Whatever independence I have achieved here in Buenos Aires is because I have learned to ride the subway (Subte). The Subte is composed of five lines criss-crossing the city, connecting the areas in which most government, tourism and commerce are based. The Subte is a means of transportation, a cultural experience, and a showcase for creative expression.
Maddy teaches me the ropes. She has purchased a Subte card for me, ten one-way rides to a card. She has taught me how to choose the various lines, and to descend into the depths below street-level where riders congregate and push into and out of cars. She has been especially vigilant about security, given her recent experience with being pick-pocketed. She warns me “Mom, do NOT pull out that camera once we start down the steps! Keep your hand on your bag, too.” We agree that once we enter the Subte, we will not speak in English.
I am amazed at the creative expression throughout this city, and the Subte is no exception. The first Subte line (Line A) was finished in the early 1900′s; the original cars and interiors have been maintained on this line only.
As lines were built, art was added at each stop, either in the form of painting on cement, or mosaics. Each stop is different. Here are some examples.
During my first two weeks in Buenos Aires, I have used the Subte to visit many of the city’s neighborhoods, in addition to Palermo. As in any large metropolitan area, each barrio is a bit different from others. Maddy and I have visited Belgrano, El Centro, Boedo, and Recoleta. Here are some of the highlights.
A mostly residential neighborhood, and home to the University of Belgrano (the school Maddy attended). We walk the quiet streets of Belgrano, and find Buenos Aires’ Chinatown, an area of about five square blocks. Who knew?
The center of the city, and home to most government buildings. El Centro is also home to many shops and sidewalk vendors (along Calle Florida, in particular). The Casa Rosada, or Pink House, is one of the most internationally known buildings in Buenos Aires, the official seat of the executive branch of Argentina’s government, and home to the Office of the President. The Casa Rosada contains the balcony from which Eva Perón and other government leaders (and of course, Madonna) have delivered their most famous speeches.
Maddy and I visited very briefly in Boedo; it is not “on the radar screen” for most tourists. Boedo is one of the tango barrios; we went to Boedo to study the milonguero style of tango.
Recoleta is the most European neighborhood in Buenos Aires, and viewed as the most glamorous. Here one will find the finest hotels, such as the Alvear Palace, and internationally known shopping. The most well-known site for tourists is the Recoleta Cemetery, of both historical and architectural interest. The Cemetery is worthy of its own blog, once we return to Buenos Aires.
During the past two weeks, Maddy and I have visited much of the city, thanks to the convenience of the Subte. There are more areas to be explored, however, and that will wait until we return!