Thursday, March 12, 2009

Greetings from Video Mountain

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

Montevideo... It seems like classy name. A name that deserves to be among names like Ibiza, Las Vegas, and Monte Carlo, doesn´t it? Its strange that prior to coming to South America, I didn´t really know where Uruguay was on the map... then again that could probably have been said for a lot of places in the world. Lonely Planet doesn´t spend much time on Uruguay, the only real information thats really important to the traveler is that it is home of some world class beach resorts, and often considered a suburb of Buenos Aires. That´s not a recommendation, that´s a warning. Ill founded.

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

Uruguay, or Montevideo, specifically (because that´s the subject of this post) has the beach resorts and shopping centers that might attract a rich Porteño (citizen of Buenos Aires) looking for a weekend away, but there it also has quite a bit more.

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

First off, I´m pretty interested in turn of the century architecture forms, especially art deco andart nouveau. Buenos Aires has a lot of pretty architecture, but after walking a significant portion of both B.A. and M.V., Montevideo wins out in most interesting building forms. Probably the most significant Sky Scraper, the Palacio Salvo, was first built in M.V. (a sister of the same design exists in B.A.) . Unfortunately the attendant would not let me ascend the structure despite telling him that I am an engineer, and that we have interest in these sorts of things... nor would he tell me who to call, but the exterior structure is still quite striking and unlike anything I´ve really seen before, and it has a fairly interesting design history, modeled after the stages of death in Danté´s inferno (this should have been the building they used in ghost busters, but Montevideo is not New York). Downtown there are some other well preserved peices from that period. Its a classy city to walk in, and that´s important to me.

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

Its a relatively big city, geographically at least, and there are a lot of places to walk and a lot of geography to walk over. Its one of few cities in South America that exhibits the Western Notion of the neighborhood. I can´t remember the neighborhoods offhand, but Montevideo had them and they were geographically and characteristically distinct, some having more sky scrapers, some outdoor cafés, some with distinct period architecture, etc. Because Montevideo saw much of its initial prosperity after the beef boom in the 1920s or so, it has really two cities, the old town, centered around the port, and the new town with its high rise apartments radiating from its beach.

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

Things to do... there are a lot, and I think that is where Montevideo derives much of its character. It has a few museums and other big city things but moreover it has some of traditional South American features exhibited in its own peculiar style. Going to the old town market is like walking back in time to the beef boom. The typical vendors have been replaced by parilla (grill) restaurants offering traditional Uruguayan and Argentinian fair, but the place just feels like it hasn´t really changed in 60 years but still enjoys its initial success. I can´t vouch for our food, I ordered the Riñon (kidney, I didn´t know, OK?) because its cheap, but I´m sure if you actually have a bit more money and order a steak, it would be pretty damned good. The city has a plethora of fairs, including the seven block flea market which has ¨antique¨ vendors and random old people dancing to their gramaphone. If museums, food, and old people dancing bore you, you can escape to the beach, a small amusement park, a soccer game or perhaps see the president address the populace.

From The Trip, pt. 7: Uruguay

Montevideo was fun and if you´re in the area, its worth a couple of days. Its kind of like Buenos Aires, but a lot easier to get to know.

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