Uruguay travel blog by Mark Berman -
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The historical neighbourhood 'Barrio Historico' of Colonia del Sacramento is one of the most well-preserved old cities that I have seen in South America,
so well-preserved and very attractive to walk around, like Cartagena in Colombia. Colonia is an easy day trip by ferry from Buenos Aires and 2hrs 30mins west of Montevideo.
There are plenty of websites that tell you about the history of Colonia and that it was originally founded by the Portuguese in 1680, but changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish many times before it became part of
the independent country of Uruguay. Let me however take you for a good stroll around this fascinating and beautiful place. I stayed in a hostel in the
historical center, the morning sun shone through the tall trees lining both sides of the street onto the cobblestone road.
The tourist office has maps
of the area, the office is located beside Plaza 1811 (park) on Manuel Lobo Street.
Cross the Drawbridge
From Plaza 1811 an old drawbridge leads through the city gate with its
long stone wall that continues down close to the water. An old cannon guards this area known as the San Miguel Bastion. On the other side of this wall
the cobblestone road leads down to the Rio de la Plata. I walked up the grassy bank to be at the top of the wall and to see the beautiful views across
Street of Sighs
Walking west, the next street along is Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), it's a sidestreet with an old pink house and yellow streetlamp
on the corner. This street is from the first colonial period built by the Portuguese, it has the original cobblestone pavement and has houses on each
San Pedro Street
Calle de San Pedro running west adjacent to the river is fascinating with its colored houses with bright red and purple flower bushes outside.
The windows are either arched or square with shutters, the doors wide and tall and made from wood - yellow streetlamps, stone walls, tiled roofs, a vintage car
sits outside a restaurant, cobblestones. The end of the street comes out at San Pedro Bastion, this is the corner of the historical area beside the river.
Here Comes the Ferry from BA
At this point the street turns to the north. When you look out to the river from here you are looking in the direction of Buenos Aires. I could see the
ferry in the far distance coming over. A pair of fishermen stood on the rocks in front of me as the Buquebus ferry became much closer, suddenly it had
arrived, it's a quick 1hr journey from Buenos Aires to Colonia on the ferry
I did it in 2008, 2013 and 2016.
I was now on the street of San Gabriel. I wanted to see
every street. I turned right into the street Misiones de los Tapes, this is the next street back from and adjacent to Calle de San Pedro. This street
leads to the heart of the historical neighbourhood, there is a lot to see around here. The first place I visited on this street of significance was the
house where Hipolito Jose da Costa
was born in 1774, he was a Brazilian journalist and was the founder of the Brazilian press. Just a house or 2 up from
here is a huge skeleton of a blue whale that grounded on Puerto Platero Beach (approx 20kms east of Colonia) in 1983. Next door to here we have a
monument to Argentine Admiral Guillermo Brown - navy hero. On the corner before I came to the main square is the House of Virrey (Casa del Virrey),
this was the house that the Governor General lived in, in 1809. The house has a stone wall and original elements from its Portuguese construction.
Next door is the Municipal Museum, a white building with several cannons outside, this used to be Admiral Guillermo Brown's house. This is Colonia's
first museum, it displays objects, documents and artifacts from different periods, social groups and cultures of Colonia. Next door to the museum is
the Casa de Nacarello, a pink building with a tiled roof of Portuguese construction from the late 1700's, it exhibits furniture from that time period.
At this point is the cultural park called Paseo Cultural and the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco y Faro and the lighthouse. The convent was
built in 1694 but destroyed by fire 10yrs later.
The lighthouse was built in 1845, but not finished until 1857. It was time to take a walk up to the
top of the lighthouse. An old shiny gold kerosene lantern is on display in the entrance. The lighthouse (Faro de Colonia) is nearly 27 meters tall. I
walked up the 118 stairs around and around to the top. The views are great, looking down upon the parks, houses and Rio de la Plata, 360 degrees.
The Main Plaza
from the lighthouse is the main square - Plaza Mayor, the largest open space in this area. An artist sat and sketched a picture of the lighthouse. The
plaza has trees, gardens and walkways, it's a nice place to relax for a while. On the other side of Plaza Mayor is the Bandera Bastion and a small park
with a cannon - Plazuela del Bastion de la Bandera. It's lovely here with the old houses and tall leafy trees all around.
Ruins of the Governors House
Heading north from here 1 block
is another important archaeological location in Colonia's historical neighbourhood - the ruins of the governors house. It's of Portuguese construction,
only the basement is left, the Spanish destroyed the house in 1777. The ruins are surrounded by a nice park area with many tall trees. Around this park
are a few restaurants where you can sit at a table outside on the cobblestone street underneath the trees and enjoy something to eat or drink. You will
see also 2 or 3 old vintage cars sitting outside on the cobblestones. One has the inside gutted and replaced with a table and seats where you can also
sit and enjoy a meal, another has a garden growing inside coming out of the roof. These vintage cars and the retaurant are located directly opposite
the church Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento (Holy Sacrament), it was restored between the years 1957 and 1995 and maintains the original design -
Portuguese stone walls and brick, one nave and 2 belltowers.
Walking down Calle de Portugal and some of its side streets, peaceful and quiet, beautiful
facades and another old car of bright red. At the northern end of the neighbourhood, the main street of Avenue General Flores cuts through.
Santa Rita Bastion
I was now
in the area of Santa Rita Bastion beside the river. There's more to see here including a monument to San Martin, El Torreon - an old stone tower
overlooking the water, the wharf (1866) and yachts. Of course there are more cobblestone streets and old houses.
Theatre and Cultural Center
I now found myself at Carmen Bastion
and the theatre and cultural center. There is a tall brick chimney and an old wall here at the back beside the water. Inside the center, paintings were
on display. Before this building (built in 1880) was the cultural center it was a glue and soap factory, that explains the chimney.
Nearby, as I continued
on, I noticed a museum of old photographs called El Tunel del Ayer (The Tunnel of Yesterday). I had a quick look inside the museum Museo Indigena, it was
mainly a bunch of rocks on display. Colonia is full of museums, they are scattered all around the historical neighbourhood. These include: Portuguese
Museum - a house from 1720, The Regional Archive - documents, old maps and watercolor paintings from 1840-1865, The Tile Museum (Museo del Azulejo) -
French, Catalan and Uruguayan tile collections from 1840, The Spanish Museum - Spanish ceramics, clothing and coin collection, Paleontological
Museum - body parts belonging to prehistoric life and the Naval Museum.
Something for Everyone
Obviously Colonia has something for everyone, so much history in such a small
space, I enjoyed it!
Bus to Montevideo / Fray Bentos
From Colonia I travelled 190kms east (2hrs 30mins) for my 2nd time in Montevideo
ticket $11USD. In 2016 I came over to Colonia from Buenos Aires on the ferry. I spent just one night (and a half) in town and made a few new photos,
the weather wasn't great so I headed north to Fray Bentos
where I was lucky to get a couple of sunny days.