The Smaller Buenos Aires ?

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2007

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getting up at 5 was painful, then I was freezing on my way to the bus terminal (but the sky was incredible on that new moon night), and then I had chosen a window seat so I was freezing in my seat, and then the seat beside became occupied by a huge guy, full of muscles, who had arms like my thighs, and he was listening to shitty hard melodic metal and it was so loud I could hear everything of course. I am sure he would have made an effort if I had asked him to try make less noise and take less space, or maybe he would have squashed me on the window thinking it was a mosquito buzzing in his hear, so I played it safe and went to an empty seat that was not near the window, so I had space and calm and heat... relatively perfect.

The bus ride was fantastic, as we headed east during more than two hours, passing from a clear moonless starlit sky to a pure dawn and then sunrise.

At the bus terminal, I had a real coffee, and a ham and cheese croissant, that was a good start in Montevideo.

I took a bus to the old city (Ciudad Vieja), and found a hostel there. Had to wait till 2pm to get my bed, but I could use the internet and I took a hot shower, which I had been without for 2 days. I could have gone directly out there walking in the morning light etc.. but it was really to cold! So eventually I made an attempt to go outside at 10, and it was almost warm!

I walked in the Ciudad Vieja, which is quite old and has some very nice buildings, but which is also lacking maintenance. The city is quite calm compared to Buenos Aires. I make the comparison because many portenos (local of BsAs) say that Montevideo is like a smaller, calmer Buenos Aires, where they'd enjoy spending their old days...
I won't try to make comparisons, but it is definitely true that the culture on both sides of Rio de la Plata has lots in common, starting with their particular pronunciation (Y pronounced CH), their habit of having mate anywhere and at any time, and the huge consumption of meat.

I walked to Plaza Matriz, visited the Catedral (a standard European build, that I had not seen since a while), which holds a number of wooden sculptures and glass vitrail.
Plaza Zabala particularity is its "French square" design, as it is fully fenced.

Near the harbour, the Sarandi jetty is a popular spot for fishing, or just for a stroll. There were numerous fishermen, but I did not see them catch anything with their lines. The only one who was getting fish was using a net, attached to a perch, that he was sinking and then lifting out of the water with small fishes in it.

I was strolling alone in the Ciudad Vieja, and along the harbour, and it was a fine day for me. It became better as I walked into the Mercado del Puerto. I had expected a fish market... it was a meat fair! Dozens of restaurants proposing all kind of meat, that could be seen grilling on giant "asados" (way bigger than their Argentine cunterparts). I chose one, sat at the bar, ordered a piece of meat, fries and a glass of red wine. The wine was young and strong. The fries were ok. The piece of meat was at the very least 600g, and succulent. Not cheap, but not expensive either, a damn good place to eat...
The building itself is interesting, with an ornate steel structure like in a train station.

Later I walked to Plaza Independencia. At the center, a statue of General Artigas, the national hero, and below the statue the mausoleum with the remains of Artigas. In the mausoleum the important dates and feats of Artigas were written on the walls, somehow "artistically", apparently following the constructivist ideas of Uruguayan artist Garcia Torres.
On Plaza Independencia there is also the Palacio Salvo, an immense building (capped with an ugly telecom structure) that is one of the symbols of Uruguay.

During the afternoon I also visited a house of the National Museum (which is spread over ten buildings or so), containing prehistoric materials (bolas, axes, tools, arrow heads, "head-breakers", etc...), colonial exhibits, recounts from the independence and endless wars with or between Portugal, Brazil, Spain, and England, and a photo exhibition of the Uruguayan cities during the past century.

After a quick nap at the hostel, I set off again on a mission: find postcards. I had to ask directions to be pointed at tourist shops, and once I found them their selection of postcards was so poor that it wasn't even funny. Really strange that they don't have proper quality postcards, I don't get it.
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