THROUGH the vaporous atmosphere of the sky-line appear the serrated edges of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, which was formerly a province of the Argentine, but is today an independent republic. In the current language of Buenos Aires, Uruguay is known simply as ” the Oriental Band,” and when you hear it said of any one that ” he is an Oriental,” know that by this term is not meant a Turk or a Levantine, but the inhabitant of the smallest republic in South America, hemmed in between the left bank of the Uruguay, Brazil, and the sea.
Quite apart from the question of size, the Argentine and Uruguay have too much in common not to be jealous of each other. The Argentinos would appear to think that the prodigious development of their country must ultimately have the effect of bringing back Uruguay to the fold. This may be so; but it is also quite possible that the ” Oriental Band ” in her pride will continue to cherish her independence. Meantime, while leaving to the future the solution of the question, there is a little friction between them. Uruguay’s revolutionary shocks usually originate in Argentine territory, across the river. The Argentine Government is certainly averse to any leniency towards those who incite to civil war, but it is not always able to exact obedience. South American ways ! It is hardly necessary to add that the leaders of an unsuccessful party are wont to take refuge in Buenos Airesten hours distant by the fine boats on the estuaryand that the natural magnet of commercial prosperity enlarges this political nucleus by the powerful factor of trade. There are no less than fifty thousand Orientals 1 in the Argentine capital, and the daily traffic between the two cities may be judged by the crowd assembled morning and evening on board the Piroscafi.
A brisk walk round the city to obtain a first impression of South America was the most I could do in a stop of a few hours. The landing was somewhat laborious owing to a heavy sea. The President of the Republic was obliging enough to send me a greeting by one of his aides-de-camp, and placed at my disposal the most comfortable of boats, which, after dancing gaily for a while on the waves, finally landed us without too much trouble. The docks, constructed by a French firm, are nearly approaching completion. The great European vessels could here, as at Rio, moor alongside the quays. Why should the Regina Elena lie off outside? A question of red-tape, such as I found later at Rio de Janeiro, exposes travellers to the annoyance of transhipping when every accommodation exists for mooring inside the harbour. Thus on these Latin shores I found a familiar feature of my own bureaucratic land.
Beside the French Minister, who is a friend, numerous journalists of pen and kodak came to offer a cordial welcome to their confrere. M. Sillard, an eminent engineer from the ” Central ” School at the head of the French colony here, is in charge of the harbour works. He has succeeded in winning for our country the esteem of every class of the population. The motor-cars start off. The first visit is to the Post-office where I am greeted by a cordial Montevidean whom I do not recognise but whose first word reveals an habitué of Paris. I have travelled by a long road to find out here the boulevard atmosphere !
There can be no two opinions about Montevideo. It is a big, cheerful town, with handsome avenues well laid out. Some fine monuments denote a capital city. Streets animated but not too noisy; sumptuous villas in the suburbs; sub-tropical vegetation in gardens and parks; a pleasant promenade amid the palm-trees by the sea. The dwelling-houses are for the most part of the colonial type. A very lofty ground-floor, with door and windows too often surcharged with ornament resembling the sugar-icing of the Italian pastry-cook, and calculated to convey to these sunny lands an idea of cheap art. The unexpected thing is that the first floor stops short at its balconies as if sudden ruin had overtaken the builder. I found this feature repeated ad infinitum wherever I went. The most modest of citizens, as soon as he can turn his back on his primitive cabin of corrugated iron, makes a point of arousing the admiration of the public with the decorative balcony of a first floor that will never be built. Roofs flat and without chimneys : the climate allows of this. Occasionally a balustrade that almost gives the illusion of a finished building, but that the balcony, cut off short at a height of from two to three feet, leaves you again in doubt as to its object. The drawing-room windows are naturally in the front of the house, and here ladies in their indoor dress have no objection to showing themselves for the delectation of passers-by.
But let us say at once that in these countries where the blood is hot misconduct is rare. Men marry young, and the demands of a civilisation as yet untouched by decadence leaves little energy for pleasure that must be sought else-where than on the strait path. I will not say but what the great attraction of Paris for many South Americans is precisely the pleasure of the novelty it offers in this respect. It is sufficient for me to set down what came under my notice: happy homes and regular habits; a tranquil enjoyment of a life of virtue. The living-rooms are always grouped around a patio with its colonnade bright with trees and flowers, and here their occupants enjoy the utmost privacy with an absence of street noises.
These are the impressions gathered in a hasty walk, since my first visit was necessarily for the President of the Republic and my time was strictly limited. The Presidential palace was a modest-looking house, distinguished only by its guard. Many of the soldiers show strong signs of mixed blood. Curiously enough the sentry is posted not on the pavement but out in the street, opposite the palace. As traffic increases, this rule will need to be changed. The President was not in his office. I was cordially received, however, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was like the most obliging of Parisians. A few steps from the palace I met the President of the Republic, with a small crowd round him, and easily recognisable by his high hat. I was careful not to interrupt him. He is going to do me the honour of receiving me when I return to the capital of Uruguay.
Senor Williman is a compatriot, the son of a renchman, of Alsatian origin. Before his election he was professor of physics, and he has not thought it necessary to allow his political duties to interfere with his educational work; twice a week he lectures in the college, where he becomes again the happy schoolmaster whose pupils have not yet developed their powers of contradiction. This charming democratic simplicity is in curious contrast with our own persistent efforts to save as much of the ancient autocratic machinery as possible from the revolutionary shipwreck. It is agreeable to be able to testify to the great personal influence that M. Williman wields in this land of Latin dissension.
We must get back to the ship, which is announcing its departure. With what pleasure shall I revisit Montevideo ! There is perhaps more of a French atmosphere about the capital of Uruguay than any other South American city, and it has just enough exotic charm to quicken our pleasure at finding French sympathies in these foreign hearts. We get a view from the deck of the Regina Elena, as we pass, of the Cerro, which is something like the MontValerien of Paris, and which in this land of flat alluvial soil assumes a very great importance. Like its prototype, it is crowned with a bristling line of fortifications, and Uruguay is so proud of this phenomenon that it has placed the Cerro in the national arms, where it figures in the form of a green sugar-loaf; no good Oriental omits to tell you that there is nothing like it in the Argentine.
Under the stinging breeze of the persistent pampero, our ” screw ” began to turn again in the heavy, clayey waters, with a slow, regular rhythm. Tomorrow at daybreak we shall be looking through our glasses at the port of Buenos Aires.
The area covered by the estuary is larger than Holland. Two big rivers, the Uruguay and the Parana, pour their waters into this enormous cul de sac, which is often ruffled by an unpleasant sea, as at this moment, and, after their junction at the small town of Nueva Palmira, in Uruguay, they project into the Atlantic a huge volume of water drawn from a vast water-shed representing one quarter of South America. The tide is felt nearly a hundred miles above the confluence. Montevideo, 200 kilometres from Buenos Aires, seems to guard the entrance of this inner sea, whilst the Argentine capital, situated on the opposite shore, is almost at the extremity of the bay. Clay deposits, silted down by a relatively weak current, clog the estuary and require constant dredging to keep the channel open to vessels of large tonnage. This is the problem which faces the port authorities of Buenos Aires.
At last the town comes in sight. From out the grey clouds driven by the pampero there emerge the massive shapes of the tall elevators those lofty cubes of masonry so dear to North America. Neither church steeples nor any other prominent monuments. Low, prosaic banks, barely distinguishable from the water, a few clumps of palms here and there, unbroken plains, an utter absence of background to the picture. We are preceded by two pilot boats, their flags flying in honour of the President of the Republic, who is lunching on board a training ship within the harbour.
Very slowly the Regina Elena brings up at the quayside. The gangway is put out, and be-hold a delegation of the Argentine Senate, accompanied by an officer from the President’s military household, sent to welcome me. A deputation from the French colony also arrives, having at its head the governor of the French Bank of Rio de la Plata, M. Py. Cordial hand-shakes : a thousand questions from either side. Friendly. greetings are exchanged, some of them taking almost the form of brief harangues in which the mother-country is not forgotten. Journalists swarm round us. As might be expected, the Prensa, Nacion, and Diario have each a word to say. I offer my best thanks to the members of the Senate. Farewell to the excellent Captain with my best wishes. Then I get into the motor-car which ten minutes later drops me at the door of my hotel. I am in the Argentine Republic. Henceforth I must keep my eyes open.
Buenos Aires first. It is a large European city, giving everywhere an impression of hasty growth, but foreshadowing, too, in its prodigious progress, the capital of a continent. The Avenida de Mayo, as wide as the finest of our boulevards, recalls Oxford Street in the arrangement of its shop-fronts and the ornamental features of its buildings. It starts from a large public square, rather clumsily decorated and closed on the sea side by a tall Italian edifice, known as the Palais Rose, in which Ministers and President hold their sittings; it is balanced at the other end of the avenue by another large square with the House of Parliament, a colossal building nearly approaching completion, with a cupola that resembles that of the Capitol of Washington. Every style of architecture is to be seen, from the showy, the more frequent, to the sober, comparatively rare. The finest building is without question that of the wealthy Prensa, which we shall visit later.
There is an epidemic of Italian architecture in Buenos Aires. Everywhere the eye rests on astragals and florets, amid terrible complications of interlaced lines. I except the dainty villas and imposing mansions which call public attention to the dwellings of the aristocracy. I suppose that the business quarters of all cities present the same features. The commercial quarter of Buenos Aires is the most crowded imaginable. Highways that seemed spacious twenty or thirty years ago for a population of two or three hundred thousand souls have become lamentably inadequate for a capital city with more than a million. The footway, so narrow that two can scarcely walk abreast, is closely shaved by a tramway, which constitutes a danger to life and limb. The traffic is severely regulated by a careful police. But so congested with foot passengers do certain streets become of an afternoon that they have had to be closed to vehicles.
In spite of the wisest of precautions, the problem of shopping in the chief business district is not easily solved. To stroll along, or, still worse, to pause to look in at a shop window, is out of the question. Politeness demands here that the honours of the road be paid to age as to sex; so if by chance, in the confusion, you come upon a friend, you must stand on the outer edge of the pavement so as to check as little as possible the flood of human beings driven inwards by the almost continuous passing of the tramway. It is only just to add that this means of locomotion, which is universally adopted here, is remarkably well organised. Still, there are occasions when one must go on foot, and the municipal government, which has laid out elsewhere broad highways in which cabs, carriages, and motors may take their revenge for the scanty accommodation afforded them in the overcrowded centre, is faced with the urgent necessity of laying out hundreds of millions of francs in a scheme for street improvement that cannot be much longer postponed.
One of the peculiarities of Buenos Aires is that you can see no end to it. Since on the side of the Pampas there is no obstacle to building operations, small colonial houses, similar to those that attracted my notice at Montevideo, make a fringe on the edge of the city, that extends ever farther and farther into the plain in proportion as building plots in the city area the object of perpetual speculationrise in value. Some of brick, some of plaster or cement, these villas make comfortable quarters in a land where no chimney-stacks are needed. The quality of the building, however, goes down naturally as one draws nearer the Pampas. The lowest end of the scale offers the greatest simplification : walls of clay dried in the sun, with a roof of corrugated iron, or the more primitive rancho, supported on empty oil-cans, placed at convenient distances, with the spaces filled in with boughs or thatch. One hardly knows whether this outer edge of habitations can fairly be included in the city area or not. The motor-car has been travelling so long that a doubt is permissible. The track is only a more or less level, earth road, which just allows the car to run over its surface but cannot be said to add anything to the pleasure of the drive.
The drawback in this country is the absence of wood, of stone, and of coal. No doubt in the more distant provinces there are still fine forests, which are being ruthlessly devastated either for québracho (the tree that is richest in tannin), or for fuel for factory furnaces; but the cost of transport is so great that the more prosperous part of the Republic gets its timber from Nor-way. Uruguay, on the other hand, supplies a stone that is excellent both for building and for macadam and paving : a heavy expense. As for coal, it is the return cargo of English vessels which carry as inward freight frozen meat and live cattle.
Without comparing in density of shipping with the ports of London, or New York, or Liver-pool, a noble line of sea-monsters may be seen here stretching seven miles in length, most of them being rapidly loaded or unloaded in the docks by powerful cranes. The scene has been a hundred times described, and offers here no specially characteristic features.
I should need a volume if I tried to describe the plan and equipment of the docks of Buenos Aires. Those who take an interest in the subject can easily get all the information they need. The rest will be grateful to me for resisting the temptation to quote long lists of figures copied from technical reports. Here it will suffice for me to state that there are two portsthe Riachuelo and the ” port of the capital.” The former is a natural harbour formed by a stream of the same name. It is used as the auxiliary of the other, which is finely fitted with every appliance of modern science. More than 30,000 craft, sail and steam, come in and out annually, including at least 4000 from overseas.
The big grain elevators have been described over and over again. Those of Buenos Aires are no whit inferior to the best of the gigantic structures of North America. Each can load 20,000 tons of grain in a day. To one there is attached a mill said to be the largest in the world. Covered by way of precaution with the long white shirt that stamped us at once as real millers, we wandered pleasantly enough amongst the millstones and bolters which transform the small grey wheat of the Pampas into fine white flour. Our Beauce farmers accustomed to heavy ears of golden wheat would not appreciate this species, which, moreover, re-quires careful washing. We were told that it is the richest in gluten of all known species. Diabetics know, therefore, for what to ask.
The slaughter-houses of the Negra, round which I was taken by M. Carlos Luro (son of a Frenchman) form a model establishment in which no less than 1200 oxen are killed daily, without counting sheep and pigsa faithful copy of the famous slaughter-houses of North America. The beast, having reached the end of a cul de sac, is felled by a blow from a mallet and slips down a slope, at the foot of which the carotid artery is cut. After this operation, the body is hooked up by a small wagon moving along an aerial rail, and is then carried through a series of stages which end in its being handed over in two pieces to the freezing chambers to await speedy shipment for Englandthe great market for Argentine meat. The whole is performed with a rapidity so disconcerting that the innocent victim of our cannibal habits finds himself in the sack ready for freezing, with all his inside neatly packed into tins, before he has had time to think. ” We use everything but his squeals,” said a savage butcher of Chicago. Veterinaries are in attendance to inspect each beast, which in the event of its being condemned is immediately burnt.
The first colonists, arriving by sea, naturally built their town close to the port. The capital now, in its prosperity, seeks refinement of every kind, and laments that the approach to the sea-coast is disfigured by shipping, elevators, and wharves. The same might be said of any great seaport. Buenos Aires in reality needs a new harbour, but it looks as if the present one could scarcely be altered.
It is naturally in this part of the town that you find the wretched shanties which are the first refuge of the Italian immigrants whilst waiting for an opportunity to start off again. Here is to be seen all the sordid misery of European towns with the accompaniment of the usual degrading features. I hasten to add that help both public and privateis not lacking. The ladies of Buenos Aires have organised different charitable works, and visit needy families; as generosity is one of the leading traits in the Argentine character, much good is done in this way. There are no external signs of the feminine degradation that disfigures our own public streets.
Why is it that this swarm of Italians should stop in crowded Buenos Aires instead of going straight out to the Pampas, where labour is so urgently needed? I was told that the harvest frequently rots on the fields for want of reapers, and this in spite of wages that rise as high as twenty francs per day. There are a good many reasons for this. In the first place, such wages as this are only for a season of a few months or weeks. Then again, these Italian labourers complain that if they venture far from the city, they have no protection against the overbearing of officials, who are inclined to take advantage of their privileged position. I do not want to dwell on the point. The same complaintsbut more detailedreached me in Brazil. Both the Argentine and Brazilian Governments, to whom I submitted the charges brought against their representatives, protested that whenever any abuse could be proved against an agent he was proceeded against with the utmost rigour of the law. There can be no doubt as to the good faith of the authorities, who have every interest in encouraging the rapid growth of the population in the Pampas. Besides, it must be borne in mind that the elements of immigration are never of the highest quality. Still, I should not be surprised to learn that there was occasion for a stricter control in the direction I have indicated.
So far, I have said nothing of the beauties of the city. It is a pity that amongst the attractions of Buenos Aires the sea cannot be counted. A level shore does not lend itself to decorative effect. A mediocre vegetation; water of a dirty ochre, neither red nor yellow; nothing to be found to charm the eye. So I saw the sea only twice during my stay at Buenos Aires once on arrival, and again when I left. During the summer heat, that section of the population which is not compelled to stay flees to Mar del Plata, the Trouville of Buenos Aires, a charming conglomeration of beflowered villas on an ocean beach.
A perfectly healthy city. No expense has been spared to satisfy the demands of a good system of municipal sanitation. Avenues planted with trees, gardens and parks laid out to ensure adequate reserves of fresh air, are available to all, and lawns exist for youthful sports. The zoological and botanical gardens are models of their kind. A fine racecourse, surrounded by the green belt of foliage of the Argentine Bois de Boulogne, is known as Palermo.
A Frenchman, the genial M. Thays, well known amongst his European colleagues, has entire control of the plantations and parks of Buenos Aires. M. Thays, who excels in French landscape gardening, takes delight in devoting his whole mind and life to his trees, his plants and flowers. He is ready at any moment to defend his charge against attacksan attitude that is wholly superfluous, since the public of Buenos Aires never lets slip an opportunity of testifying its gratitude to him.
Wherever he discovers a propitious site, the master-gardener plants some shoot which will one day be a joy to look upon. He has laid out and planted fine parks. He has large green-houses at his disposal, and any prominent citizen, or any association popular or aristocratic can, for the asking, have the floral decorations needed for a fete delivered at his door by the municipal carts.
In his search after rare plants for the enrichment of his town, M. Thays has visited equatorial regionsthe Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil. As his ambition vaults beyond the boundaries of Buenos Aires, he has conceived a project, already in process of execution, of founding a great national park, as in the United States, in which all the marvels of tropical vegetation may be collected. The Falls of Iguazzugreater and loftier than those of Niagarawould be enclosed in this vast estate on the very frontiers of Brazil.
Apart from these plans of conquest, which make him a rival of Alexander, M. Thays is a modest, affable man, who takes a good deal of trouble to look as if he had done nothing out of the common. Were I but competent I would describe the organisation of his botanical gar-den, which is superior to any to be found in the old continent. More amusing is it, perhaps, to follow him through the various sections in which the characteristic flora of every part of the world is well represented. The Argentine, as may be supposed, has here the larger share. Here are displayed specimens of the principal species of flora to be found in the district lying between the frozen regions of Tierra del Fuego and the Equator : the Antarctic beech, the carob palm, the québracho (rendered extraordinarily durable by the quantity of tannin it contains, and in great request for railway sleepers), walnut, and the cedar of Tucuman or of Mendozawhich, by the way, is not a cedar. It is from its wood that cigar boxes are made. It is used in the woodwork of rich houses, for it is easy to handle and highly decorative by reason of its warm colouring. Its fault is that it warps; wherever you find it in house fittings, doors and windows refuse to open or shut as they should.
But you should see M. Thays doing the honours of the ombu and the palo borracho. The ombu is the marvel of the Pampas, the sole tree which the locust refuses to touch. For this reason alone, it has been allowed to grow freely, though not even man has found a way to utilise what the voracious insects of Providence decline. For the ombu prides itself on being good for nothing. It does not even lend itself to making good firewood. It is only to look at.
But that is sufficient. Imagine an object resembling the backs of antediluvian monsters, mastodons or elephants, lying in the shade of a great mass of sheltering foliage. Heavy folds in the grey rind denote a growing limb, a rounded shoulder, a gigantic head half concealed. These are the tremendous roots of the ombu, whose delight it is to issue forth from the soil in the form of astonishing animated objects. When by foot and stick you have ascertained that these living shapes are in reality mummified within a thick bark, you turn your attention to the trunk itself and find it hollow, with a crumbling surface.
Another surprise ! The finger sinks into the tree, meeting only the sort of resistance that would be offered by a thin sheet of paper. And now fine powdery scales of a substance which should be wood, but, in fact, is indescribable, fall into your hand. They crumble away into an impalpable dust, which is carried off by the breeze before you have had time to examine it. Now you have the secret of the ombu. Its wood evaporates in the open air ; at the same time there spring from its strangely beast-like roots young and living shoots of the parent tree. Since it is impossible to burn the non-existent, you cannot, obviously, have recourse to the ombu to cook your lunch. Here is an example in the vegetable world of paradox, which has no mission in life but a glorious uselessness. If it were but beautiful I should recommend the ombu to poets who profess to prefer the Beautiful to the Useful. But as its appearance does not impress the beholder, the wisest course is to impute its existence to momentary abstraction on the part of the Creator.
The palo borracho, on the other hand, is extremely useful, though not without a touch of capriciousness. Its popular name, which signifies ” the drunkard,” has been given to it on the ground that it seems to stagger ; but such a name is a libel. This peaceful denizen of the forest has nothing to do with the alcoholic world. Nor can it be said to attract human society, for its strange trunk, strangled in a collar of roots, and bulging in its middle parts, bristles with innumerable points, short and sharp, which prevent all undue familiarity. These thorns fall with age, at least from the lower part of the tree, but as they exist elsewhere, even on the smallest twig, no animal, from man to monkey, can venture upon its branches.
The trunk, if tapped with a cane, returns a hollow sound. The tree is, in fact, empty, needing only to be cut into lengths to give man all he needs for a trough. The Indian squaw uses it to wash her linen, and the wood, exposed to the double action of air and water, becomes as hard as cement. The unripe fruit, the size of a good apple, furnishes a white cream, which, if not quite the quality demanded for five o’clock tea at Rumpelmayer’s, still supplies the natives with a savoury breakfast. Later, when the fruit comes to maturity, it bursts under the sun’s rays into a large tuft of silky cotton, dotting the branches with white balls and furnishing admirable material for the birds with which to build their nests. It is for this reason that the species is known as the ” false cotton-tree.” The exceedingly fine thread produced by this tree is too short to be spun, but the Indians, and even Europeans, turn it to account in many different ways. Soft pillows and cushions are made with it, and I can speak personally of their comfort.
M. Thays was not the man to let us leave without seeing his plantations of yerba-maté. Every one knows that maté, the Paraguay holly, is a native of Paraguay, whence it spread to Chili, Brazil, and the Argentine. Its leaves, dried and slightly roasted, yield a stimulating infusion that is as much enjoyed by the South American colonists as by the natives. Like kola, tea, and coffee, maté contains a large pro-portion of caffeine, which renders it a good nerve tonic and, at the same time, a digestive.
I have tasted “Paraguay tea,” or ” Jesuits’ tea,” on several occasions, but cannot honestly say I like it. The palate, however, ends by getting used to anything. I have a friend who drinks valerian with pleasure. All South America delights in the peculiar aroma of the strengthening but, on first acquaintance, certainly unpleasant maté. Existence in the Pampas is strenuous. The days are past when a cow was lassoed to provide a beefsteak for your lunch. The favourite stimulant of the rancho is the yerba-maté which puts new life into the exhausted horseman. Everywhere in town and country, the first rite in the morning is maté-drinking. Men and women carry the little gourd around, into which each in turn dips the tube of the bombilla, a perforated disc which travels from mouth to mouth, in the company of devotees.
In the old days, it was the tradition of maté-making to give the first infusionpoured off quickly, but invariably slightly bitterto the servants. Growing familiarity with the herb has practically set aside this practice: in fact, while it is, and probably always will be, the favourite drink of the masses, the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, though still appreciating maté, drink in preference China tea or Santos coffee, like good Europeans. Yet the consumption of maté has increased enormously with the population. It has been calculated that an Argentino spends twice as much in a year on maté as a Frenchman on coffee. Until the last few years the Argentine Republic, independently of its home production, imported from Brazil and Paraguay 40 millions of kilogrammes, estimated at 22 millions of francs.
As might be expected, the Argentine Government has shown itself anxious to encourage the cultivation of maté. The difficulty lay in the germinating process. In certain provinces of the Argentine, maté grew wild, but when sown the crops were a failure. After many trials, M. Thays discovered that the seed only sprouted after long soaking in warm water, and that, strangely enough, the plants thus produced could be propagated without repeating this preliminary process. It appears that in the ordinary course of nature, the fertilising process takes place in the stomach of birds. The Jesuits had made the same discovery, but on their expulsion they carried the secret away with them. M. Thays rediscovered it. More than once an attempt has been made to introduce the habit of maté-drinking into Europe. I do not think it will easily come about. It would, nevertheless, be a great boon if yerba-maté could with us, as in South America, be substituted for the alcohol which is threatening us with irrevocable destruction.
I cannot leave the Botanical Garden without noting the pleasing effect of the light trellises which are a feature of all large gardens here. In this fine climate, where winter’s cold is practically unknown, neither shrubs nor flowers need the protection of glass. An arbour of trellis-work with gay flower-borders forms a winter garden without glass, in which sun and shade, cunningly blended, throw into delicate relief the beauties of the plants. It is not quite the open air, and neither is it the greenhouse. Let us call it a vast cage of decorative vegetation.