentina. As you read, you will fall in love with Buenos Aires, and you can decide which team you want to support.
When you get off the plane, the first stop you will reach on the bus will be Calle Florida Square. Think of this like Taksim Square in Istanbul. If you want to watch some people dancing the tango first, you are not far from San Telmo! Not only can you join those who are doing the tango in the streets, you can watch the professionals who appear on the stages of the large theaters in the area. While walking to Cassa Rosada, the presidential palace, you will see statues of the characters from the famous cartoon Mafalda. The traffic won’t get in your way due to the wide Buenos Aires roads. Stop by the wealthy neighborhood known as Hollywood in which the River supporters live. Hundreds of charming cafés welcome you, offering a variety of coffee from different regions of South America. You will see a racetrack by a lake in the wealthy River region. Large parks, gardens, and bicycle paths will take you to the end of the large avenue, where El Monumental, River’s stadium stands. If you have the opportunity, get on a special shuttle that departs from Calle Florida, and spend a night in Tigre –it will be exciting. A bungalow, green trees and nature, and friendly people... a romantic Buenos Aires evening awaits.
Milanesa, Argentina’s favorite food, is made with beef or chicken and is basically schnitzel! There are also great treats for those who love sweets. Chocolate croissants, made with thin dough in dozens of different varieties, can be found everywhere. You should also go to Recoleta, the cemetery where you can visit the tomb of Eva Peron. Don’t forget to have your photograph taken in front of the Obelisco in the large square. El Ateneo, the old opera house, has been turned into a library and stands with pride above the city. While reading the books you have checked out you can think about the different places to eat and drink. The opera house’s seats have been removed, creating space for thousands of books. The boxes are full of people reading books, which are offered in every language in the four-story building.
Complete your tour with an evening meal: La Brigada Parrilla in San Telmo offers the best meat and the best food presentation. There are uniforms, posters, and balls signed by football players in this famous restaurant. If you want to take your team’s uniform home with you, you can find it among the thousands on offer. The fast food restaurant Marmaris and the restaurant Istanbul offer mantı, karnıyarık, yaprak dolması, and, of course, doner kebab. Don't forget to say “Merhaba” (Hello) to them!