Day 25, 25JAN2017
Today Josh and I decided to play the role of tourists with far more commitment. After eating breakfast from our grocery run this morning we set out on a twenty minute walk to the Recoleta Cemetery.
This cemetery is one for the “creepy” record books. It was as if we walked into the Disneyland Haunted Mansion: everything was encrusted in age, mold, dust, shattered glass, and rusting iron shackles. The place was beyond eerie, it was downright haunting.
To walk around the place crammed with mausoleums a la New Orleans is free. Without a tour guide, the walk is quiet – the sound of monks in the neighboring chapel chanting, the trickle of water, and pigeons wooshing the air with their flight the only noise to disturb you. And disturb you these noises most certainly did. In my opinion the noises only enhanced the feeling that you were indeed not alone in this place of immortal memory.
Most of the tombs in the cemetery are actually monuments tall enough for one to walk into because the dearly beloved are stored below ground. Some of the mausoleums were built in the 1820s when the cemetery first opened. Most of the remaining mausoleums were established by families in the 1800s to early 1900s.
In many cases the mausoleum doors were composed of broken glass – decades of non-use and either poor weather, natural decay, or vandalism resulted in an overall look of general unkempt. If you were brave enough you could trespass through the broken doors and into the ground-level entry point. These entries often housed alters, candles, shriveled wreaths, white linen cloth now brown from exposure, paintings or stained glass portraits of Jesus, Mother Mary or other significant saints. On some alters there were photographs of the deceased, in others a dilapidated prayer chair sat crammed in a corner, its once luscious velvet covering pulling at the corners and cloaked in cat hair.
There were several stray cats in this cemetery, most likely to keep rats and other vermin away. To see a scraggly cat walking down the crooked cobblestone and then disappear into a grave’s askew door (either intentionally or unintentionally left open… one could only guess), was next level uncanny.
Even in the bright hours of midday this home of the dead was full of shadows, dark corners, and areas where you’d get a sudden chill. Some monuments were actually well maintained – their stained glass clear of cobwebs and alters recently dusted. In some places you could tell a recently laid to rest family member had passed the walls – their freshly oiled coffin on display for all to see.
In other segments of the cemetery it was apparent the mausoleum had long ago reached capacity or the family members had chosen to forget the place entirely.
Even more disturbing were the mausoleums where iron rods were positioned such that the door could not be opened from the inside. No idea what purpose this closure technique served, other than to make the hairs on the back of your neck prick up when wondering if someone was locked in there against their will?
Josh and I wandered in a counterclockwise direction through the whole of this place, and after several hours were hungry and definitely in need of fresher air.
We stopped at a restaurant promoting a lunch special; large pizza, cervesa and empanadas for a set price. The place was okay, not exceptional, but we just wanted to leave the cemetery to be honest.
Odd to us, and something we’ve learned to accept here in Argentina are the hawkers that try to sell goods while you’re seated at your lunch or dinner table. You’re somewhat of a captive audience, and even though you may insist that you do not understand Spanish or are not interested in their wares, they persist for quite a few minutes. This was the case at our lunch today, a man tried to sell head phones and phone chargers among other things while we both tried to politely shake our heads.
After lunch we continued along Avenida Libertador, stopping to rest our feet in a park with large lounge chairs.
Eventually we happened upon the Japanese gardens. The place is an expression of the friendship shared between the two nations and it truly does wonders in the transportation department. We moved from the bustling city streets into a park of utter serenity.
Just as parks in our recently visited Japan were composed of koi ponds, bridges, and vermillion tori gates, so too was this beautiful park. Interestingly though was the music choice. The music was not over powering, rather it enhanced the ambiance, but it most certainly was sung in Spanish with the background melodies and chimes resolutely being Japanese.
After the park Josh and I strolled home along Libertador impressed by the many statues memorializing various historical figures, some with their parks dedicated! Also along this road are a preponderance of Embassies. We kept an eye out for Australia but could not find them. We did however find the US, Italian, Saudi, and Peruvian to name a few.