A guy with a fake beard, wearing a Diego Maradona T-shirt walks up to us and asks if we want to take a picture with him. There is a figure of Pope Francis on some balcony. Close by, a lady dressed as a tango dancer poses for pictures with very cheerful and slightly intoxicated, middle-aged men. Hmm… Where are we?
And to think that in the morning this day looked as if it would be particularly good and fun.
As we left home, we set on our first mission—buying bus tickets. So we walked into the first kiosk, we asked about them, but the gentleman quickly responded that kiosks don’t sell tickets, and that we should go straight on, then turn right, turn left, and again turn right, and there should be a ticket sale point. I don’t have to mention, that we didn’t find it. So I walked up to the next kiosk, and the newsagent told me clearly that I can buy tickets at shops with the word “lotery” in their banner, which sell lottery tickets and coupons for various games. We quickly came across one of them. After a short conversation we learned that tickets are no longer in use, there is only something like a card ticket. So we bought one, we topped it up with 50 peso and we went toward our bus stop.
Although our bus was just leaving, soon after another one arrived. We got on it, but as soon as we did, the driver ordered us to fold the baby carriage and pick Amelia up. Luckily, there were free seats, so we took them. Amelia needed just a second to scratch the neck of a lady sitting in front of us, to try and take the mobile from a lady sitting right next to us and to smile at several other people who happened to be nearby. In general, everyone was smiling at her, trying to talk to her and saying how amazing are her huge, blue eyes, which are not common in South America. So this was the way we spent the 40 minutes of our journey to the dock district, La Boca.
At a first glance—we liked it. It’s nice—we said to ourselves. At last, some dirt and less order. Unfortunately, it was also much poorer, which was visible to the naked eye. After a while, as we were walking toward the port, a woman in her forties walked up to us and told us to be careful and to watch out for our child, because it was dangerous there. We don’t know exactly what she meant. But it was true, that we have just entered streets with almost no people around, and only some men walking about here and there. We walked past them, quite confidently, and soon we could see larger and larger groups of tourists. This meant, that we were close.
I wanted to see La Boca from the moment I saw the first picture with its colourful houses. I thought to myself, that it would be nifty to see something different, colourful, instead of the regular parts of the city. When, after we arrived, I read in a tourist guide that La Boca is stunningly authentic, I thought that we must have made a mistake and that we went to a different district.
That colourful La Boca is actually limited to three streets which are organised strictly for tourists. Right at the entrance there was a guy dressed as the Argentinian football player, Diego Maradona, but with a fake beard and hair, who was inviting people to take pictures with him. What’s worse—they did that! Further in, there was a figure of Pope Francis, which was not quite as scary, as walking slightly deeper and seeing several more figures and figurines of the Pope. The worst ones were those by the restaurants. Apart from the Pope, there was also a look-alike of Lionel Messi, who is, obviously, also Argentinian. All export goods of Argentina were “displayed” there.
There was also tango, which was no less tacky, than the situations and items described above. That is, you could take a picture of yourself putting your face through a cardboard frame and becoming a tango dancer for a while. Also there were people dressed as tango dancers on the street, inviting people to take pictures with them. In many restaurants there were pairs dancing tango who, after the show, posed for pictures with restaurant guests for money. I know that they wouldn’t be doing that, if there weren’t people interested in it. I understand that this is their job, but I deeply regret that it looks like that…
Despite the fact that La Boca for tourists is limited to only three streets, there is still too much of that rubbish around. One of the streets, Caminito, which is occupied mainly by painters and drawers, is bearable, because no one is nagging you about anything and they are not trying to force you to buy their stuff. Other streets are less so. There are too many trinket shops. And that disco music. This is all very tiring. After we decided that we wanted to sit somewhere and have a dinner, we ran away, even though there were restaurants all around. We walked slightly further and we went into a small, homely restaurant, where there were locals sitting around and feral dogs wandering about, just like in Praga in Warsaw, but the food was quite good.