Wednesday, December 12, 2012
San Carlos de Bariloche, usually known simply as Bariloche, is situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Established in1934, the park is the oldest national park in Argentina and is bordered on the west by Chile. It is dominated by the Andes mountains, with rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers, extensive forests and numerous lakes. Bariloche is the biggest city and a starting point for us to explore the Lake District region of Argentina. Besides Lake Nahuel Huapi (in Mapuche, nahuel means “jaguar and huapi means “island”) there are also lakes Traful, Mascardi, Gutiérrez, Guillelmo and Perito Moreno. So much is written about Bariloche that has made it famous or infamous, accolades and gossip, some of it is true and some are simply myths that have been perpetuated over the decades. Of course there are people who believe in the myths, which is why they are still told. One truth is yes, fishing throughout the Lake District is world renowned and with 650 square kilometers of surface and 454 meters deep, Lake Nahuel Huapi is the largest and deepest clear water lake within the district. The trout pulled from this lake are spectacular. But Nahuelito, I am afraid might just be a myth. Nahuelito is a lake monster named after the lake and its sighting is widely (and wildly) talked about. Reported widely (and wildly) since the 1920s, it predates that other famous lake monster “Nessie”. Whether it is a fact or fiction, Nahuelito has allegedly been seen by both local people and tourists with widely (and wild) varying descriptions, mentioning of it as a “giant water snake with humps and fish-like fins” or “a giant swan with a snake's head” or “the overturned hull of a boat which undulated” and last but not least “the stump of a tree which slithered side to side”. Its length is also varied ranging from 15–150 feet (4.6–46 m). Hmmm! Have I mentioned that wine is widely (and sometimes wildly) consumed in copious amounts in Argentina? Just a thought. Another truth is that yes, Bariloche did make headlines in the international news world, when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals such as the former SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Erich Priebke. When he was captured, it was discovered that Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years. But Hitler and Eva Braun, I think might just be a myth. The story is that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun lived in the hills above Bariloche after World War II until the early 1960’s at an estate that Argentine Nazis chose as Hitler's refuge. Two books, one by Argentina author Abel Basti and one by a British writer have perpetuated this particular myth, which has been discounted by other historians but nevertheless the story persists. And yet another truth is that Bariloche is the “Honeymoon capital of Argentina”. It is definitely the number one destination for newlyweds and you only have to visit here to see why it could develop that romantic connotation. But “the living happily ever after” part, I think might be, sadly a myth. The story being if you honeymoon in Bariloche you will live “together happily ever after”. I can only say I hope all newlyweds sincerely believe it but the realistic part of me has to call that a myth. The other truths about the city is that it is also known as the "Gateway to Patagonia", a truth if you are heading south, it boasts the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere at Cerro Catedral, a geographical truth and it is the "Chocolate Capital of Argentina", a truth judging by all the handcrafted chocolate shops I have seen and this is not a myth, you got to love a place that dedicates itself to chocolate. The final truth is Bariloche's deep blue lakes, towering mountains, glaciers, boating, fishing, exploring, dining, shopping and just simply relaxing which makes this an incomparable city. The scenery alone leaves most people breathless and I think we are going to enjoy ourselves here, immensely. And that is not a myth but the truth.