Landing in Uruguay

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
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350
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Trip End Dec 01, 2007


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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Arriving in Colonia at night, I asked for instructions to reach the city center, started walking, and got lost just a block away from the center... it is just that the center is contained on one street, on a length of 500 meters, and the parallel streets are not lit, completely dark.

Finally I found the hostel I had read about. Checked in, and then went out to get some money. I was not hungry at all, having eaten in the boat, but walking past a small hole-in-the-wall I stopped to try the local hamburguesa, and ended up eating a milanesa (breaded steack with ham and cheese and eggs and vegetables... in bread!

The night was very very cold, and of course I had left my warm jacket in Buenos AIres, thinking that autumn was still a good time to go around wearing a t-shirt. Very wrong.
The next day was supposed to be rainy, so I did not know exactly what I was to do... but in fact it turned out to be a perfect blue sky, with a lot of wind, and I set off for the exploration of Colonia.

The full name of the town is Colonia del Sacramento, founded in 1680 by the Portuguese. That stronghold in the Rio de la Plata was a strategic point between the Portuguese and Spanish regions in South America. A lot of Portuguese-related smuggling or commerce went through this port, which was under regular attack or occupation by the Spaniards and English. Later Argentina and Brasil became as well part of the equation, but that is Uruguayan history.

The (old) city being originally Portuguese, it is different from all the other cities in the region. The buildings, the street layout (which is not in square blocks), but also the numerous battles and traffic based in or around the city, make the ciudad vieja of colonia a culturally rich place, that was declared Unesco World Heritage in 1995.
There were museums, inside historical buildings like Casa de Nacarello. One of the museums had an archeological section with dinosaurs fossiles, I love it. There were also a lot of stuffed animals, which I don't really appreciate (knowing that photography and filming is a much better alternative), and a huge collection of insects.
Apart from that, the "usual" stuff you can find in the "new worlds": pre-colonial era, colonial remains (with lots of weapons and declarations of independance/property/war, etc...), and sometimes an account of the life and customs of native populations. Interesting, as usual, but very much from a colon point of view (For a more "native local" point of view, I have to give credit to the museum I visited in Ushuaia, and those in Oz and NZ of course).

Later in the day I took a bus to the other side of Colonia, some 5km away, which was developped as a huge posh recreation center, with big hotel, casino, plaza de toros, a fronton, and an hippodrome. They all date from the beginning of the century, and there is nothing really beautiful about that section of town, although the size and gigantism of the project is interesting. Nowadays it's all abandonned and crumbling.

I bought a ticket to Montevideo, leaving at 6 in the morning. I had planned to spend the evening studying a bit of spanish, but I tried the local Tannat wine (used only here and in Madiran), it was young and strong, so I had to go and get some cheese and bread, and then two other frenchies joined in and we ate and drank more, talking politics and skydiving...
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