Argentina

Passport Sneak Peak: Buenos Aires Theme Park Delights by Mixing Modern and Medieval

Silvia Trachevsky (left) and Marcelo Ruiz impersonate medieval folk at the eclectic Campanópolis theme park in Buenos Aires province. One of the most popular activities among visitors to the park is the stocks, a device used in medieval Europe to publicly embarrass or torture.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

Argentina

Campanópolis is located just 25 miles from the bustling city center of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. But as soon as visitors step on the grounds, they’re transported to a wacky world where the medieval coexists with the nostalgic and where half-finished buildings stand as a memorial to the park’s enigmatic founder and designer.

GONZÁLEZ CATÁN, ARGENTINA – Normal has no place in Campanópolis, an eclectic and enjoyably bizarre medieval theme park in Buenos Aires province. Some of the buildings’ roofs in this nearly 50-acre village are made from doors of all shapes and materials. Awnings cloak the interior of another room. There are dozens of windows inside some rooms, each one unlike the rest, forming a strange collage.

Cobblestones, iron sculptures and marble fountains share the streets with traffic lights – none of which are actually directing traffic. A couple of actors, impersonating medieval countrymen, greet you.

This unusual place is filled with fantasy. Getting lost in the park is part of the fun.

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Visitors to the medieval-themed Campanópolis are first greeted by this large house. It is one of more than 40 buildings and museums in the park.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

There are more than 40 buildings and museums to keep visitors curious and engaged throughout their visit. Medieval architecture and art styles abound. Grand and tall gothic buildings sweep towards the sky, adorned with pointed arches. Stained glass windows of religious figures let light shine through the rooms.

Yet, the park is also infused with modern details, sure to arouse as much nostalgia as surprise. Visitors might come across objects that they knew in their childhood, such as jars from the milkman, in an unforeseen context.

“This place is unusual. I don’t think there is any other place like it,” says Patricia Praino, a visitor. “It’s beautiful in a strange way.”

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Visitors listen to a tour guide in the Museo de las Rejas o Ferroteca, one of four museums at the park. This building exhibits various antiques that Campanópolis’ founder, Antonio Campana, purchased and collected.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

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The park sends you to fantastic worlds.

“This place is great,” says Darío Sampietro, a fellow visitor. “Nowadays, with the whole theme of series and movies focusing on the Middle Ages, it connects you with all that.”

The stocks, one of the main attractions, are in the center of the square. There, two actors embody a couple from the Middle Ages and invite tourists to place their head and hands inside. Imagine experiencing, for a few seconds, public humiliation in front of your medieval community.

Although the actors’ clothes are reproductions of typical medieval dress in both color and material, says Silvia Trachevsky, who impersonates a maiden, Campanópolis’s many modern elements differentiate it from a medieval village.

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The streets of Campanópolis exhibit medieval-era artifacts as well as modern elements, like this traffic light (left) and a lamp post (far right). Tour guides say this adds comic relief for visitors surrounded by gothic art.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

“There’s no place we can position ourselves to take a photo without a clock or traffic lights in the background. We add it in because we also do it comically,” says Marcelo Ruiz, who impersonates a knight.

This grand village is the creation of Antonio Campana. After he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1987, the entrepreneur decided to dedicate his last years to building the village.

Campana was not an architect, but deeply admired them, says Sergio Oliva, a guide at Campanópolis. He was also an avid participant in auctions, and through the years he purchased windows, columns, gates and other items left over from local demolitions.

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Campanópolis founder, Antonio Campana, had his office at the Museo Don Antonio, one of the four museums at the park. His office has remained intact since his passing. Visitors can enter this room and see what items he left on his desk, such as his idea journals and personal photos, as well the salon chair, seen here, that he occupied during his rest.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

“Campana was a great recycler and collector. He would grab paper, draw something and hand it to the architect to make it,” Oliva says. “Sometimes he would stop construction until he found the door or window that he wanted or had imagined.”

Other times, he designed a house from a column, dome, door or window he had purchased, says Daysi Morales, another tour guide at Campanópolis.

“Campana liked to play with the combination of elements,” Morales says.

Campana started construction soon after he was diagnosed. He passed away in 2008 at 75 years old. His children now run the business, Morales says.

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Campanópolis offers a multitude of photo opportunities. Each building is unlike the others, and each one is as peculiar as the next.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

Among Campana’s creations are the Casa Proa de Barco, which simulates a boat, 12 houses in the forest, a mill, a colonial chapel, two tiny passages and four “museums” – the Museo de las Rejas o Ferroteca, the Museo de Madera o Palitos, the Museo de los Caireles and the Museo Don Antonio. These museums aren’t conventional either, Morales says. They’re closer to being a collection of antique objects, organized by material and type.

“He saw beauty in unusual forms,” says Praino, the visitor.

Another striking thing about the property is that there are unfinished structures. Campana left behind unfinished buildings that his children decided to keep that way out of respect for his memory, Morales says. Plus, the entrepreneur left no sketches explaining how the half-finished buildings should appear.

“He would give instructions to the architects as the work progressed, so no one knew how a building would end,” Morales says. “It was only in his head.”

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Founder Antonio Campana developed the park until his death. But he didn’t leave instructions on how to finish construction on works in progress, like this building. Campanópolis directors say they decided to leave the building as is, in his honor.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

Campanópolis staff say he planned to set up roads and build a station to be able to cross the whole property by train. He left a locomotive with railcars and the foundation for a platform.

Sergio Oliva thinks that Campana had not come up with a final form for his project before his passing.

“If this man had lived another 100 years, he would’ve spent those 100 years building,” Oliva says.

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A small lake is located on the park grounds. Visitors can observe the old boat in the waters and different species of ducks and herons.

Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

 

VISIT CAMPANÓPOLIS

The entrance to the village is on Bariloche 7200, González Catán, Buenos Aires province. It is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the center of Buenos Aires city. You can get there by taxi or car. There is also a heliport on the grounds. To find out more about transportation, read here: http://campanopolis.com.ar/como-llegar/

Campanópolis is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. Entrance fees vary, and tickets can only be purchased through the park’s website.

In addition to offering tours, the property can be rented for activities such as photography sessions or filming. For more information on Campanópolis, visit their website: www.campanopolis.com.ar

Lourdes Medrano, GPJ, translated this article from Spanish.

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