The Parcial & the Palacio

Authored by:
Juana Pueyrredon

Juana Pueyrredon

 By Jaley Bruursema, Liberal Arts Student, Spring 2019. 

By 9 (ok, 9:20) every Friday morning I’m in the University of Buenos Aires’s Social Sciences building, trying to pump myself up for the four hours of environmental sociology ahead of me. It’s an interesting class, but four hours is a long time, especially on Friday morning.

Two weeks ago, Friday morning was especially grueling—my first parcial (midterm) in the UBA had arrived and I was not thrilled about it. I’d studied as much as I could but wasn’t sure if my knowledge on the subject or my Spanish was good enough to do well on an exam. However, by noon I was done with the test, leaving the classroom with a bit of a hand cramp and a lot of relief that the anticipation was over. All I wanted to do was hibernate in my room for a few hours, but that wasn’t really a possibility because, in a rather ambitious moment a few days before, I’d signed up for the Friday afternoon Palacio Barolo tour. I’d signed up without knowing anything about the palace or what the tour entailed, but nevertheless I’d committed and so a short while later I arrived in the building’s lobby.

The tour group gathered around our guide as she began to explain that Palacio Barolo is modeled after Dante’s Divine Comedy, meaning that its floors are divided into hell, purgatory and heaven, each section reflected in architectural details. We split into groups, filed into the elevators, and headed up into the building to see it all for ourselves. For an hour or so we explored purgatory and listened to the tour guide’s extensive knowledge of the building’s history and its architect’s quest for perfection. It was all interesting stuff, but I was waiting for what I’d heard (just a bit earlier at the start of the tour) was the highlight—the views of Buenos Aires from the palacio’s dome.

Soon enough we were on our way up an extremely narrow, winding staircase to this very spot (‘heaven’ in the building’s design). The dome’s walls were punctuated with tiny balconies that everyone quickly flocked to, eager for the views which, as you can see from the photo, were divine. The city seemed to never end, and the afternoon sun was hitting it just right. I was overwhelmed, torn between what I wanted to do (frantically document the beauty in photos) and what I knew I should do (peaceful enjoy it). In the end I did a bit of both, only ending up with a few more photos than I needed.

Although I wasn’t expecting them to be, the views from Palacio Barolo are one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen thus far in Buenos Aires. On the balcony above the city it was easy to emerge from study mode and to remember why I’m studying abroad—not just to learn inside the classroom and pass my parciales, but to learn outside of it and discover as much of Buenos Aires as I can!

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