Argentina

The beginning of this journey is "The End of the World"

What calls itself the end of the world, is the beginning of a journey to the seventh continent. Ushuaia is the world's most Southern urban settlement, which has an Indian history before it was a jail for re-offenders and dangerous prisoners. Today it is a friendly and quiet little place having an existence between the port, a national park and a little airport. The main street is full of souvenir and outdoor gear shops, which are well priced because this is a tax free zone. In the port a bunch of lazy guys hang around which have the monopoly of any work done here and at the gate you have to get off and see the customs from time to time to justify that they get a salary. What is striking is that when you look at the landscape, it looks like the Swiss Alps meet the seaside. When I saw this it was absolutely clear that what ever comes South of here, must be as bizarre as landing on the moon.

Patagonia

"Il n'y a plus que la Patagonie, qui convienne a mon immense tristess ...", writes Blaise Cendrars in Prose du Transsiberien. I wanted to know more about the geography and people, which turned Bruce Chatwin from a journalist into a a fine writer. There, in his book on his journeys down in the most Southern Part of the Andes, it says: "Patagonia! ... She is a hard mistress. She casts her spell, An enchantress! She folds you in her arms and never lets go."

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Patagonia is a desert of thorns, bushes, steppe, Megellanic and Valdivian forests, ice fields and glaciers - which is shared between Argentina and Chile. It is a volcanic area with Ceratous rocks and Teriarty granite, cut deep in my rivers and with long sand and gravel fields in meandering streams. El Calafate, even it is still a large settlement for Patagonian standards, already is a village community. And it is not just because of the visitors still passing by here that most clothes you can buy are outdoor gear. There is simply indoor life expect the dinner table and the bed in El Calafate. And people are so strait forward that it took me sometimes some effort to remember to be still in South America.

Patagonia is the last place on Earth, which was reached by human migration. Wherever you walk, you will go for hours. But time goes slow in Patagonia. Nothing matters, but being warm, fed and knowing directions. Like this you hike through crystal clear air and drink from crystal clear rivers. The guest house outside El Chalten, where the railheads to Mount McKinroy start, was powered by the river nerby. Drilled into my mind since childhood to switch off the light when leaving the room, here it was just a bit of clear water running a turbine alongside the house. The Patagonian Ice Field is feeding countless glaciers pushing their bright blue compressed ice masses down into the low land. They end in moraines, or break off in lakes. Many of them are still stable, luckily - despite global warming. It is like nothing from the "other world" can touch you here.

I know many people, when they think about where to retire, they think about a place with mild weather and good medical services. I am actually thinking about Patagonia. As I quoted before: "... She folds you in her arms and never lets go." This is one of the most fascinating landscapes I have seen so far. If I ever have the chance for a new sabbatical to write a book, then I might write it here.

Buenos Aires

The last time I went to Buenos Aires, I left Hannover Airport on September 13th 2001, just two days after September 11th. I remember that the wife of my young colleague and travel companion was very worried, because for days it felt that the world might go to war for a third time. After we had our first glass of wine in the airport lounge, the airport was evacuated and we had to withdraw to the parking place. There was a bomb threat and nobody knew where the potential bomb might be. I thought going to a public parking lot when there is a bomb threat is not the best option and we made it back into the lounge and had a second glass of wine. There was no bomb. Then we flew off to Argentina, while the US airspace was blocked for any aviation.

I remember that we went for dinner and paid quite a price for a steak. I wondered that if this is expensive for us, then how do the Argentineans pay for their steak? Weeks later they rose up. There were street riots, looting of shops and people died in street fights. Then Argentina un-pegged the Peso from the US$ while I was sitting in a tango bar in Buenos Aires. The currency literally collapsed and the country declared default on their debts.

Now, more than 10 years later I returned to Buenos Aires as a stop over to Patagonia. It is one of my favorite cities. The artistic and creative output is ranked as one of the word's highest. Who ever knows how to do such rankings?