Upon arriving, our first impression of the capital city Montevideo was quite simply ‘we’re not in Colonia anymore’. What we had seen driving into the city on our bus, was what appeared as an unkept city with graffiti everywhere and bars on every door and window. To top it off it was fairly deserted which gave the grungy streets an ominous feeling. To be fair it was a Sunday which meant everything was shut and it turned into a bit of a ghost town. However, I’m glad to say that by the time we left Montevideo our opinion had completely changed and we ended up absolutely loving it!
We came to Montevideo twice, the first time was for an afternoon and an overnight stay before we headed off to Punta del Este, another coastal town about two hours further east of Montevideo. And the second was after the trip to Punta del Este, this time we stayed for two nights.
Since our first visit was on a Sunday and everything was shut we decided to take the twenty minute walk from our hostel down to Park Rodo. Down here it was a bit more lively and there were a few people about, which was a welcomed sight compared to the deserted streets we had previously seen. It was a nice park with a big lake, an old castillo and many monuments throughout. We had a bit of a wander but before long it was starting to get really overcast and we could feel the rain coming so we headed back to the hostel.
On our second visit to Montevideo the hostel we stayed at was only a block from the park so we returned and found it was even more bustling than the first time we’d been. All around there were plenty of locals drinking mate tea and hanging out. There were even some acrobats walking on tightropes and hanging from ropes in the trees.
As the park is on the coast, the second time we were here we decided to go for a bit of a walk along the coast as well. The walk was nice and gave a great skyline view of Montevideo, however like our other coastal walks so far It was really windy.
Old Town Montevideo
No visit to Montevideo would be complete without a visit to old town. Back when Montevideo was first settled the entire city is what they now call the old town. At the time it was surrounded by walls and protected by a fort which lay outside the entry gate. Now it is home to a lot of museums and many of the people of Montevideo work in the buildings within this area.
We decided to do a free walking tour that our hostel told us about as a great way to get to know old town and get a greater understanding for it. I’m so glad we did the tour as it was really informative and a lot of fun. It certainly gave me an appreciation for things that I would have otherwise had no idea about. It was also great to learn more about the history of this city and Uruguay as a country. Not only did we learn about the history, but we were also taught about the architecture, certain historical figures, architects, alchemists and natives. All of which was extremely interesting and there were some pretty funny stories amongst it all.
I learnt that Uruguay is the land of 3 million people and 12 million cows, yes that’s 4 cows to every person, crazy right? It is also a very flat country unlike its neighbouring countries. I got to see this confirmed during our bus trips around the country, another thing I observed is that its also very green and lush.
During this walking tour I was able to try a few of the delicacies that Uruguay was known for, including medio e medio, grappamiel and my first taste of the really popular yerba mate tea.
Medio e medio is a combination of half white wine and half champagne and is actually quite delicious. It was fairly sweet so it was really easy to drink but due to the champagne I could see how it could quite easily go straight to your head.
Grappamiel, another alcoholic beverage is essentially just grappa with a bit of honey. The honey adds a sweetness that takes a bit of the edge off the strong grappa taste. This one had a strong kick to it and it would certainly warm you up on a cold winters day.
At the end of our last two days exploring Montevideo, our time in Uruguay had come to an end and it was time for us to move on. This time we were heading back into Argentina, but right up north, to the epic Iguazu Falls!
More pictures from Old Town: