Uruguay travel blog by Mark Berman -
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In 2012 I visited Montevideo for the 2nd time and saw many more things as well as again
seeing the Sunday markets - 'La Feria Tristan Narvaja Flea Market'. In the 4yrs between my very first time in Montevideo and in South America in
2008 I had travelled extensively in the continent for over 2yrs on 3 other trips. This was now my 5th time in South America and I had become
a lot better at documenting my travels and taking note of names of things, like the name of the Sunday markets in Montevideo - La Feria Tristan
Narvaja Flea Market, for example.
City Tour and Points of Interest
My 2nd time in Montevideo in 2012 was fantastic. I saw a lot in 2 days and would love to return another time
in the future! I started at Plaza Constitucion (Matriz) (1726), this is where you can see the small antiques market
on Saturdays, lots of old bits
and pieces set out on tables - box cameras, ancient cutlery, numberplates, bells, bottles, books, coins, rusty keys, beads, dolls and colored
rocks. Cathedral Iglesia Matriz sits beside the plaza. From here I walked down the streets of the old city towards the pier. I wasn't quite as
blown away as I had been 4yrs earlier and I didn't see any policemen either but I did indeed like the graffiti art. The area around the pier was
again accommodated by fishermen. Scattered all around the new and old cities are historical buildings, I saw church Iglesia San Francisco with its
impressive tower/steeple. The building of the Republica Oriental Bank of Uruguay is pretty amazing, like a palace with 8 columns and a monument
Salvo Palace and Plaza Independencia
The area where the new and old cities join is around Plaza Independencia. One of Montevideo's most significant structures is here,
you can't miss it, it's huge, Palacio Salvo built between 1922 and 1928 in eclecticism style, amazing! On the opposite side of the plaza is the
theatre Teatro Solis, an historical building with columns built in 1842-56 with lateral wings added in 1869. To the left of the theatre is a statue
of Juan Manuel Blanes
(1830-1901), a Uruguayan painter. Nearby is a
tribute to famous tenor Jose Soler (1904-1999), born in Spain, moved to Uruguay when 6yrs old. On another corner of the plaza is the Cafe Montevideo
Building with its small dome at the top. You will no doubt also see the gigantic apartment building with its 100's of air conditioning units on
the side. Walking along the main street in the new city (Av 18 de Julio) I saw other buildings including the Cine Rex Building built in 1928
with its dome lookout. Next door is the interesting eye-catching facade of the Brazil Palace (1919).
Tango Dancing in the Street
I now came to a plaza called Plaza Fabini
with its fountain and sculpture of men on horses fighting called 'El Entrevero'. It was beside this plaza that I had seen the locals tango dancing
Friday evening 4yrs before. Across the road is Plaza de Cagancha (1836) and the Liberty Statue (1866), nearby is Santos Palace. I now came to the
one of a kind 'locks fountain ' Fuente de los Candados. It's a special fountain where you place a lock with your intials on the fountain. When 2 people
in love do this, they will return to the fountain together and their love will be forever locked, this is the legend. Next I came to the
Sorocabana Building (1925), it has a yellow dome, blue columns and many balconies. Near to here is the plaza with a naked statue of David de
Miguel Angel, a bronze replica of Michelangelos 'David' made in Florence Italy in 1931. It's in front of the Municipal Palace. Across the road
is church Iglesia Evangelica Metodista and up the road a little towards the markets is Plaza de los 33 Orientales, the main monument is to Juan
Antonio Lavalleja on his horse - a Uruguayan military man (1784-1853). The plaza is more like a park and also has a monument to the firemen -
Monumento al Bombero and something more special. 2 bronze men sit on one of the park benches, they are physicist Albert Einstein and Uruguayan
philosopher Carlos Vaz Ferreira. It says that in this plaza on the 24th of April 1925 they sat here to have a chat. I came now to a monument of
a man on a horse (common in South America), he is Manuel Oribe (1792-1857), 4th President of Uruguay, born and died in Montevideo. I saw a few
old churches around this area including Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepcion before heading back to Plaza de Cagancha for a bit of a sit down.
Attractive Leafy Streets
The central streets of Montevideo are very leafy, lots of trees, very attractive. I headed back down towards the river Rio de la Plata. I hadn't
really seen the southern side, it's called Dique Maua, there are several things to see around here. Plaza Espana, Plaza Republica Argentina,
monuments to British diplomat Sir Eugen Millington-Drake (1889-1972) and Admiral Guillermo Brown (1777-1857), an old clock tower and an amazing
wall mural of an underwater scene
. Walking northward through the grassy plazas with their shady palm trees I came to a monument to Isabel la
Catolica - Queen of Portugal. The Holy Trinity church with its 4 grand columns stands nearby. I passed some cool graffiti art as I walked to
Plaza Zabala (1878), this is the site of the original Governor House and warehouses, the central monument is to Montevideo's founder General Don
Bruno de Zabala (1682-1736). There are quite a few interesting historical buildings around this area. It was late Saturday afternoon, time to
head back to the hostel.
La Feria Tristan Narvaja Markets
I wanted to make an early start in the morning for the famous La Feria Tristan Narvaja markets! There is one thing you
absolutely don't want to miss in Montevideo, of course it's the Sunday markets! I have been to several famous markets in South America including
in Ecuador and Andahuaylas
in Peru, this one is up there with the best for sure! An amazing array of fruits and vegetables, flowers,
clothing, paintings, shoes and boots, cheeses, books, leather and wooden products, household accessories, antiques and furniture, hardware and
junk. I created an 18min video
in 1 take while walking through just the main street of these markets!
Bus to Tacuarembo
The next morning I left
Montevideo and travelled north for 4hrs 30mins to the town of Tacuarembo
My First Time in Montevideo
I was looking forward to visiting Montevideo. I arrived on a Friday afternoon in time for the weekend markets and religious events and to
explore the old city Ciudad Vieja and whatever else the city had to offer. After settling into my hostel in the center of town - I went up to
the main street and had a look around - plaza's and statues, shops and restaurants. As the daylight faded I saw an amazing thing in the street,
people dancing tango, mainly older couples. Music was playing and people were gathered around watching. The next day I planned to have a real good
walk around the old city.
The Metropolitan Cathedral (Iglesia Matriz) is worth a look.
The white interior has big archways and chandeliers, statues, golden shrines and monuments, paintings and stained glass windows.
Amazing Old City
I came to
Ciudad Vieja. There were a lot of tourist police there because many poverty stricken refugees from the rural areas live in slums in these streets.
I started to see some interesting and scary looking graffiti, some children posed for a photo and a man was carrying a barrel. It was my first
real experience in an old city in South America and I was totally blown away. The city takes you back to an earlier century, founded in 1726,
it used to have a wall built around it, it is the real deal. There are some interesting buildings and museums too. I saw a horse and cart, a busker
and met a man who had a flask of mate tea that wanted me to photograph him. I saw an artist painting a street scene before coming across an interesting
outdoor market area full of strange and interesting antiques - jewelry, paintings, rocks and bits and pieces.
The main walkway through the
old city heads down towards the sea and pier. A huge chimney or smokestack stands like a monument at the end of a street beside the Rio de la
Plata. The people of Montevideo love to spend their time fishing down here by the water's edge and drinking flasks of mate tea. I walked for a
long time out onto the pier and still didn't reach the end, it goes out very far. I looked back towards the old city with the new city behind
Pasta and Salad for Lunch
I headed back through streets with sinister graffiti and rough looking buildings up to the new city for lunch. A salad and hot pasta meal
for about $6.50USD, I gave the leftovers to a homeless boy.
BBQ at Hostel
That night there was a bbq on the roof terrace of my hostel for all the guests
which was fun. A bunch of us took a couple of taxis, which are really cheap, to the top of the old city where there is a lot of nightlife in
the area. We went to the Irish pub and had a great night, there was live music and a lot of people. The old city is a dangourous place at night
in the areas without lights, so don't venture too far in.
Religious Ceremony and Animal Market
Next morning I wanted to see the Sunday markets. On the way I saw an interesting
religious ceremony on the street beside a statue where people were holding small branches up in the air and priests were conducting a service
and throwing water. When I got towards the market area I began to see exotic animals like snakes, tarantula spiders and jerbos. I had a huge
snake put around my neck for a tip and had a tarantula spider crawl up my arm
! The Sunday market is massive and covers many blocks, buskers
playing music, people selling animals, food, pirated cds and software, everything and anything, 1000 stalls!
Bus to Rivera
In the afternoon I checked out of
my hostel and lay in a park for a few hours and at 6pm took a 6hr bus north to Rivera
on the border with Brazil. Montevideo is really nice,
laidback and with laidback people, quite clean and safe. I would recommend visiting during a weekend.