San Carlos de Bariloche is the skiing destination for Argentinians. After the second world war, it was also the escape destination for German Nazis. A former SS commander was the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years and some even believe that Adolf Hitler himself, together with Eva Braun, lived in the surroundings of Bariloche after World War II. Though the German, Swiss and Austrian settlements date from long before that time. It seems they searched for a place that looked like the landscape they were used to. Then built the houses that went with it.
Nothing very German about my host though. Let alone Nazi. Although he isn’t really a “local” himself. Nano, 37 years old IT specialist from Buenos Aires, left everything behind in the capital because… well… You don’t need much of an explanation when you discover the sight of the Nahuel Huapi lake he has from his apartment. I will run out of superlatives at one point, to describe all the beautiful things I’m seeing but the least you can say about that sight is that it’s gorgeous. In the morning, I could see the sun coming up over the lake, a hummingbird buzzing around to get some food on the balcony in the nascent light. I mean, sorry for stealing your line, George but “What else?”
In the course of the following days, I got to enjoy the beauty of the region during peaceful walks, leading to more astonishing views. I also started to notice the effect of height on my breathing. At first I thought it was because of my smoking. But I realised non-smokers where suffering as much as I did.
On July 13th, it was the World Cup final. Argentina vs Germany. I had prepared myself to one hell of a party. I had seen how they celebrated the victory against Holland in the semi-finals and wondered if they could possibly make more noise! And I will never get the answer to the question.
Some cars did get out on the streets after the defeat. To make sure their horn was still working I guess. But there was a general feeling of sadness. As many Germans might have settled in Bariloche, the “Heimat” here is Argentina.
Because there had been some accidents after the semi-finals in Bariloche, it was forbidden to sell alcohol. So it was not even possible for the Argentinians to drink their sorrow away. You then praise the Lord – or the fly that just landed on the table for all it matters – that the person whose company you are in actually doesn’t give a sh… about football, that he’s a great cook and that you happen to have a bottle of wine in your backpack. In the end, mine was a beautiful evening.
I knew I was heading to Mendoza after Bariloche but had no idea where to go next. Nano gave me a hand on that, sharing great tips about places he had visited himself: Valle de la Luna, Talampaya, Tafí del Valle, Cafayate, Cachí, Tilcara, Humahuaca, Purmamarca. I would then take the flight from Salta to Iguazu, to see the waterfalls I had planned to admire two months before. For the first time since the beginning of my trip I did have a plan. And an obligation to be in Salta on August 2nd to take the plane.
When I left Bariloche, it was snowing. In July. Still needed to get used to that stuff.