When I was planning short getaways from Buenos Aires, La Plata never came up to my mind. Maybe because I did not know anything about this city laying only 60 kilometers away from the capital of Argentina. I even confused it with the famous tourist paradise, Mar del Plata. However, later I found out that while Buenos Aires is the capital of the state, La Plata is the capital of the province of Buenos Aires. I also found out that the third largest neo-gothic church can also be found here, and that the plan of the cemetery is the exact copy of the city. You know, that I like cemeteries. La Plata became an exciting destination, and I could not wait to visit it on one weekend, when the dumfounding things continued.
Our first stop was the center of the city, where there was that certain, huge Cathedral of La Plata. It was easy to find it, the 122 meters tall towers were greeting us from far. Oh, and yes, this huge building, which was built in 1884 based on the cathedrals of Amiens (France) and Colon (Germany), was breathtaking. The construction took more than 100 years, and was finished only in 1999. Another interesting fact about the cathedral is that the surface was not covered, therefore it looks like the brick gothic churches in the Balcan. It was time for christening inside, therefore the huge space inside was loud of the excited parents. The quiet melody of the organ got lost amongst the big walls.
|Cathedral of La Plata from the main square|
|Entrance of the Cathedral|
|Huge inside space up to 122 meters|
Getting out of the cathedral we looked for a touristic map, so we stepped inside the sweet shop bizarrely built underneath the steps of the cathedral. However, the shop was not as bizarre as the map that I was holding in my hands. That is where I first saw La Plata from above. One can best imagine it if we try to think with the head of the founder of La Plata, Dardo Rocha. He might have sat down to his desk in 1880 to establish the capital of the province besides the La Plata river. He sat down with a squared paper, drew the streets along the lines, dropped a park into every sixth crossroad, and linked the four corners of the big tetragon with two diagonals. Probably he got tired of this big work, that he did not want to waste time with thinking of street names, so they are numbered until today. According to the locals it is quite practical, because the street number 2 is logically between the streets number 1 and 3. However these many numbers made me quite confused in the first minutes. Let's imagine the question: Where do you live? On street number 5 under 123, between the streets 39 and 40. Who can memorize that many numbers?
Straights and diagonals continued in the cemetery, and the tombs laying on the little streets formed a little village, it looked very similar to the Recoleta cemetery.
|A perfectly planned town|
|At the corner of the avenue number 15 and 53|
|The cemetery is planned to the map of the city|
The practicality of the town did not end in the cemetery, but the next station of rationality and functionality was the Argentine Theater. We were lucky, as a free guided tour had just kicked off to guide us behind the scenes. The building was not very appealing from outside with its concrete walls, but inside it was full of with interesting stories. Since every important town had its theater, the capital of the province could not be an exception either, therefore the wealthier class of La Plata bought a lot in the center and built up the Argentine Theater in 1890. It was built in neo-classical style, according to the current trends, and had separate entrance for the different social classes, also following the trends. Because of a warm reflector the theater burn down in 1977, and the building could not be saved. A new style, the brutalist was chosen for the new building. This style does not cover the concrete, and with its huge windows it connects the inside and outside spaces. The theater had many functional halls, the biggest was able to host 2000 visitors, equipped with the most modern technology for the best acoustics: walls absorbing the echo, and seats balancing the sound irrespectively of the number of people inside the hall.
We also peeped behind the scenes, where we could see how the decoration was made, moved and prepared. The specialty of the Argentine Theater is that they do not outsource the preparation of decoration, but prepare everything there from the costumes and wig, till the scenery. The only person hired from outside was the scenery designer for a new piece.
|The Argentine Theater from outside is not so appealing|
|The modern, main hall can host 2000 visitors|
|Scenery behind the scenes|
La Plata is different from Buenos Aires in many ways. With its 500.000 inhabitants it is a smaller town compared to the nearby capital. But it is also greener with its parks and forests. The cathedral and the municipality are more precious than the ones in Buenos Aires. However, by the end of the day I saw numbers, straights and perpendiculars, which made the trees as mathematical sequences along the road. It was quite a surreal view for someone used to circle boulevards. But I still want to go back to check out the floating coliseum and the view from the top of the cathedral, and hopefully it will be a strictly number-less tour!