Ever since I’ve arrived here in Córdoba, locals have asked me, “¿Has conocido a las Sierras?”, roughly meaning, “Have you been to the Sierras yet?” Now I can proudly say, “¡sí!”. What are the Sierras though? At first I just thought it was a mountain chain around the city with some hiking, but I found out it was much more than that. Although the Sierras are a series of mountains around the city of Córdoba, they are sectioned into small settlements and towns, each own boasting their own unique flair. So far I’ve been to two different pueblos, namely Carlos Paz and Belgrano; both of these excursions were day trips and I’d love to go back to Belgrano! Let’s talk about them a bit! Carlos Paz was only a short, 45 minute bus ride from Córdoba, nice for a quick day trip. When I was there, I could tell that it was like a mini-vacation spot for locals and other Argentinians due to the wealth of hotels, casinos, spas, arcades, shopping spots and tourist attractions. All around us were some beautiful green hills, which caused me to reminisce about the New York hills I’ve come to know and love. Rolling hills and horses? Just like home!! There was also some beautiful wildlife, from prickly cacti to sinewy willow trees. We went to a woodsy area with a babbling creek paralleling our steps. It was so quiet and refreshing to be there, once again reminding me of home. I saw this strange mineral peeling from rocks that looked like sheet glass, and with a closer investigation I determined the mineral to be mica. My earth science teacher would be so proud! Photo cred: Jessica Corey Of course, any trip to Carlos Paz wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Cuckoo Clock! We made it just in time to see the clock strike and the bird come out. I would have to say the highlight of the trip was rowing on the lake in the rental boats. For a mere 40 pesos per person (roughly $5.00 USD), we had 30 minutes of rowing on the lake at our leisure. We split into two boats and went off, even engaging in some friendly competition by racing to the bridge! This is why I take spinning classes—you just never know when you’ll be faced with a racing opportunity. Mi amiga, Flor! Photo cred: Jessica Corey Enjoying the sunshine 🙂 Now on to Belgrano. Man, I wish I could have spent more time here! No worries, there are plenty of opportunities to return. This little town is home to a number of festivals, the most famous being Oktoberfest in…well, October. http://www.villageneralbelgrano.com/oktoberfest.html There is also an enticing chocolate festival in July, which is reason enough for my return and the event we attended was the first St. Patrick’s festival ever. The ride up was definitely interesting. We passed the two hours alternating between talking, playing a game called “contact” in Spanish and English and gazing out at Argentina’s midland countryside. The scenery was charming, with undulating pastures speckled with horses and cows grazing in the meadows. We escalated the winding slopes and at times I wondered if our bus was going to be able to make it to the top. This ride wasn’t for the faint of heart—looking down at the cavernous overhangs caused my palms to sweat. Every now and then there were ranches, farms and shops alongside the road. Once again I was struck with nostalgia of summer days in New York cruising through the countryside, stopping at roadside stands at your leisure—so timeless and relaxing. The town’s setting and features were perfect for Saint Patty’s events, with ol’ timey buildings, hand-painted wooden signs, specialty stores and crafts all nestled comfortably in the crest of these beautiful rolling green mountains. For those of you back home, the best comparison I can make is that this town was like Argentina’s Ellicottville…but without the snow or skiing. There are even cabins for you to stay at while you’re there, complete with Jacuzzis, room service and spas. Umm, yes, sign me up for…all of that. Another bonus: I’ll fit in just fine for Oktoberfest since everyone already thinks I’m German anyway. The whole St. Patrick’s Festival was akin to Renaissance Festivals back at home, minus the English accents. We walked town the quaint cobbled streets and witnessed some people dressed as knights, jesters, fairies, princesses, squires, commoners, and people just in normal, everyday clothes. We saw some people fencing and stopped at some craft booths to see the meticulously created items of the locals. En garde!! I bought a couple little things, like some earrings and an absolutely adorable wool owl that hangs from a branch! Handmade mates I also got some gifts for my sister and little brother as well, but those will have to remain a secret so they’ll be surprised! We (our tutors and us rubias) paid the entrance fee of 50 pesos (~7 USD) which included a cup of beer, green in honor of San Patricio (I’ll give you one guess on who that is.). Photo cred: Jessica Corey We walked through an auditorium which was always alive with actors in feudal character and celtic music delicately playing in the background. Around the back we found ourselves retroceding in time, to a lot filled with flags representing various countries and various stands surrounding the hay-filled perimeter. At these stands were games like the ax-throw, a horse stall, more crafts, and an area where you could dress up as a knight, complete with an 18kg (~40 lbs) chain-link vest and solid helmet. My tutor and my friend Jess decided to partake in these festivities and don the costume! Throwing an ax nbd (Photo cred: Jess Corey) In the evening, we watched a short lancing competition with two caballeros duking it out to reveal the winner of the match. It was a little dark so the pictures were not the best quality. Once that was finished, we split the cost for a pint of dark beer in the auditorium and chatted for a bit. Our bus was due to leave in about 2 hours so we figured we’d grab a bite to eat before calling it a day. We ended up sharing a pizza together and I learned a new word! Okay, so you know how whenever you’re sharing a meal and there’s one portion left and everyone wants it but they’re too ashamed to grab the last piece? There’s actually a word for that last serving in Spanish! Very fittingly, it’s called “la vergüenza”, (vare-gway-nza) which means the shame (or embarrassment) piece. How funny!! That’s only the tip of the iceberg for what the Sierras has to offer and I am looking forward to more little excursions in the near future—hopefully a hiking trip some time! Undoubtedly, if you ever get a chance to stay in Córdoba for study or leisure, make sure you take a trip to the Sierras as well—there is something there for everyone’s tastes!