I promised to stop bitching about Cordoba, and I swear I really am not being sarcastic when I say that one of the most interesting things we did in Cordoba was to attend a four-hour lecture in a Church/University.
True, the Manzana Jesuitica is a UNESCO world heritage site and it houses the oldest church and the oldest university in Argentina, but somehow, it still feels wrong when I say that I think it is the crown jewel in Argentina’s second largest city.
I’ve mentioned before that we were in Cordoba over a weekend, so there was pretty much nothing to do. One of the things we COULD do was to go for the twice daily English tour at the Manzana Jesuitica.
I know… when Jo pulled up this little tidbit from the Lonely Planet, I was also like “Huh??? Really ah?? We’re really that desperate for something to do, huh?”
But we decided to do the lecture/tour anyway because
a) Lonely Planet says it is one of the best things you can do in Cordoba
b) It costs just AR10 Pesos ($3)
Three minutes into the lecture, we were hooked!
It definitely helped that our guide (a current student at the University) is pretty personable and extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Jesuits and their impact on Argentina. This was especially so since our tour group of seven was a rather tough crowd to please. We would shoot out tough, insightful questions in rapid-fire succession. I contributed to the lively discussion on history and current affairs with an extremely inquisitive “Pero tienes que decirme, donde está los baños?” She was able to handle all our questions with poise and wit. This included reminding me that the proper Spanish term for toilet is actually “el baño”
One of the highlights of the tour was that we were brought to locations within the compound that are normally not open to the public.
This included the uber-grand exam hall where law students hundreds of years ago had to sit through 12-hour long quizzes by a panel of professors. More interesting for me, however was the opportunity to go through parts of the school’s library where old tomes (many pre-Gutenberg handwritten editions) were kept. Beside books, there were also original copies of old sea navigation charts collected from all around the world, and land maps drawn up by explorers such as Fitz Roy and Darwin.
Final verdict? If, for whatever reason you only have four hours to spend in Cordoba, go for the tour on the Jesuit Block. It’s definitely well worth the time and you will probably come away with a better knowledge about the history of Argentina… as well as how to say “where is the toilet” in Spanish.