Monday, July 18, 2011

Montevideo - Uruguay

The bus to Montevideo had Wi-Fi which was a nice surprise and we arrived at the station at around 1:30 that afternoon.  From there we took a bus into town and quickly found a hostel where we could dump the bags.  We then found a café with a really cheap ‘menu del dia’ serving up a large plate of stodgy chips and steak to curb the hunger before hitting the old town.  The city was busy as expected but not ridiculously so.  The sights are walkable and aside from the rush hour human traffic there was still an ample sense of space with an all-round relaxed vibe, even from the car drivers!  The sights generally consist of interesting architecture, museums and statues akin to a South American version of Prague in my humble opinion. 

We enjoyed a walk around the old city beginning with a dip into the Plaza Independencia with the grand focal point being the statue of Artigas, a national hero positioned atop of his namesake mausoleum.  The standout building surrounding the plaza is the massive Palacio Salvo which dominates the skyline with a bit of glamour.  I don’t think either of us expected to see so many horses and carts cavorting between road and rubbish skip and the riders were overtly amused at us taking their picture, how novel to have such a juxtaposition of the traditional wedged amongst the modern.  We watched the sun set over an industrial landscape at a pier and seafront that looked as though it had never had anyone stick up for it.  Hot water bottles were in order to combat the chill that night after our not so Uruguayan pizza and a more apt dulce de leche based desert.

Statue of Jose Gervasio Artigas
Palacio Salvo
One of the many horses and carts trawling through the city's rubbish

The view of Montevideo from the pier
An industrial sunset

The first thing we did the following day was buy our tickets to Puerto Allegre in Brazil at the bus station where we also left our bags before going back to the centro.  We walked to the old city again, taking our time sitting on a bench and watching the world go by as a guitarist busked out some classical covers.  Later we found the Mercado del Puerto which was full of places to eat but all of them acados (identical to the Argentinian parrilla or meat BBQ) with the exception of a stall selling all manner of empanadas including sweet options.  We opted to sit at the bar of an acado restaurant and work up a hunger until we could no longer resist and bought some food for ourselves.  


The rest of the day was spent watching Uruguay against Brazil in the Copa America group stages until we had to make our way back to the bus station for our overnight trip to Porto Allegre in Brazil.  Uruguay had been a mature, relaxing experience on the whole.  There wasn’t much in the way of partying to be had or if there was we would have needed to look much harder for it.  What I can gauge from our short stay is that it is a country to be enjoyed with good company by people who don’t have short attention spans.  Montevideo, unusually for a capital city, is not going to cater to your every need although the locals will certainly try their best to make you feel welcome.  I suggest that potential visitors should not try too hard to try to work out or summarise the Montevideo experience.  Just relax, smile at the locals and enjoy the city's quirkiness.
Salivating at Mercado del Puerto's acados
View of Mercado del Puerto from above

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