Bordering Lake Ypacarai, Paraguay’s largest body water, the quirky town of Aregua is a 30 kilometer bus ride away from the capital. I would have said a “short” ride away but that really depends on the traffic! We’ve traveled there several times since moving to Asuncion by bus, hitching rides with friends and, most recently, in our newly purchased car. The little town boasts several quaint attractions such a church, a small, lakeside-beach, a railroad museum, an annual strawberry festival, a nunnery and (rarely open) art galleries. It’s a worthwhile day-trip because there is a little bit of something for everyone and, unlike most of Paraguay, the town is actually geared for day-trippers and local tourists. The town has no world-class attractions but it offers some welcome, small-town relief for city-dwellers from Asuncion like us.
For me personally, Aregua’s primary attraction is the plethora of utterly random ceramic figurines, fountains, piggy banks and garden gnomes that inhabit the stalls and shops that line the main street. I’ve long been a fan of browsing (but generally not buying) unusual, kitschy collectibles and I’ve seen my share of unpredictable junk in markets around the world. But Aregua’s dusty stalls take the gold medal for the category of “Stimulation of Jon’s Joy-in-Random Junk.”
Fancy a collection cheap ceramic minions? Aregua has them by the truck-load. A yard-full of Disney princesses? Freely available. Searching for nativity scenes? Dozens of varieties. Hello Kitty figurines? Uh huh. Tie-wearing koalas and frogs dolled up with lipstick? In abundance. A walrus balancing a football on is its head? Of course. A bewildering variety of African-themed vases? Check. Dwarves flashing their man-junk? Unfortunately, yes. If you can imagine it, Aregua has it cheap ceramic!
One of the beauties of sifting through Aregua’s pottery is the fluidity with which they change. Each time I return, I see inventive takes on characters from new films and TV shows (although a conspicuous lack of Star Wars characters…. WHY!?!), original variations on popular zoo-animals, chunky imitations of rural farmers…the list goes on and on and I love it!
Although there are bigger, better and more exciting places to visit in Paraguay, we’ll continue to return to Aregua every six months or so to explore the kitschy ceramics on display. It is a quirky, side of Paraguay that I ‘ll always enjoy, even if I never actually purchase those garden gnomes!