Manaus, Brazil: Museu da Cidade – Paço da Liberdade [City Museum – Palace of Liberty]

Hoho, what do we have here?  A third country?!  YES!  It is time to visit some museums in an ENTIRELY. DIFFERENT. BIOME.

The city of Manaus, in northern Brazil, is called “The Gateway to the Amazon” because it is smack in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.  Its boom age was the late 19th/early 20th century, when it was at the center of the rubber industry.  The rubber barons brought a lot of European sensibilities to the city as well as opulent displays of insane wealth.  It feels a little weird, looking around Manaus, as it does sort of give the impression that several shiny European buildings were plopped in the middle of the jungle.  Which, fair, I guess.

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Neoclassical!

The City Museum is housed in the old city hall building, constructed in 1879.  And it’s frickin’ neat.  The museum is tech-heavy, at least tech-heavier than I’m used to in a history museum, and it’s done really well.  You don’t even have to take my word for it:  The museum has an app.  You can go download it now (it’s called Museu da Cidade de Manaus).  It’s got an English setting.

If you’re actually at the museum, you’re definitely going to want the app.  If you don’t have it in advance, the museum has free WiFi, in addition to museum-grade air conditioning (yaaasssssssssss).

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One thing you really notice in the rubber boom era architecture and decor is that it is all aggressively Euro-jungle.

This is the ceiling of the Mayors Room, which displays the portraits of Manaus’s civic leaders through the years.  The app will have the biographical data on these guys, but it is sadly thin for this one:

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And entirely devoid of mention of his personal style.

Next up, the room of Growth Rings!

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SYMBOLISM

This is an interactive display about the growth of the city of Manaus.  You can trigger the projection of the history images by moving your hand over the tree rings where the maps are projected.  You can see the relationship between the city’s growth and deforestation.  If this all sounds very informative and you are wishing you could read more about it and see the projections yourself, you totally can because the museum has them on Youtube and the app links right to it.

Next up is the room of Flying Rivers.  Yes, all the rooms sound like they’re in Hogwarts.

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SCIENCE

See how the Amazon rainforest fits into the water and carbon cycles (including the impact of Manaus’s pollution).  The forest’s role in water circulation is known as the “flying rivers,” according to the museum.  I do love it when some good poetic turn of phrase is applied to science stuff.  Again, the room’s video is linked in the app.

Time for archaeology!

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This is the floor of the room, exposing the dig site from 2003 that uncovered funeral urns from the 7th to 12th centuries.  And, uh, that’s my toe.

The area around Manaus has been occupied for at least 11,000 years.  There’s been a lot of research in the region, and this room lets you take a peek, not only through the glass floor but also through VR headsets.

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VR stands for VERY RAD

The video is introduced and narrated by a Brazilian university professor with a pretty good speaking voice, which is great for Spanish speakers as it makes him easier for them to understand.  For non-Portuguese or Spanish speakers, you’re a bit out of luck, as the VR has no translation.  But it is still a very rad (heh) look at the sites and artifacts.  You can see the introduction portion, with English subtitles, through the app.

There’s a room with an art exhibit in it related to Brazilian poet Thiago de Mello–art inspired by him–and I’m tossing it in here because I really like this one.

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WEEEEEEE

And now, my second favorite room: the market!

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Can’t really do better than the app’s description: “The marketplace is where the cultural identity of a community manifests itself best–full of life, flavors, aromas, words, and sounds.”
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The herbarium, which is what I’m calling my spice rack from now on.

You can scan, with your phone, many of the plant labels for recipes and folk stories (also guess what ALL THERE IN THE APP YOU CAN DOWNLOAD RIGHT NOW), although the folk story animations also play in the bottom of this barrel:

Which sounds kind of weird but actually really works.

Wandering back over to the other side of museum there is my favorite room, Affluent Rivers.

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A representation of the rivers around Manaus, principally the Rio Negro and the Solimões (they join at the Meeting of the Waters to make the Amazon River).

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As you move along the water, the history of Manaus is projected onto the surface.  Once again, I can’t do better than the app:  “A timeline is like a river: flowing uninterruptedly, carrying different layers of time, which sometimes overlap, sometimes become separated and then reconnect.”

Again, the images are interactive, and can be triggered by the visitor’s hand movements.  It is such a clever and gorgeous concept, which makes it my favorite room.

Finally, I’m going to mention briefly the Bath of Origins room, which was too difficult to photograph, but you stand in the middle of several screens with projections of locals, who give their stories in turn.  They are all standing at the river’s edge, and after they talk, they dive in, and then you see them swimming on the floor you’re standing on.  The affect is cool, but there are no English subtitles.  HOWEVER, you can see the videos with English subtitles through the power of your imagination.  Just kidding, you can totally see them through the app, too.

The City Museum is amazingly well done.  The interactive elements are creative and well designed.  I can’t speak highly enough of the museum’s app–it’s the best museum app I have ever seen.  The museum has clearly been heavily invested in, and I hope it continues to be.  If the shop had been open, I would have bought a lot of swag because the museum frickin’ earned it.

The City Museum is free (FREE!), open from 9am to 430pm Monday through Friday, 9am to 1230pm on Saturday, and the second Sunday of every month from 5pm to 9pm.

 

Some of My Favorite Trees in Buenos Aires

Feliz Primavera!

It seems like a good time to make a post about trees.

Not that there’s a bad time to post about trees, honestly.

First off, though, this is not a comprehensive list of every rad tree in the city.  In fact, one very rad tree is absent, although I will add it whenever I make it to Recoleta and photograph the famous 200-year-old Grand Gomero.  The following trees aren’t so well known; they labor in obscurity, providing shade and bird housing and sometimes even brilliant floral displays.

Please note–I am not great at identifying tree species, but I’ll do my best where I can.

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If you thought I was bad at photographing small things in museums, wait til you see me try to fit huge trees into frame.

This stately guy here gets to go first because the Supreme Court building is in the background and this is the last landmark you’re going to see in this post.  This tree lives in the Plaza Lavalle, and if you’re visiting the city, you have a good chance of seeing it.  It’s one block over from the back of the Teatro Colon, right on the D subway line, so if you’re seeing any of the sights of the area, stop by and tell it that it’s doing a great job.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what kind of tree it is.

LOOK AT THIS ABSOLUTE UNIT.

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This chunky beast is an ombú.  I think.  Shading several chess tables and then some, this expansive benevolent overlord stands at one end of the Barrancas de Belgrano, a large park that slopes a bit and therefore earned the name of “Barrancas” (cliffs) because people have given a slight incline far too much consideration.

As a bonus, these two are at the other end of Barrancas and I like them because it looks like a tree and its pet tree.

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Speaking of residing in Belgrano, here are two trees in Barrio Chino, very close to Barrancas, that might only be noticed in the spring.

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Kinda lied about the Supreme Court building being the only landmark; that’s the arch at the entry to Barrio Chino there on the right.

These sweet little things bear white and red flowers and are practically hugging, so it looks like one tree with two colors.

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I guess that’s sort of cheating but this is my list and I can do what I want.

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A tree of high comedy.

This is a monkey puzzle, which wins best name for a tree species.  It looks like a twirling weirdo, and therefore I empathize with it strongly.  This particular monkey puzzle provides a home for roughly a jillion monk parakeets in the Parque Centenario.

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speaking of comedy trees

There are a lot of palo borracho trees in the city, but damn if this one (on the grounds of the Museo Historico del Regimiento Granaderos a Caballo General San Martín) isn’t just extra.  “Palo borracho” means “drunken stick,” but the more dignified name for the species is the silk floss tree.  There’s a lot more to this tree than its sexy curves.  The flowers are big and bright pink and the fruits are eight inch long capsules filled with cottony floofy fluff.  There’s just a lot going on there.

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I don’t know anything about this situation, but I find it utterly delightful.

Finally, I give you this little unassuming guy.

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This is a young jacaranda, and it is not shown in all its glory.  There are also many far grander jacarandas in the city.  But this one is right outside the window of a burger joint in Microcentro that I often find myself in when I need a quick bite before hopping on the subway.  I usually sit next to that window, and I’m looking forward to watching my small tree friend bloom in the next month, even if the burgers are decidedly subpar.

So there you have it.  A collection of my favorite trees in the city.  I’ll add the Grand Gomero at the end when I can, but for now, here’s the sign for a shop that combines two things I love most about this city: the trees and the book shops.

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Museo Casa de Yrurtia [Yrurtia House Museum]

HELLO HI

I AM BACK

And for today I have the long-closed-for-renovations-but-now-open Casa de Yrurtia!  And it is looking pretty nice after years of closure.

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Quaint!

Rogelio Yrurtia was an important Argentine sculptor in the early 20th century.  As a talented young man in 1899, he was awarded a scholarship, on which he traveled to Paris.  He would spend his career moving between Paris and Buenos Aires, where he would be known for his large scale, public works.

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The man’s own tools, and a really nifty table about the sculpting process that visitors can put their grubby fingers all over.

The museum is in the home of Yrurtia and his wife, the also very important artist Lía Correa Morales.  The couple donated the house to the country to establish as a museum.  It opened to the public in 1949; Yrurtia died the following year. Lía Correa Morales then served as the museum’s director.

 

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The house side. 

The house rooms include the some of the couple’s own art collection, which I guess is a big plus to having a lot of artist friends.

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Yeah well *I* have a bunch of pretty cool postcards.

The collection on display isn’t really extensive, but it is really interesting and frequently huge.  Stands to reason; Yrurtia was a big deal in public and monument art.  Maybe you think it’s kind of a juvenile assessment, being stuck on the size, but that’s probably because you haven’t been in the same small room as stuff that was designed to be viewed from far away.

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That is a normal-sized doorway.

At a certain point, the size is kind of an overwhelming feature.

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A study for a big Moses.

Yrurtia created a monument to Manuel Dorrego, who had (stay with me here, Argentine history is kind of dramatic) opposed the government of the first president, Bernardino Rivadavia, and was named governor of Buenos Aires province following Rivadavia’s resignation.  Dorrego himself was not long after overthrown and executed in 1828.

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He’s interred in Recoleta cemetery.  And so is the guy who executed him.  And Founding Father José de San Martín, who had been in Europe, took one look at the whole mess, declined to get involved and went back to Europe.

Incidentally, Yrurtia also sculpted the tomb of Bernardino Rivadavia, which is in Plaza Miserere.

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He specifically asked that his body not be returned to Buenos Aires after he died (in Spain), but alas.

And here is a Justice (commissioned by super rich guy Carlos Delcasse for his tomb and copied in bronze for the national Supreme Court), depicted non-traditionally, without scales or blindfold.

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But also kind of like she’s going to strangle you?

The museum also shows how the sausage is made, sculpture-ly speaking, which I recall reading somewhere was part of the point of the museum’s creation (as the house was also his workshop) but now I can’t find the source for that.

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How to get a “head” in sculpture lololol
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These are videos of the process.

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The museum does have a room about Lía Correa Morales, which it should, as she was also an important artist and doesn’t even get her name on the museum itself.

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Finally, the house has a sweet garden, in which stands one of Yrurtia’s last works, The Boxers.

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Uh, it’s in the back there.

Like most (all?) of the small, state- or city-run museums, this one also hosts workshops and events.  The staff is very nice!  There wasn’t any English material on hand, so they printed out some translations for us.  The museum is in Belgrano, not terribly far from the D subway line, and open Wednesday through Friday from 10am to 6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm.

 

El Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Bernardino Rivadavia [The Bernardino Rivadavia Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences]

It’s been an eventful few weeks here in Argentina.  The presidential primaries happened, and also the value of the peso plummeted.  Good times!

But before all that happened, I went to one of my favorite buildings in Buenos Aires, which happens to house the Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum.

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So, ya like spiders?

The museum opened in 1826, owing to the work and advocacy of Bernardino Rivadavia.  It was the first natural sciences museum in South America, and kind of a big deal.  The current building, in the slightly-out-of-the-way-for-tourists Caballito neighborhood, was inaugurated in 1937.  It’s got SO MANY ANIMALS.

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OWLGOYLE
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INTERIOR CEILING BAT

There’s more, and I recommend walking around the inside and outside of the museum squealing in delight when you spot them.

When I visited, it was the winter break for the local schools, and the place was full of excited, noisy children. There was a line out the door and around the gate to get in when I was leaving around lunchtime.  It was glorious.  The children were even exclaiming over the minerals.

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To be fair, there was some pretty great fluorite and stuff that grows in distinctive shapes.

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There is more than awesome rocks to see, of course.  The museum does boast a large collection of native specimens, but it’s not limited to them.  And who doesn’t love dioramas of successful hunts and dramatic battles for food and survival?

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This warthog, I guess, is not all that thrilled with dioramas of successful hunts and dramatic battles for survival.

Giraffes aren’t the only ones who like to nibble trees.

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Gerenuks do too, and are actually also called “giraffe gazelles,” which I didn’t even notice until I looked it up just now.

Although you might know the species better as that “popcorn eating gazelle” meme.

This is a pretty photo-heavy entry, you guys, because I appreciate and value artistry.

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“NEEDS MORE BLOOD”

There is a very nice hall of bird specimens, including some in dioramas of Argentina’s environs.  This was my favorite one, because it happens to depict a park very near my house.

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A good place for birding and Pokemon Go.

I especially loved the little riff on a fairly common stencil graffiti motif.

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Look I’m never gonna be good at taking photos but most importantly why doesn’t the MACN have this on a t-shirt

The bird wing (haha) is actually really good.

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Andean condors have great personalities.

You might know, if you are into dinosaurs (you are, because everyone everywhere always is into dinosaurs), that Argentina is pretty rich in dinosaur fossils.

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TA DA

It’s no Sue, but it’s not at all shabby!  There’s plenty of other native megafauna, too, which is great because ancient megafauna are so frickin’ weird.

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HUG ME
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SKELETON DRAMA

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Not a boulder hunt; those are glyptodons.

 

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And some Glyptodon tails were BANANAS.

There’s also a section of the building that covers the museum’s history.

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I’m starting to feel real bad about the terrible photos. The MACN doesn’t deserve this.
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Guess what dictatorships aren’t fond of.

At the start of the military dictatorship (no not that one) of 1966, faculties of the University of Buenos Aires were occupied by students, professors, and graduates in protest of the military’s overthrowing of the government. The protesters were violently removed, beaten, and arrested during La Noche de los Bastones Largos. The military ended university autonomy, hundreds of professors left the country, and research was quashed.  It was an enormous setback for academia in Argentina.  This is your pointed reminder that there’s no such thing as “sticking to science” because everything is political and education is the enemy of oppressors.  So, study hard and fight evil.

Anyway, that’s a pretty big bummer, so how about a preserved giant squid’s eye as a palate cleanser.

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The best part is the museum’s snack area is right around here too, so Squidward here can watch you eat.

The only objection I have to the Natural Sciences Museum is the aquarium hall (no photos were allowed).  It’s very small, which is fine, but the tanks all look like the worst aquarium store that would be allowed to legally operate.  The fish are in bare, small tanks with nearly no features aside from a layer of gravel.  The lone piranha, sad enough because they are a schooling fish, had only a small plastic plant to hide behind, which it was trying to do the whole time I was in the hall.  I really hope they improve the conditions for the fish soon.

The MACN is a really a lovely visit overall.  It’s set in the Parque Centenario, a huge park with a small lake.  Like all the bigger parks in the city, it’s a nice spot for bird watching (the tiny museum shop sells a guide to the park’s birds).  Entry to the museum is a very reasonable 100 pesos (about $2 US, and as always subject to change).  It’s open every day except holidays from 2pm to 7pm and easy to get to by bus and the B subway line.  Check the website for up to day admissions, closures, and guided tour info.

Tinytour: Museo de Arquitectura y Diseño [Museum of Architecture and Design]

The MARQ is a small building that seems to be used primarily as temporary show space.  It’s the only architecture museum in the country.  The building dates from 1915 and used to be the water tower for the Retiro train station.  It is currently one of the sites of a BIENALSUR contemporary art installation called “House Attack.”

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The MARQ building, having a normal one.

The exhibition, called Invading/Resisting, is also tied to BIENALSUR.  It’s a multimedia collaborative work on the interplay of the actions of humans and the natural world.

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ATMOSPHERE.
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This is a Tinytour because it’s a wee space!  You’ll just have to see what’s showing when you’re looking to go.

The MARQ is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1pm to 8pm.  It’s located near Retiro train station.  Admission is free and they have a tiny swag store, and I honestly respect the hustle.

Museo River Plate [River Plate Museum]

It’s hard to explain football culture to people who weren’t raised in places so deeply entrenched in it.  I certainly don’t understand it fully myself.  So, before I jump in here, allow me to create a bit of context.

Club Atlético River Plate and Club Atlético Boca Juniors are the biggest teams in Argentina, with a long and storied rivalry.  For utterly bananas reasons you can read about here, the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final’s second leg between River and Boca was played not in Buenos Aires, but Spain.  River won that game and the Cup, and this was a restaurant I happened to be near at the time (I live in the area of the River stadium).

So.  River Plate and Boca Juniors are kind of a big deal.

The athletic clubs are entire ecosystems, with different sports and teams and members and fans–but the team that is synonymous with the club name is the senior men’s football team.  The stadium museums are focused on them.  Which leads me to:

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The Museo River Plate is at the stadium, which has one large, non-sports-related claim on my interest:  Estadio Monumental is a major setting in The Eternaut, a famous Argentine sci-fi comic.

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As seen in a mural near The Monumental.

But on to the museum.  It begins with a futuristic look back at the team’s past.

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Those black tunnel-looking rooms to the sides give the team’s history and its wider context in that particular decade, and, given the dearth of artifacts, it does a creditable job of giving a physical sense to long history.

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Each of the tunnel rooms has some information about the teams of the time, and also a diorama that shows a notable non-soccer scene of the era.  For instance, for the 40s, you have the above team stuff, and also a balcony set for a Perón speech.

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Glare, glare, everywhere.

The stadium was also the site of Argentina’s win of the 1978 World Cup (the national team still plays its home games here).

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The 70s diorama is a newsstand (also haven’t really changed), and it includes a nod to “The Eternaut” (on the right, above the Vogue), which feels a bit poignant, as the author was disappeared and murdered by the military dictatorship in power at that time.

Eventually, the tunnel ends and you’re deposited among several years’ worth of team hardware.

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And this rather unique gift to the club from the national football association commemorating the club’s 100th birthday.

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…’kay.

There were a few other interesting things in that room, but with all the lights and glass, the photos rather prominently feature the back of my phone and hands, alas.

Famous players have their area, of course.

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I do not know a single one of them, which lessens the impact somewhat but the other visitors were pretty stoked.

Some of these pillars have QR codes that are supposed to show the player’s best goals, but I tried to download the app it required and watch them and could never make it work, which was a bit disappointing.

There’s some stadium history!  The current location dates back to the 30s.  There’s a pretty neat little model of the old gates and seating.

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And the current look:

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Textile nerds gonna textile nerd, so here’s an old jersey.  I bet that’s blood on it.

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It’s a two-storey building, which accommodates a theater and an overhead view of the entrance, where the current team hardware is available for photo ops.

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There’s also this, which must mean something but hell if I know what.

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Now, Mr Exhibitist is a lifelong fan of a different football club, so I am forbidden by the articles of marriage from patronizing the museum swag shop.  But dear lord, the merch.

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The variety rivals that of Hello Kitty.

It’s an interesting visit for those into sport, and stadium tours are also available on the hour.  For what it’s worth, every local football team I’ve googled has their own museum, although I imagine the River and Boca ones are probably the biggest and best funded.

Museo River Plate is at Figueroa Alcorta 7509, part of the stadium complex (the stadium’s official name is Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti, but it’s only ever called The Monumental).  It’s open every day from 10am to 7pm, although I would guess not on game days.  I would not advise being anywhere near the stadium on game days, in any case.  The entry fee for the museum alone is 340 pesos, although I believe that’s the price for Argentines and local residents–foreigners pay a bit more.  The guided stadium tour is extra.

Museo de Armas de la Nación [Weapons Museum of the Nation]

Across from the Plaza de General San Martín, which is a lovely, large plaza near the Retiro train station, in quite a stately building, is the Museo de Armas, originally founded in 1904.

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Right there, below the official oval.

I’m not particularly interested in all the tools humans use to disassemble each other, but swords are neat, so I went to check it out.

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Pretty stately on the inside, too.

The first displays are of medieval armor and weaponry, both replicas and originals.  There was also some disconcertingly incongruous pop music playing in those rooms.

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Replicas of a war hammer and a flail, my favorite medieval weapons.
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Lobster tail helmet from Great Britain, 1600s.

A great variety of pointy things is available for examination, though without much of anything in the way of information–just the sort of label you see above.

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Fancy shmancy French saber.
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Spanish-made saber for the Argentine Army.

Firearms were of course already a thing by the time these swords were made, but the museum also has some artifacts from those more transitional times, when one might still find a rifle’s effectiveness reduced to that of a spear.

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Bayonets have always creeped me out; something about the desperation that must attend having to use one.

Artistry wasn’t limited to swords in the 1800s; this is a hunting rifle that belonged to President Victorino de la Plaza.

Prettier and less bayonet-y, for sure.

But you know what is even cooler than fancy sabers with official ovals and detailed German hunting rifles?  Bonkers cane weapons.

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Debonair, dashing, DANGEROUS

Cane swords AND cane pistols.  Wonder if there’s a safety on that thing.

Of course, there’s plenty of more modern kill stuff.

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*yawn*

But there’s also a few box sets of dueling pistols–including this one, which says it was used in the duel between Pantaleón Gómez and Lucio Victorio Mansilla on Feb. 7, 1880.  Both men were former soldiers, politicians, and journalists, but Gómez ended up the dead one in a story that the Wikipedia entry made sound kind of insane.  Dudes gonna dude, I guess.

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I can’t even.

As weaponry is always pretty closely tied to the military, the museum also has several minifigs that illustrate the history of the uniforms.

The items on display aren’t limited to melee combat and small caliber things, of course.

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Both of these are mid-19th century, the bottom one being a Gatling design, Gatling having been a medical doctor who rather blew off that whole Hippocratic Oath thing. 

Remember what an absolute, unique horror show World War I was, with its meeting of traditional cavalry and horse-drawn supply wagons and mechanized death and chemical warfare?

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Imagine putting a gas mask on a horse, or, hell, being a horse that had to wear a gas mask.

Look, an anti-tank mine.  It’s smaller than my backpack.

 

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That circle to its left is the size of my palm and designed to blow up a human being.

There’s also a room that’s full of weapons from all over Asia, which at least can restore the more comfortable feeling of looking at museum pieces with some artistry to them instead of just efficient kill boxes used within living memory.

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14th century Indonesian.

 

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*sigh* stupid glass cases
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Small utility knife. Nazis ruin everything

So there you have it!  Certainly a very interesting collection of early firearms, fancy swords and Argentine military history.  Not much on the informational side of things, but certainly more interesting than I thought it would be for me.  The Museo de Armas de la Nación is located in Retiro at Santa Fe 702, right across from the Plaza, and very near other sights, like the Kavanagh building and the Basílica Santísimo Sacramento.  It’s easy to get to from the C and E subway lines and Retiro train station.  As of this post, the entry fee is 100 pesos (about US$2).