Cooking With Kurma

Kurma Dasa

Kurma's South American Tour

Cooking With Kurma > Travel Diary > South America

Part Seven: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Day Nineteen

click for larger imageI was greatly looking forward to my visit to Argentina, to which I have always felt a certain indefinable attraction. With an area of 2.78 million square kilometres, it is the world's eighth-largest country, just a tad smaller than India. Argentina is a land of great geographic variety, from soaring volcanic peaks to salt lakes, subtropical lowlands, swampy forests, tropical savannas, the thundering, awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls, and the massive glaciers of the south. Sadly, at least for this visit, I will not have time to see more than Buenos Aires, the Federal Capital.

click for larger imageSince I was flying into Buenos Aires in daylight (my preferred time) I was awarded some breathtaking views of the city, rightly called the "Paris of South America". Situated on the east coast of the continent, on almost equal latitude to Santiago de Chile, the city of Buenos Aires is home to 13 million - one of the largest cities on the continent, with a massive area of 1800 square kilometres. I was met at the airport by Facundo, a humble young boy who had been assigned the job of my personal assistant, and Ramon, a bright, clean-shaven stocky young man whose quiet humility seems almost out of place with his job as a successful lawyer.

click for larger image We chatted as I checked out the landmarks on the long drive to the Centro Bhaktivedanta, the Buenos Aires branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. As I expected, the city had a certain charm, and was certainly the least Latin-looking of all the Latin American cities I had visited so far. Pictured right, for instance, is the well-known 'arty' pedestrian walk Caminito street in La Boca. The boys were eager to tell me that the run-down quarters that they currently occupied, a one-hundred year old building in the quiet, well-to-do Andonaegui street, would soon be replaced with a brand new temple.

click for larger imageMy ebullient hosts regaled me with the plans. Deemed to become Latin America's most complete and best-equipped Temple complex, it will be built on a site (already purchased) on one of the most heavily transited, dynamic and visible sectors of Buenos Aires, perfectly situated on one of the five principal arteries of the city, and close to a major university. Extensive architectural studies had yielded a plan for a highly public-friendly compound of buildings joined by a grand internal hall. Targetted to open in 2005, it will feature a stunning eight metre wide altar and temple for 700 people, and is certainly destined to become a well-known landmark in Buenos Aires.

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The elegant new temple will house an educational institute, a museum, restaurant, ashram living quarters, a play area for children, and shops, all housed in a dramatic, contemporary, multi-floor building of glass and natural materials, meant to facilitate devotional meditation and contemplation. Our car pulled up suddenly, and we were abruptly transported down to earth from our lofty reverie to our current accomodation, the humble Villa Urquiza. After offering my respects in the little temple with century-old creaky floorboards, I bathed, dined at the on-site Restaurant Govinda, and retired to my room.

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