If you end up in Asuncion, Paraguay here is what you can do there.
I LOVE it when people ask me about South America and they say “did you go to Rio or El Calafate?” Because the answer is “no” and quite frankly, I still don’t really care that much about “on the beaten track cities”, which might explain how I got sentimental, inspired and perky on my visit to the Paraguayan capital city of Asuncion. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to understand why the hell I went there. A love of football, and Jose Luis Chilavert might help explain it.
1. Go to South America’s First Railway Station
I love trains, but you’ll be waiting a while if you want the next Paraguay to Bolivia service to leave Asuncion. Rather than relegate this train station to history’s dustbin, the Paraguayans have opened it as a museum. You can get on an old train and reminisce.
2. Slums and Argentina
From Asuncion you can look across at Argentina. Or even better you can cross the border or get a boat trip on the river. Paraguay also borders Bolivia and Brazil but with Asuncion it’s just Argentina and really worth checking out. You can get buses into Argentina as well if need be plus there’s the area of the slums which is cool to look at.
3. “Do a Chilavert”
Personally my Panini Sticker albums as a child influenced and inspired my football dreams. I remember seeing Paraguay in the 1986 World Cup and wondering “who the fuck they were”. Just over a decade later and their goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert had become one of the world’s best keepers and a final point in their international team which qualified for 4 consecutive World Cup Finals. I visited the national stadium, sneaked through the gates to stand on the pitch and “do a Chilavert”. A local mused “this boys a nutcase” as I flew my well travelled Northern Ireland flag at the centre circle. “I am mate, but not as nuts as Jose” I replied, while reminiscing the time the Paraguayan struck the crossbar with a free kick in the World Cup. Not bad for a charismatic goalkeeper.
4. Heroes Square (Plaza de Los Heroes) and Asuncion’s Buildings
War and politics are never far away as a tourist and I was slightly moved by my trip here. A small room which is a monument and memorial to Paraguay’s chosen few. I’d recommend it.
After checking out the Heroes Square and monuments don’t forget that Asuncion has lots of other cool old buildings to check out including Churches, a Palace, a Cathedral and old style skyscrapers.
5. A Night Out
When the sun sinks from Asuncion’s skyline, the most surprising thing is that the city centre becomes the sort of ghost town even Casper would be surprised about. That’s when you get your party shoes on and enjoy yourself. I managed to get pissed with my travel buddies, befriend some locals and get inspired. Gasping for a return to this city. Local beer is Pilsen but the Britannia Pub in the city brews their own beer which is worth trying.Google+