Living at the endFebruary 9, 2018
Behind the scenesMarch 3, 2018
Argentina is famous for tango, football and wine. The highlights are Buenos Aires, the Iguazu waterfalls and the raw beauty of Patagonia. On the bicycle we meet the real culture of Argentina. After eight months in the county, we speak Spanish with and Argentinian accent and even know the country better than most of the Argentinians themselves. It is an amazing country with a beautiful mix of European and South American culture. The country is so big that it is almost impossible to describe the culture, but some elements are all over the country. Discover local Argentina with our tips!
Argentinian traditions and culture
- Maté with facturas:Maté is the national beverage of Argentina, which every Argentine drinks with proud. Maté is a unique cup, filled with yerba, a bitter herb, and is drunk with a metal straw in a group. It has a very bitter taste, mainly the reason why many people add some sugar to it. The maté goes from mouth to mouth in the group, following the same order every time. You drink the full cup, which are two or three sips, and it is filled up for the next one in row. It is a tradition which brings people together. Argentines drink maté all day long, but at 5 o'clock it is merienda time and then they drink it with facturas. These are sweet pastries filled with marmelade, sugar or dulce de leche. Actually, there always is a good reason to drink maté. The first question they always ask us 'Do you drink maté?'. Olivier has been drinking litres of it. In every supermarket you will find the typical cups, but make sure you treat them first with some oil before pouring in the hot water, which has 80 degrees as a perfect temperature. The yerba you will find in every almacen or supermarket, and warm water they sell in all the gasoline stations from a special machine. Also the Brazilians, Uruguayans, Chileans and Paraguayans drink maté, but all with their own traditions.
- Parilla and asado: meat meat and meat Asado is the translation of barbecue and a parilla is the grill they use to prepare the asado. Watch, learn and taste the Argentinian asado. Make sure you attend a family meeting or make one yourself. You can go to a local campground or asado place and sit down out of curiosity with a family. Bet that they will invite you! The Argentines buy one kilo of meat for every person, so there is always enough. In the weekends the prices drop and people are standing in the line in the local supermarkets. Argentines built their fire next to the grill and when the coals are hot enough, they will smash them and spread the hot coals under the grill. The meat is covered with a nice layer of salt and gives the asado its typical taste. The best tip: the less you look at the meat, the better it gets.
- Comedor: Do you want to have a meal with the locals? Go to a comedor, a local restaurant where many villagers are found during lunch. Mostly you have only one meal to choose and you will share the table with the other guests. It is the most local food you can get, for a bargain price of €2 or €3. The portions are good, sometimes even two courses, and always accompanied with a basket of bread and an empty glass. Pay attention! Eating in a comedor is safe, but the rules and hygiene aren't the same as in Europe, but the adventure you get, is definitely worth it. We never got sick!
- La vuelta del perro: 'A round with the dog'. Argentines have the remarkable habit to drive around with the car in the center of the town. Just like people walk the dog, they do the same round again and again, meeting the same people all the time. It is a family tradition, and they like to take their visitors, like it happened to us a lot of times. And off course they have their cup of maté with them in the car.
- Remate: A remate is a livestock auction at a big farm, normally once a year. You can ask a local farmer where the next remate will be for a real local adventure. The best cows, sheeps and pigs are sold for ridiculous prices and mostly used for further reproduction. It is a commercial event with a lot of food and asados. Besides the big auctions at the farms where the best animals are sold, there are local auctions in the villages where the slaughterhouses buy their animals. These ferias are held once a month in a wooden arena outside of town.
- Polo: Polo is hockey on a horse. The sport is immemorial and came to Europe thanks to the Britisch settlers from India. In Argentina is it very popular, but an elite sport just like the rest of the world. They only play it in the summer months and the best teams are found in Buenos Aires. Often it is a competition for military horses because they have the best trained horses, and the time for this hobby.
- Clapping at the door:Many Argentines don't have a doorbell, or at least do not use it. When you stand in front of an Argentinian door, you just clap your hands and wait a moment until the owner appears. In the beginning it looks strange, but after a while we also started clapping at the gate of a local farmer.
Argentinian kitchen and snacks
Despite being one of the most prosperous countries in South America, you only find supermarkets in the cities. If you travel like a local through smaller villages, you will end up in an almacen, despensa of kiosko. Here they have everything you need for a basic Argentinian meal.
- Polenta:they low-income meal in Argentina. Dry, It looks like couscous but has more the structure of mashed potatoes. In fact it are little corn grains which you prepare by adding boiling water. And just like an Argentine says, you can add everything, but queso cremoso, a creamy cheese, is a basic ingredient.
- Tortas and empanadas:These are salty pies and cakes. Empenadas are sold in a dozen, and you have the choice in between chicken, meat, ham and cheese. In the provinces of Salta and Juyjuy, in the North West of Argentina, you will find the best empanadas. Tortas are sold as pie slices and are filled with green vegetables and eggs, and often some meat. You can make tortas and empanadas yourself if you have an oven. In every supermarket they sell the round dough slices, which you fill with all the ingredients.
- Dulche de leche: It is true, the dulce de leche in Argentina is the best in South America, La Serinisima as the best supermarket brand. In fact is too easy, just caramelised sugar with milk. It is a delicious spread on bread or pancakes. Argentines also use it to prepare alfajores, facturas and you will find these in every bakery.
- Alfajores: This is the Argentinian snack. It consists of two soft cornstarch cookies on top of each other filled with a thick layer of dulce de leche. There are countless brands in the supermarket, but most of them taste a little industrial. The best ones you will find in the local bakery.
- Ravioli and pizza: The Argentines love Italian food, mainly due to the Italian descendants who live here. fideos is the name for pasta, but more popular are pizza and ravioli. In every supermarket they sell pre-pizza, a prepared pizza bottom, which you cover at home with the ingredients. The raviolis they have in all kind of tastes and mostly they eat it with cheese or tomato sause. In fact Argentines eat three things: asado, Italian or empanadas.
Cycling in Argentina
- Cycling in Argentina is safe, but in the big cities you need to be cautious like everywhere in the world. In the south there are less roads and the Ruta Nacionales are often the only option. On the other side, there is almost no traffic, but when there is, they will drive at high speed.
- In most bigger cities you will find a bike repair shop, but everything is very expensive in Argentina, except labour costs. There are high taxes on import so everything that comes from outside Argentina is very expensive. Argentinian brands are often of inferior quality so the best option is to take spare material yourself.
- Just like in other Latin American countries, cyclists are helped by the local fire brigade 'bomberos voluntarios'. Off course you need to ask if they can help you with a roof, but most of the times they are happy to host you for one night. No succes? Try the police, a school or the municipality.
- If you are looking for cheap food in Buenos Aires, you can follow the plastic bags in the opposite direction. There are some 'eat for kilo' restaurants hidden in the city where you can eat remarkably cheap. If you come after two o'clock, you almost get it for free.
- Don't waste you money on a condor tour. Cycling through the Andes we daily saw condors. You will find them a high mountains passes and can recognise them with the white colours on the back and the finger shape end of the wings.
- If you want to cross the border to Chili the north, Paso the Jama, which goes to San Pedro de Atacama, hitchhiking or walking, you need to be careful. Walking isn't allowed and hitchhiking is only possible with a car and not with a truck because you name is not in the papers, an the border control offices aren't that helpful.