Which were oddly high
Without knowing why, Bronwen has wanted to visit Uruguay since the 4th grade. Something about the name. So far this wonderful little country has not disappointed. After our somewhat taxing adventures in Buenos Aires, we spent a quiet day regrouping in the small Delta river town of Tigre, Argentina. We then enjoyed a three hour cruisey boat trip through the delta to the Uruguayan border, where we breezed through customs and breathed in the sweet air of dreams coming true.
We were immediately impressed by the tranquil, exceptionally friendly Uruguayans (prounounced down here ¨oo-roo-WAH-zhens¨ - letters ¨y¨ and ¨ll¨ sound like a soft ¨j¨). Their love of the aforementioned hot herbal drink Mate surpasses even that of the Argentinians, and its rare to see a citizen not toting the ubiquitous thermos and mate under one arm. It can be quite comical, seeing people trying to carry multiple grocery bags, maneuver a scooter, or do a number of other activities without the use of their ¨mate arm¨.
Our first destination was Colonia, a charming seaside town founded by Portuguese and Spanish settlers. Cobblestone streets line the older part of town, weaving through a network of 8 tiny museums.
These included a replica of a settlement era Portuguese home, a very random municipal museum displaying among other things the skeleton of a giant prehistoric beaver relative, and an indigenous museum containing mostly rocks. Hundreds of rocks. We also took a short bus ride to a defunct entertainment complex 5 km down the long stretch of golden beach. It was made up of a crumbling bullfighting ring, a casino which is now used as a school, a Basque raquetball stadium (!), and a horserace track, which seems to be back in business. We caught a glimpse of the last race, and the hubbub of people collecting on their bets.
After a few days of small town life we headed to the country's capital, Montevideo. A mix of cosmopolitan chic and old world charm, this city has a bit of everything. We stayed in a cool arty hostel (which blessedly added cheese and fruit to the staple elements of the "hostel included breakfast", usually just white bread, jam, butter, and dulce de leche). It was 2 blocks from the beautiful seafront promenade, where we took in some youth roller hockey, beach volleyball, a 20 member roller dance team practice, and some killer sunsets. We also enjoyed the Ciudad Viejo (Old City) area of town. Although much it seemed to be under construction, it had a certain decrepit charm and an awesome Joaquin Torres Garcia museum (look him up!).
Probably the highlight of Montevideo was Uruguayan pro basketball, which we managed to accidentally attend 3 nights in a row. The Uruguayan basketball fanatics definitely rival the BA soccer fans for chanting and singing. The first night (Monday) the game was called in the 3rd quarter on account of a shattered backboard. We reconvened in a different gym for a continuation the next night, only to be thwarted by a lack of police (who must be in attendence to prevent overzealous fans from attacking the refs and each other). Finally Wednesday night back in the original gym they managed to finish the game, with the hometown suffering a disappointing loss. Really we think everyone was a little relieved that the game was actually over.
Next stop is a tiny beach town where we are hoping there will be nothing to do. Viva Uruguay!
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