Outside the window of our little apartment the rains are still pounding. Four days without relief, and the streets of Bariloche run with rivers. But instead of frustration I feel happy. As happy as you can feel, that is, while fighting the infamous grippe.
Without synchronicity my fevers began with the rains and have been sitting steady at over 100 for the last couple days. Normally I'd be bouncing off the walls or dragging Nancy through the torrents, over the mountain trails that have made this town famous. Instead I crawl back under my mountain of blankets and call for another cup of spiced tea. Given the circumstances, things couldn't be better.
Bariloche is the Aspen of Argentina. Ski resorts and Bavarian ambience are the town's prized attractions. But as much as anything, tourists throng, in high fashion, savoring the chance to be seen in this chic locale, visiting among the ubiquitous cafes, camera stores, and chocolate shops.
We'd planned for an extended stay here in Bariloche and found a little apartment in the home of the Austrian consulate. With our own kitchen we've been fixing forgotten delights, and with the extra space we've spread everything out and begun the ritual of weeding out unnecessary baggage.
The apartment's greatest attribute, however, has been Marianne. The 78-year-old Austrian ex-patriot has been our surrogate grandmother, bringing us hot spiced teas, fresh honeys, and a hot peach cider that made my head feel like a helium balloon. Every 10 minutes she arrives with another care package, just now smothering me under armloads of blankets.
"You must svet it out!" she proclaims. Marianne herself has never been sick, a fact she attributes to her evening elixir of vodka, honey, and garlic, one from Rasputin's recipe book.
So here we are, bedded down in Bariloche. The chocolate houses will have to wait, as will the fondue. And perhaps we'll miss the photo opp in the town square with the authentic keg-toting Swiss Saint Bernards.
But the German spirit that has made this town unique in Argentina is as fresh as the warm apple strudel Marianne has just pushed under our noses.
Our tourist checklist will alas be blank. But somehow I feel we found Bariloche's true heart.
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