Explore Córdoba and the Central Sierras
Just over 50km south of Alta Gracia, reached along attractive corniches skirting the blue waters of the Embalse Los Molinos, and less than a couple of kilometres west of the RP-5, is the demure resort of VILLA GENERAL BELGRANO. The unspoiled alpine scenery of its back country, the folksy architecture and decor and the Teutonic traditions of the local population all give the place a distinctly alpine feel. Many of the townspeople are of German, Swiss or Austrian origin, some of them descended from escapees from the Graf Spee, the pocket battleship scuttled by its captain off the Uruguayan coast on December 13, 1939, after it was surrounded by Allied cruisers during World War II’s landmark Battle of the River Plate. The older generations still converse in German, maintain a Lutheran outlook and read the local German-language newspaper, while souvenir shops sell cuckoo clocks, tapes of oompah music and other such curios. Whether or not the place’s kitsch cosiness holds appeal, Villa General Belgrano is a decent base for the region if you’d rather avoid Córdoba itself, with plentiful and varied accommodation choices. However, if adventure sports or nightclubs are what you’re after, you’re better off heading for Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, a short way to the south.
Essentially a sedate place favoured by families and older visitors attracted by its creature comforts and hearty food – especially welcome during winter snow – Villa General Belgrano shifts up a gear or two during one of its many festivals. While the Feria Navideña, or Christmas festival, the Fiesta de Chocolate Alpino, in July, and the Fiesta de la Masa Vienesa, a Holy Week binge of apple strudel and pastries, are all eagerly awaited, the annual climax, during ten days at the beginning of October, is the nationally famous Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano’s answer to Munich’s world-renowned beer festival. Stein after stein of foaming Pilsener is knocked back, after which merry revellers stagger down Villa Belgrano’s normally genteel streets to their hotels.
Two streams, Arroyo del Molle and Arroyo La Toma, trickle through the town before joining Arroyo del Sauce, 1km to the south. Avenida Julio Roca, the town’s main drag, is lined with shops, cafés, restaurants, hotels and other amenities, many of them located in replicas of Swiss chalets or German beer-houses, and runs south from oval Plaza José Hernández, where the Oktoberfest takes place. Frankly, the town’s museums are not worth your time. The real attraction of Villa General Belgrano is its proximity to the great Sierra de Comechingones, looming to the west.