Monday, April 4, 2011

Montevideo, March 26-April 4, 2011

Only ten more days on the South American phase of our walkabout, and we have been in Montevideo for more than a week.  On a long walkabout, as opposed to a short tour, we need some slow time, or some down time.  Call it what you will, but nobody can just keep going at a tourist's pace for great lengths of time.

So we have been taking it easy here.  Casa Sarandi is a guesthouse in the Ciudad Vieja (Old City) section of Montevideo.  Karen and Sergio run a marvelous place.  Calle Buenos Aires is a bit of a sound canyon, and it seems to be the major thoroughfare for city busses.  It can be a bit noisy, but one learns quickly to compensate for that.  And we have met very interesting people who have stayed here.

"They" say that Montevideo is a kind of time warp place that reminds folks of what Buenos Aires was like fifty years ago.  Coca Cola ads are everywhere, and every one of them is retro.  A pleasant city, but I can see that there may not be much opportunity for young people.  It seems somehow not quite as prosperous as Buenos Aires.

Montevideo was a seaport from colonial times, much less subject to silting from the River Plate than Buenos Aires.  So it stayed, and Uruguay ended up as an independent country instead of attached to Argentina or to Brazil.  The channel from the river into the port is dredged and marked with buoys.  If you look carefully, you can see a little bit of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee sticking up just outside the channel.  The ship was scuttled there in 1939 because it was trapped in a neutral port and the British navy was waiting for it to makes its break down the narrow channel across the mud shoals to international waters.  I could see the ship's remains, but the camera could not.

What goes out of the port?  Livestock products:  meat, wool, leather.  Just like it was two hundred years ago.  Salted meat at first, then corned beef and mutton (yummy), and finally frozen meat once the technology was available.

Like Argentina, this is no place for a vegetarian!

The "ramblas" along the waterfronts are very pleasant walks.  The river is so wide here that Uruguayans call it the sea, which in fact, it is.  We are planning to visit the town of Colonia del Sacramento on one day, and to the beach at Piriapolis on another.  Not planning to go all the way to Punta del Este.

This won't be the last entry for Uruguay, and I am thinking about a short one on South America in general.  But in a way, I have already leaped ahead mentally to Ireland, where we will head after two frantic weeks back in the States.

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