The Southern Hemisphere is starting to grow on me. There’s more ocean mass than its northern counterpart (20% more), creating an overall milder climate. With less land (50% less) and only 11% of the world’s population, there’s less pollution. All of that, in addition to the earth’s tilt, means a clearer night sky. And it may be winter here in June, but it’s a mild winter.
Still, it’s hard not to be reminded of summer up north as I bundle up for my morning runs in the dark at 7am. I’ve been in the University town of Córdoba, Argentina for over a month. The only people out at 7am are drunk kids heading home from clubs and the early morning delivery guys. It’s not exactly a city full of early risers. Despite all of this, though, there are many avenues for staying healthy and active here. Slackline and Aerial Yoga are practiced in the parks, both activities unknown to me prior to visiting South America. Weekends are spent hiking and biking in the nearby mountains next to lakes and rivers, and repurposing art (like recycled plastic bottles) seems to be a form of meditation.
I’ve counted over 30 gyms in my neighborhood alone. Cross Fit is huge, as is Pole Dancing and Pilates. There’s also no shortage of parks to run through. The one adjustment (which, I’ll be honest, I haven’t made) is the time schedule. People get up late and stay up late… and that means that most gyms don’t open until 9:30am and close around 11pm. By 9:30am, I’ve finished breakfast and am half way through a Spanish lesson. Hence, my solo runs in the dark.
As I’ve said before, Córdoba is not a tourist city, but there are some gems in Argentina’s second capital that are worth mentioning. Azur Real is a boutique hotel with a beautiful high-ceilinged brick-and-vine lobby, and a penthouse restaurant, Republica, which is a gastronomic delight (6 courses and 2 glasses of wine comes to $53). Their massage and individual spa packages go anywhere from $30-$60 and can include a sauna, steam, eucalyptus bath, facial, massage and bodyscrub.
Bike Tours Córdoba provides private bike tours down a 300 year old trade road in the Sierra Chicas just 45 minutes from the city. You’ll spend the morning biking to an estancia while being given a history lesson by Juan, your guide. In the afternoon, you’ll hike through the property’s farm and its private church following a simple but delicious Argentinian lunch. Day trips are available to nearby Alta Gracia (Che Guevara’s childhood town and home to another famous estancia), La Cumbrecita (a German summer retreat/village in the Sierras with waterfalls, zipline and hiking), and wineries, allowing you to experience the nearby countryside, even in the winter.
Córdoba has parks throughout and the architecture is a mixture of old and new, an Eastern European look in some neighborhoods (I honestly thought we landed in Bulgaria our first night here), and Western European Spanish/Italian style in others. Güemes, a newly gentrified bohemian section of the city, stands out as a colorful gem in an otherwise minimalistic architecture landscape.
Daily farmer’s markets are where you can pick up vegetables, eggs by the 30-pack, organic chicken, and even wholesale nuts and granola from food trucks. Permanent warehouse-style markets (with more options for meat, including every part of the animal) are seated in both the northern and southern parts of historic downtown, making it easy to access fresh produce and local farm options any day of the week.
More unique foods include the country’s root vegetables of squash, beets, white radishes and potatoes, often piled up in baskets outside of tiny produce markets. The baked empanadas are the best of any I’ve had in South America and the steaming hot bread often served with asado (bbq) is tough to pass up.
Córdoba may have winter during our summer, and they may get up on the later side… but this city has its own flare and coziness that’s infectious. As you sip a mate in the park with a local during merienda (a 5:30pm tea break) on a weekday, accept fresh homemade bread from a college student, and observe someone bounce on a Slackline, you realize it’s a pretty cool way of life down here in the Southern Hemisphere.