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Tuesday, October 4, 2011


This weekend was special. Friendship special.

After months of planning and organizing (which I was glad to do), a large portion of the Fulbrighters unofficially got together again, this time in a small town in the hills of Córdoba. What's there, you say? What could attract 17 US, German, and Argentine adventurers? Beer, of course.

Villa General Belgrano, a place I've blogged about before, is a quaint, mountain-town in the sierras  of Córdoba which has a collection of immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and other countries. The city itself is small and touristy, but its major attraction is a 2-week long, annual festival in honor of Oktoberfest which is the 3rd most important in the world. We got together for the first weekend of the festival because, though the second weekend is a 3-day weekend, there will be more people and it will be more than twice the price. We're economical and stuff.

Brad, our parrillero
Everyone got in on Friday from all over Argentina (Santa Fe, Salta, San Luis, Bahía Blanca, Mendoza, Villa María, etc.). We huffed it to our cabins, Aldea Champaquí 57 (and another cabin nearby for a few of the travelers), which were a 15-minute walk away; this later proved nice for getting away from the festival atmosphere. The complex had a central yard with hammocks, wifi, parrillas, tables, and some snazzy pines. The hosts were also extremely nice. Since we hadn't seen each other in almost 3 months, we spent most of the day getting reacquainted and passing around the necessary besos. That night, we celebrated with an asado prepared mostly by Brad and Gillian, and we spent the evening chatting and getting a little chupados. The night culminated in quite a quilombo about the time we began playing "Never have I ever." I know what you're thinking: I'm going to say that some secret, intimate detail of someone was revealed that forever changed the fabric of our interpersonal relationships. Nope, it's not that. All of us were in one of the rooms playing, some in chair and some on the bed. One person went to use the restroom, came back, and then sat on the bed. It would turn out that pine is not as durable as I thought, because the bed broke in half right as his slightly-inebriated bum touched that mattress. In true Argentine spirit, we decided to worry about it tomorrow and just go to bed. The people sleeping on that bed moved the mattress to the floor, and all was well.
It was a delicious pork rib.

Morning. Mate. Mountains. The 3 M's.
Good morning, Saturday. Good morning, Oktoberfest. Saturday morning, I woke up early and went for a walk downtown. I got some facturas for my roommates at a local panadería and went to go look at some shops. On my way back, the group of girls who decided to have a morning run shouted my name. Aha! You crafty lasses, how did you ever find me? Well, they mentioned that they were thinking of going for a short hike (after running, which seems crazy to me). Naturally, they won me over due to their skills in persuasion and my penchant for panoramic views. We hiked up the Cerro de la virgen, a small, but steep trek right on the outskirts of town. This was doubly rewarding, because in addition to giving my body the physical exercise it so desperately needs, I got to spend some time with people I hadn't seen in ages having mate with a statue of the Virgin. What's not to love? Oh...sunburn. Let's just say that my skin got torched.

After that we came back, got ready, and then headed off to the  Parque Cervecero (beer park) to meet the others. There was a giant stage on which different groups were constantly performing, gift shops with German and touristy goods, and stands upon stands of microbrewed beer. Though the beer was a bit pricey, it was worth every penny. One thing I noticed here is that Argentina tends to classify its beer based on color, so many of the traditional stands had three options: rubia (blonde/lager), roja (red), and negra (black/stout). I was a sucker for Antares because I had previously tried it in Mendoza with many of my co-Oktoberfesters, but for me the top beer producer was Baires. They had a brilliant, 9.5% pilsner, a chocolate and coffee stout, and some great varieties of red beer. My favorite lager all around, though, was Viejo Munich's.

I came back a little early to get dinner started. Dinner consisted of ordering pizzas and 32 of my gold-medal cebolla y queso empanadas (the gold-medal was self-awarded, but I get a lot of compliments, okay?); some of them even had the leftover asado meat from the previous night. We spent the evening eating, chatting, and playing Apples to Apples together. It was charming.

Sunday might be a lazy day for some, but Katie and I had to get to work...drinking. The park opened at 11:00 AM, and Katie and I got there around 12:00 (everything moves more slowly on Sunday). We enjoyed many a beer together, saw a parade and played the "Who used to be a Nazi?" game (which was mostly troublesome), ate cheese on a stick, and chatted under a tree. About this time, another group of us showed up, so we combined our forces in the name of beerfest. I went to the espiche, a daily event wherein they sing, dance, and then bust open a keg of beer and spray it on spectators. It was mostly a wet, sweaty mess of drunken Argentinean men, and I immediately regretted doing it.

Dance, dance dance!

We said goodbye to Katie, who had to get back to Salta in the north, around 4:00. Sad times. Around 5:00 (after 5 hours of drinking), I was done with Oktoberfest for the day, so I headed back to the cabins for some R&R. Skip ahead to dinner time. Since Alicia, one of my German friends, was heading back to Germany the next day, we decided to go have German food together. All in all, there were around 10 or 11 of us that went to Viejo Munich (the restaurant section of the place with the scrumptious lager). Brad and I split a plate of traditional German meats and cheeses, and I just ordered parmesan potatoes as a side. Our waitress must have been stupid, because she brought me fried potatoes, called them parmesan, and then left. Of course, after bringing it to her attention that parmesan potatoes generally have parmesan on them, she asked if I'd like the parmesan sauce. There you go, darlin'. That's the idea.

I got turned into a coat rack somehow
Well, I'm digressing something wicked, so let's get back on track. We had dinner, skipped around, walked in for the last few minutes of the Oktoberfest in the beer park, and then headed back. Since many of us had to get up early the next day to catch buses, most people went to sleep. Some others stayed up and chatted for awhile, but the night was essentially over.

Monday morning I woke up, made sure everyone was out of the cabins at the proper hour, and got my things together. Some of us didn't leave until 12 or 1, so we went downtown again to take some more pictures and have coffee. Soon, though, the group dwindled even smaller. Teresa, Alex, and I had the latest bus departures, so we walked to a chocolate store and met the aunt of one of Teresa's students (Teresa lives in Resistencia, which is something like 11 or 13 hours away, so it was a fun coincidence). Afterward, we had mate at the park by the bus station and waited for the end.

After saying goodbye to Teresa, Alex and I left together at 2:00, since he had to catch his bus to Bahía Blanca from Río Cuarto. We got in around 5:00, went to my apartment, walked around a bit to stretch our legs, and then searched for more than an hour for a place that would have dinner (cultural note: this was between 7 and 8 PM, and it was considered too early to have dinner. There were no restaurants that would serve us dinner food, since most of them open between 9 and 10). We settled for McDonald's, because we knew it would be open and it's right by the bus station. After inhaling Big Macs, we made our way to the bus station and Alex and I parted ways.
Me with the Monja Negra

This marks the end of Oktoberfest, and the end of an era.I should add a comment here about how this might be the last time I see some of them for a very long time and how much I'll miss them, and how great my experience has been and continues to be, but that's not why you're here; you're here for beer.

Oktoberfest friendship