Uruguay, an off-the-grid and lovely but small country is squeezed in between Brazil to its north and Argentina to its south. Its capital, Montevideo, is located on the Rio de la Plata, a large river and estuary that further upstream, brings you into the center of Buenos Aires.
Uruguay had a lot of German immigration from the last century, so as you might imagine, everything in Montevideo – and in the rest of the country – “works”, and “works well”. As their German ancestors might have said, Alles in ordnung – everything is in order – and in Uruguay, as opposed to elsewhere in So. America, the time is the time, 10:00 A.M. means 10 o’clock, not 10:15 or 9:45. No manana mentality here…..While Argentina is a 2nd-world country and Brazil a 3rd-world country, Uruguay is definitely First World, with a strong economy, stable democratic government, strong currency and sound banking system.
Last year when we were in Uruguay it was Saturday, when – in addition to it being Shabbat and thus we can’t spend money – everything except restaurants, souvenir and gift shops and mom-and-pop fruit and vegetable stores are closed. Unfortunately for us, this year again, we landed on Shabbat, so we were left to our own devices to merely meander on foot……
Most of Uruguay is flat prairie land called pampas. This land is ideal for grazing cattle. There are about 4 million people living in Uruguay, almost half of them in Montevideo, and about 12 million head of cattle. So the Uruguayans have a surplus of meat that far exceeds their consumption needs. This makes Uruguay a huge meat exporter. Two of their main customers are China, where a rising middle class is increasing demand for beef far in excess of what the Chinese can produce. So the Chinese are big buyers of Uruguayan beef. Another large customer for beef is Israel. Almost all the kosher beef that is imported into Israel comes from Uruguay. Kosher meat is slaughtered somewhat differently from non-kosher meat, so special facilities have been set up in the Uruguay meat industry to handle this. Observant Muslims, by the way, are permitted to eat kosher meat under Sharia law, but observant Jews are not permitted to eat halal meat (meat slaughtered according to the tenets of Islam).
And In Uruguay it’s all about the meat. Argentine grills or parillas are more well known, but at least from the looks of the meats on the grills in Montevideo, the Uruguayans have the Argentines beat hands down. Because we eat only kosher meat, the only thing we were able to eat from our meanderings was to eat our hearts out that we could not partake of the grilled meats in the Uruguayan parillas. The meats are grilled on open wood pit fires, often together with grilling vegetables. You order the kind or kinds of grilled meats you want on your plate, pay for the order – and dig in.
Montevideo was written by Kal, and anyone who knows Kal knows why he wrote this one!!!!
Does this smoked meat look good to you?
The turn-over in these places seems big, as the parillas always seem to have the next rack of meat ready for the grill.
What’s your pleasure? It’s all on the menu……
Different cuts of meat, different sausages, chicken, vegetables…..
Just park your carcass and place your order….
After indulging in this particularly masochistic form of self-inflicted torture, we left the parillas and started meandering through the downtown area, which was in walking distance of the ship. While Montevideo is not built on the same scale of grandeur as Buenos Aires, nevertheless it has wonderful architecture very reminiscent of Europe, along with many public squares, parks and fountains that say “Europe” in a way that similar public facilities in the USA cannot.
The detail on this particular fountain, located in a park that sits between and separates the legislative building and the main Cathedral of Montevideo (the separation between them signifying the clear separation of Church and State in Uruguay), was lovely and fascinating. See the dragon gargoyles spewing water?
Look at the foot on the little guy below.
Even the fish are actually sea serpents….
The architecture of Montevideo is a mixture of styles, mainly baroque and rococo. This is reflected in both public and private buildings.
In this particular building even the under-portion of the balconies are decorated to add an additional esthetic element to the building’s overall style.
We also came across some quirky designs on several of the buildings in and around the downtown area of Montevideo. For example, this was the artwork on the entry door of a building that housed a children’s day-care facility, as you can see from the artwork on the rails at the bottom of the picture that serve as a protective barrier from the street.
But a closer look at the artwork on the entry doors provided the following. I guess the owners wanted to make sure everyone knew that this day-care center was co-ed, for everyone…..
As we meandered through a downtown Montevideo pedestrian mall we came upon two police officers who looked like they were taking orders from customers in an outdoor cafe.
Actually, it seems there had just been a robbery in the restaurant a few minutes earlier, and the police were gathering testimony from potential witnesses.
Uruguayans and Argentines have a national drink called mate (pronounced “ma-tey”). It’s a kind of brewed drink that….well, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. It has its own special drinking vessel, and these vessels are sold at street fairs and shops pretty much everywhere. The mate “glass” comes with an alpaca (or if you want to spend more money, a silver) mateh straw/ filter, through which you sip the mate and the part that’s in the beverage filters out the mate equivalent of the ground tea leaves or coffee grounds. You can see what the “straw/filter looks like in several of the mate glasses at the bottom of the photo below:
Some mate glasses are made of other natural – if not plant – materials that are apparently plentiful in Uruguay. I wonder how you would walk into a mate bar in a hurry and say in Spanish, “Give me a mate and step on it!”
Saturday in Montevideo is a lazy day, where most stores and shops are closed, where you have time for a game of chess with a friend…..
or just mozy around a street crafts fair
…..and as we came to the end of our Shabbat meander in downtown Montevideo, we came upon Coca Cola advertisements with an artistic flair that encapsulated the artsy area through which we walked:
From here it was a quick walk back to the ship, with the Uruguayan flag waving in the port area……
……and away to a new adventure tomorrow……