On arriving in the city of Gaiman, some 17 kilometers west of Trelew, early in the morning, the traveler will undoubtedly notice a strong fragrance of newly baked bread and will ecstatically surrender to a fairy-tale picture of typical brick and stone buildings framed in a deep blue sky.
Parks and gardens; quiet streets with little traffic; the river, wandering through the city and leading one into a dream landscape of thickly wooded stands of red-gold foliage, inviting the visitor to walk and learn about the ancient culture and traditions of the original inhabitants, that remain and are followed from time immemorial.
When one wanders along its picturesque streets, for example, one can hardly resist the temptation of entering a tea room and enjoying an authentically traditional Welsh tea. You will truly "pamper your taste buds", because your hosts are true masters of their art.
This tea is prepared according to an ancient recipe that gives it its unique flavor and perfume. Naturally, it will be served in delicate china worthy of fine, home-made confectionery and pastry.
Frequently these tea rooms include real collectors' items which are fascinating to visitors.
Despite its name of native origin, meaning "whetstone" or "stone point", Gaiman is full of reminders of the works of the leader of the "Campaña del Desierto" (Desert Campaign), after whom the main square takes its name: General Julio A. Roca.
Gaiman lies within the lower Chubut river valley. Here we will find one of the world's largest industrial establishments processing seaweed (kale and kelp).
This was Chubut's first municipality. Its authorities took office on August 14, 1885, and for many decades it was the prime agricultural and livestock production area of the Welsh colony.
It was also the headquarters of the first co-operative organization in Patagonia, perhaps the third to appear in the Argentine Republic.
Within the urban circumscription only optimal cultivation methodology is used. In the early stages of the colony, the riverside farms were its main economic providers. These farms grew as their main crops wheat, barley, forage grains and vegetables.
Nowadays, Gaiman offers its visitors many lodging options, plus a wide range of gastronomy.
WHAT CAN ONE SEE IN THE CITY?
The most important buildings in the city are its chapels and churches which, in old times, were the colony's nerve center. Many community activities were planned and decided on in these buildings.
Local architecture left its mark on the old mansions which, thanks to municipal maintenance, are the pride of the local population and much admired by visitors.
Just a few steps away from Plaza Julio A. Roca lies the first house built in the city by David D. Roberts in 1874. This is where Gaiman's first native white inhabitant, Idris Dewi Roberts, was born.
Facing the municipality stands the monument to Christopher Columbus, made of roughly-hewn local stone. It was unveiled on May 5, 1893 (it is said to be the first in the whole of South America) and on the four sides of its pedestal carries inscriptions alluding to Columbus in Italian, Welsh Gaelic (Cymry) and English, as well as Castilian Spanish.
The Welsh Regional Museum, in turn, displays items from the time of the colony's creation.
Another major construction is the present "Bethel" Chapel, surrounded by a leafy copse on the river bank.
Beyond this, at the edge of the coastal plateau, mysterious and imposing, lies the tunnel of the former Patagonian Railway (1914), with its length of over 200 meters and its typically curved shape, opening its black mouth to tourists as though it were a mute witness to a time when trains ran through it, lifelines joining the hopes of communities of settlers.
Some other major sites of interest in this small town are:
THE TEA CEREMONY
- The Regional Museum, located in the old railway station.
- The Ricardo J. Berwin library.
- The tea room that Lady Di visited during her visit to Argentina.
- The eccentric house/museum of recycling, with surreal decor.
Gaiman is the center par excellence of the "tea ritual".
The secret of the exquisite flavor of these teas lies in the right blend of differently scented teas that were originally brought direct from India in "Tea Clippers", the speedy vessels used for transporting the product.
As a matter of fact, one of these was the Mimosa, whose final destiny was to become a passenger ship transporting Welsh colonists from Liverpool to these far-off Patagonian lands.
The tradition of Welsh Tea drinking has been maintained in the valley ever since the arrival of these colonists.
What started out as a universal ceremony at home with family and friends, gradually gave way to the creation of the first "Tea Houses" that catered for local inhabitants and tourists.
Their reputation spread worldwide, and thanks to this multiplying effect they are now visited by groups of Argentine and foreign tourists eager to sample traditional Welsh bakery products.
The primly decorated rooms are embellished with ancient heirlooms that crossed the sea from Wales and were treasured by the original colonists.
Exquisitely skilful crochet work tells the tale of busy hands knitting by the fireside while their owner's mind strayed back to her native land with sweet memories, and longing for her dear ones.
In this cozy and quiet atmosphere the buzz of chattering suddenly is hushed when the traditional delicacies appear.
The fine classical chinaware gives the finishing touch to the picture of the laid table, while the attentive hostesses check that nothing is missing to add to the delight of the visitor.
Everything is just right. The morning's labor in the kitchen preparing the confectionery and pastries has borne fruit: Welsh cake, cream and apple tarts, lemon pie, freshly churned butter and home-made marmalade, buns straight out of the wood ovens and many more sweets and delicacies accompany as much of the hot and comforting beverage as one wishes to drink.
Nowadays, one can attend the traditional "Gwyly Glaniad" (Landing tea Party) on July 28 each year. It is served at one's place of worship.
ART AND HISTORY IN GAIMAN
Another striking ability of the Welsh is their gift for choir singing. It is a spine-tingling moment when one hears the congregation spontaneously and full-throatedly break into one of the ancient hymns.
From the mists of ancient Celthood we are partakers of a unique cultural tradition. This is the Eisteddfod (from the verb eisted meaning seated), stemming from druid gatherings. This ancient custom is reflected in modern-day Chubut as a solemn festival of the minor arts, including poetry, choral song and prose.
Among its many attractions is the "coronation ceremony" of the Bard, and the fact that the language used both in the competitions and in general communication is ancient Welsh (Cymry).
Gaiman preserves an immaculate devotion to the arts; it is therefore not surprising that it has originated the highest expressions of choral singing as well as many poets, musicians and writers.
The "Camwy" School (1906), in addition to providing excellent education, is the establishment representing and sponsoring the most important local cultural events, Such as the "Youth Eisteddfod", an ancestral festivity that is a tremendous draw for tourists and therefore promotes cultural exchange.