As I have shared before, I was really freaked out about going to Paraguay. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my time in Asunción and I want to give you an overview of what to expect. I stayed in the Centro, in a hostel called OKE Hostales. This hostel alone would have been reason enough to go. When I arrived, I was given an empty room instead of being lodged in one that had other people and I had it to myself until I left. On my first day, I went to explore the Centro and started my day at Casa de la Independencia, Paraguays version of Casa de la Libertad that I visited in Sucre, Bolivia. It is comparatively smaller, but it is free and an easy start to your visit. Especially, if you don’t know much about the country, as I did when I first got there.
I was really drawn to Asunción however and started to learn about the country’s history as I went along. Did you know that Paraguay almost became part of Brazil? I certainly did not. I was amused to learn that the largest remaining tribe, as well as the native language and the currency, were called Guaraní. Similarly, I did not know that only 12% of the population proclaimed Spanish as their mother tongue. When I was in the taxi from the bus station to the Centro, my taxi driver explained all of this to me and taught me some words in Guaraní. I sadly do not remember any. Generally, people were incredibly friendly and had such a talent for languages. Most of them spoke Spanish and Guaraní, but I also had conversations in English and Portuguese.
After I had seen Casa de la Libertad, I went towards the waterfront, where many of the government buildings are. The presidential palace, as well as the legislative one are all pink, which made for some cool photos. As there was an official function that day and the streets were crowded with military and police forces, I left quickly and went to Loma San Jeronimo. This is supposed to be a colorful artist area and it is also one of the oldest parts of Asunción. I found it a bit underwhelming and I fear I wasn’t in the “right area” of this area.
In the early afternoon, I went to Mercado 4 and my plan was to eat some local foods there. However, while walking through, one guy was loudly screaming “Mata ratones, mata cucarachas” and my desire to eat was gone. I had never bothered eating from markets, but that was too much in the moment.
I had a coffee instead before going to Escalinata Antequera, which gave you a good view over the city. It also boasted various grafittis, protesting current issues in society. Still inspired, I went to Café Literario for a snack, and browsed through a book on Human Rights in Paraguay.
For the remainder of the evening, I set out to buy some postcards. The concept of postcards showing the place you are currently in does not seem to be popular in Paraguay. I went to four different bookstores and the ones I found were not similar to usual postcards. Rather, they were photos, showing nothing in particular. As they were still very pretty, I got three and went home.
On my second day, my first goal was to find a bus back to Ciudad del Este. I went to different transportation companies and found one that left shortly after midnight and was supposed to arrive at 6:30. The best thing was, it only cost 55.000 Guaraní (~8,70€). After managing to find a bus, I had a small breakfast at Café Consuldao, which is a super cool place and they have amazing croissants.
I still had the thought of trying Paraguayan food, as I had seen of list of typical dishes, and they all sounded great. So, I went to Café de Aca, which is supposed to have really yummy versions of the classic treats. I settled on some iced coffee, Sopa Paraguay and Chipa Guasú. Although the Sopa Paraguay looked small, it was definitely enough. It was also the first and only solid soup I have ever eaten. In general, both dishes were pie-like, with cheese, eggs and corn flour. I would definitely try one or both if I was going there.
I originally planned to walk back o the center, but it was really hot and about 6km away. So instead, I decided to take the bus and upon asking where the bus stop was, a local man offered to walk with me, as he was going to the same station. Getting the bus was easy and riding back towards the Centro made me realize how long I had been walking to get to the Café in the first place. One other thing that I loved about Asunción were the street murals and VW Beetles everywhere. Having colorful cities such as Asunción and cute cars everywhere you go will probably be one of the things I’ll miss most about South America.