Bariloche: A Swiss Miss Mix

With its stone and wooden chalets, fondue restaurants and rows of chocolate shops, Bariloche aspires for Swiss alpine charm in the the foothills of the Andes. Mix in a few American outdoor and fast food retailers and you have a confusing mix of Aspen and Switzerland. There was little here to remind us that we were actually in Argentina. Even the chocolate shops outnumbered the parrillas.

Despite its identity crisis, Bariloche is a very popular resort and destination for Argentines. It’s their version of Lake Tahoe. In the summer they head down to the lakes to have fun by the shore and in the winter they head up to the mountains for some world class skiing. Bariloche was also allegedly a haven for fugitive Nazis after WWII.

Argentina Bariloche
Lago Nahuel Huapi
Bad Taxi Karma:

We’ve been having a string of bad luck with taxis on this trip. On the morning we were supposed to leave for Bariloche, the taxi company called us 5 minutes before pick up and cancelled on us claiming there were no taxis available. Seriously? Was this payback for the other day when we had to cancel a taxi to Puerto Madero when G got sick? Makes one wonder but doubt that taxi companies operate that way.

So in a slight panic we asked our host to call a taxi for us. He wasn’t having much luck either and so we took our chances and tried to flag a taxi outside of the studio hoping we won’t get another gringo tour or worse. We had to move to 4 different street corners before we were able to flag down a taxi. Without further incident we made it to AEP in 20 minutes with plenty of time to catch our flight. Whew! No gringo tour, no counterfeit bills and no rigged meters.

But in Bariloche our bad taxi karma was back when the taxi we were riding had an obvious rigged meter as the the meter ticked up faster than normal. There wasn’t much we could do while in the car in the middle of nowhere and we decided it wasn’t worth the effort to argue with him over it. Next time we will try to have our hotel arrange a taxi for us in the future.

Stranded at Bariloche

The place where we were staying, Antu Kuyen, was located about 3 miles from the center of town. We were hoping to rent a car to get around and drive part of the fabled Ruta 40 to El Bolson and Esquel. But of course we happened to arrive during the carnaval holiday and so there were no cars available. OK, so this was not great planning on our part.

With no car and not wanting to take the bus, we walked the 3 miles to the town center. The walk wasn’t especially scenic as the lakeshore was pretty congested with hotels, restaurants and traffic.

Argentina Bariloche

We stopped off at the tourist office and found out that you can get around using the local public buses or booking expensive tours. OK, we can take a bus to a beach and rent a kayak or go to one of the nearby trails. So we had options.

We then walked around the Swiss style main square with its stone gate, buildings

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Stone Gate at the beginning of Calle Mitre

and monument to Julio Roca who conquered the native people in the Conquest of the Desert campaign and later became president. The names on the ground represent people who disappeared during the “dirty war” under Argentina’s military dicatorship during the 70s and 80s. Their whereabouts still remain unknown.

Road Paved with Chocolate Shops

Calle Mitre is the main drag where the bulk of tourists restaurants (including fondue), souvenirs shops, local handicraft and American outdoor stores are located. It’s also has the largest density of chocolate shops per block. It seems that every other storefront was selling chocolates. Not that we are complaining. We plan to taste our way up and down Calle Mitre, you know, for research.

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One of the many chocolate shops

After a mediocre dinner at the Family Weiss we checked out the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi.

snapseed

We then walked back to the B&B and in a last ditch effort asked our host about getting us a car. One phone call and he managed to find us one of the last cars in this area. But it was going to cost us. Biting the bullet we decided to take the car so we weren’t tied to bus schedules and tours.  At least we didn’t have to resort to Plan B.

Accommodation:

Hostería Antu Kuyen
Bariloche, Argentina

Nice B&B about 3km from the main center. We chose this place thinking that it will be in a somewhat secluded location on the lake. It’s actually located in one of the many neighborhoods that built up around the lake so not as secluded as we thought. It’s about a block from the lakeshore and close to the bus stop so you do get some traffic noise. Every night there were a chorus of dogs barking at night. The rooms were nice, spacious and modern. The owners were very helpful and accommodating. They spoke some English. Baked their own breads and cakes for breakfast. Unless you have car or don’t mind taking the bus it is a little far from town.

Eats:

Family Weiss
Bariloche, Argentina

Just one of the many German/Swiss restaurants that occupy this town. Looking for something different we decided to give it a try. D had the beef goulash and G had the lamb stew. We were underwhelm with the food. The spätzle that came with the dish was bland and gummy. Think it’s back to parrillas for us.

 

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