We woke up in Bolivia for the second time! Having taken a leap of faith last night when we collapsed into Hostal Miraflores, it turned out to be a great little setup only three blocks north of Plaza de la Fuentes.
Tarija is a sleepy and friendly town in the South of Bolivia. Wandering around the place you notice a difference between Tarija and the towns of northern Argentina. Cars and people are smarter and there is less queuing outside bill payment agencies which was one of the main surprises of Salta. There is a feeling of affluence, stability and calm.
The Museo Anthropologico holds a vast collection ranging from super-mammals of the Pleistocene period, through to jewellery, pottery and weaponry of the indigenous peoples.
The collection was vast and one elephant skeleton, pictured above, was discovered in 1999 when a family were digging foundations for their house. Before the South American continent split from Africa and Asia elephants and sabre tooth tigers thrived here.
The first room of the upper level housed fossils and geological specimens. Again a large variety of items but my ignorance of the subject of geology meant that I struggled to understand the relationships between the specimens when they are presented so far out of context. This I sometimes find is the downfall of the traditional museum format, where the viewer is expected to understand the context and history of the object just by looking at 'it.'
The next room was more rewarding, with a mummified/preserved child's body on display. Only 35cm high but with portions of skin still attached. Again there was very little information as to its discovery or origin, consistent with the rest of the museum. While the collection was impressive, the scarcity of information gave a feeling of untapped potential. Well worth the visit if only to see the volume of specimens.
Mercado Central had small food stalls and butcher's blocks at the front but opened out into a bustling and energetic food hall at the rear, with multiple sellers set up around their stoves and small tables. Customers sit for fast lunches while pans steam and sellers scream, brilliant. Sadly we were not yet hungry so did a lap around but wimped out of trying anything. Next time maybe.
On our walk back to the Plaza we tried 'juice bags' (don't actually know what they are called yet). They were an ice cold mix of lemon juice, water and milk. Weird but delicious. Eventually hunger struck and we sat down for a traditional Bolivian almuerzo (lunch) in Plaza de Sucre, comprising Quinoa soup, Veal Milanesa with rice then tinned peaches for dessert.
During the afternoon there are tours on the hour at La Casa Dorada, a palace built by husband and wife team of Moises Navaias Ichazo and Esperanza Morales Serrano, who were merchants of some sort who benefited greatly from the natural resources of the region. The facade is mad, with false ornamentation that is playful and ostentatious. (I need to do more homework on them because the house is so out of context building with the town of Tarija).
We were told the house was designed in the Art Nouveau style, with the principal living spaces located above what used to be shops that the family owned. The plan has its origins in the inner-city Renaissance style Palazzo, with inner courtyards providing privacy away from the street and imposing outer facade. While the house is not the most sumptuous example of Art Nouveau, you have to remember that this is Bolivia, thousands of miles from where the movement originated. The furnishings are from the early 20th Century with many items and materials imported from Europe. The distances and expense involved give an indication as to the family's wealth.
Our tour guide was lovely and helped us learn the nuances between Argentinian and Bolivian Spanish. Importantly, the different uses of the word 'manana.' The standard meaning in Aregentina and Bolivia is 'tomorrow.' But the second 'Bolivian' meaning is when you say 'la manana' which refers to 'the morning.' This made things clearer after we had a spirited and confusing exchange with a ticket lady at the bus station yesterday. We had been convinced she was booking us onto a bus the next day, when actually she had space on the last bus of that morning.
We had a great day in Tarija, a beautiful little city. All finished off with beer and dinner with Berthold whom we met back in Salta. We have been following each other along this roundabout route into Bolivia. It has not been the most direct or simple route into the country, but there have been some great bonuses to our time here in the fertile South.
Tarija es muy lindo.