Mate', meat and peñarol

Trip Start Oct 28, 2007
Trip End Dec 29, 2007

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's a clear sign of my growing maturity that the 2 things I've thought most about since entering Uruguay have been football and 'The Simpsons'. I guess the football is understandable, and I will explain it further later, but why 'The Simpsons'? Not The Simpsons in general, but a specific bit of Homer brilliance. It's the episode where the family have to go to Australia, so they are looking on the map to check where it is. After they find it, Homer chimes in with -

"Hey, look at this crazy country - U-R-gay!"

Funny then. Funny now. Maturity is over-rated.

Hilarious name aside, Uruguay is also famous in the football world. Why? Not just for being the birthplace of a certain jet by the name of Alvaro Recoba (see Korea blog for my information on this man), but because it hosted, and won (beating Argentina 4-2) the very first World Cup in 1930. It also won in 1950. That's 2 World Cups. Not bad for a country of 3.5 million. The stadium where it all happenned in 1930, the Estadio Centenario, is still standing today. Barely. This aging piece of football history is also where Australia has had to play to reach the last 2 World Cups. Special significance. It, reportedly, holds 70,000, but the day I was there to see Ramplas Juniors play Peņarol, it was about a tenth of that. Peņarol are the Uruguay equivalent of Boca Juniors. Really famous, and notoriously crazy fans. But this year they've been average, 11th in a 16 team league. So I just sat and imagined the place when it was full and thumping for Australia's visits. I know it doesn't matter now, but I still don't understand why Frank Farina played Shaun Murphy in 2001. That first goal where Dario Silva just strolled by him to score is forever burned into my memory. Ramplas beat Peņarol 3-2.

Uruguay are lining up a bid for the 2030 World Cup.

Montevideo itself has been interesting. Not cheap, but interesting. Nice beach, on the Rio del Plata, and a small Old City. The Old City actually has a heap of old Spanish style buildings, that these days, no-one can afford to keep looking sharp. But, it's clear to see, that before the economy went bust, this was a stately and elegant city. My guidebook referred to it as being the 'Switzerland of South America'. Whatever. An thing I have noticed in my wanderings is that the locals seem to be completely addicted to mate´. Way more than Argentines. Way more. They drink it everywhere, all the time. Sitting, standing, walking, talking, shopping, working, whilst riding a motorcycle - all the time. I mean, to me it would be pretty annoying to have to carry around a thermos and cup all day, but the all do it. Who can't go from home to work without drinking something that tastes to me like hot water mixed with grass clippings? Bizarre. The addiction is so bad that it's illegal to drive and drink mate', and buses have signs that say "Drinking mate' prohibited". Let me say it again - it's just bad tea!

Montevideo has a perfect, bronze, replica of Michaelangelo's David. Random.

The main attraction in this town is the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market). Let me break this place down for you - it's a huge shed with a huge tin roof. Inside this huge shed with the huge tin roof are a heap of restaurants all selling one thing - huge slabs of meat. Huge steaks, huge sausages, huge chickens, huge ribs, huge everything. All cooked on huge racks by huge wood fires. And to wash it down, huge beers. This is what the Mercado is all about. Nothing else. Seriously. That's it. A more appropriate name would be 'Huge Meat Market of Death'. Clearly, how could I not spend a lazy afternoon here? Just me, a huge steak and a huge beer. Does it get much better? Not in this traveller's books. Surely heaven resembles something like this, but on some huge cloud instead of an old port, surrounded by other clouds (like the football cloud and the lemon meringue pie cloud), instead of container ships (one of which that was from North Korea). I do love steak.

Time to get back - back to Buenos Aires...yeeeeessssss!!!
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