The road winds uphill among lush green spruce and pine. At the end is Villa General Belgrano, a German village smack in the middle of the sierras cordobesas (the hills of Córdoba in central Argentina). It’s lunchtime and I’m salivating at the thought of all the German dishes we’re about to eat: sauerkraut, leberwurst (and all kinds of sausage names ending in wurst), apfelstrudel, potato salad and more.
My brother and his family are showing me around. They moved to Córdoba a few months ago and I’m visiting them for the first time. Although they’ve been here before, they’re as excited as I am, especially my nephews. The two little boys run around pointing at their favourite spots, like the child-sized wood train outside a photographer’s shop they like to climb.
Villa General Belgrano is one of the biggest attractions in the area. One doesn’t expect to find such a European looking village in the middle of the Argentinean hills. The facades are painted in light, pastel colours (as per a local bylaw) and there are lots of wood. Shops have names like Tante Leny or Der Kuckuck. Even the town hall has a distinctive central European flavor, complete with two figures at the top wearing traditional German costumes.
Villa General Belgrano was originally inhabited by the Comechingones Indians. Later, the Spaniards and the Jesuits founded a settlement in the area. Between 1890 and 1931, Southern European immigrants came to live here. From then on, it was mainly immigrants from Central Europe (Germany, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia) who found protection from ideological and religious persecution and the miseries of war. It was this latter wave of immigration that gave the town its particular physiognomy. In 1940, many of the sailors from the German cruiser Graf Spee, sunk by British ships in the Battle of the River Plate, also settled in Villa General Belgrano.
Villa General Belgrano is famous for its Oktoberfest, which dates back to 1957. It’s a huge event that attracts visitors from all over the country. There are other food festivals all year round, like the Summerfest, which takes place every Sunday in summer; the Fiesta Nacional de la Masa Vienesa (the Viennese Pastry Festival,) which is around March or April; or the Alpine Chocolate Festival that takes place during the winter break in July.
I missed all of these festivals because I was there in June. I know better now.