Monday, October 22, 2012

Montevideo: The city that always sleeps

mmmm, mmmeat

Candombé parade

main plaza in Montevideo (where are the people???)

deserted streets

people - anyone?

anyone at all?


we found the creatures of Montevideo
Yes, Montevideo  is a beautiful city, but it's a sleeping beauty. Or, at least it was in a temporary coma when we got there. We stayed for 3 days in Uruguay's capital and it seemed like a ghost town. Now, I will admit that it might have had everything to do with a rainy, windy and cold weekend and if we hadn't been touristing, most likely I wouldn't have made it past the coffee machine either. The streets were completely void of people and the ones that ventured out there were very sketchy figures, to say the least! We happened to be there on a weekend of open museums - and fully enjoyed it, since we seemed to be the only 2 people in Montevideo taking advantage of it. So yes, Montevideo has many many interesting museums (carnival museum, a museum of sound, the government building, a museum that show the psychiatric history of the town, old mansions and gentlemen clubs ...) - definitely worth seeing!
Looking for places to eat (proved to be a difficult task on Saturday and Sunday where everything is closed - ??? - ), there is a great variety of food - from pizza to Armenian restaurants. Apparently, there are big Arabic and Armenian communities in Montevideo - so make sure to enjoy their food! Or asados. Or parrillas! Just meat! Uruguayans love meat! They're a cattle country and it shows. My favorite: a take-out BBQ. It's like a restaurant but they have these giant grills where all kinds of meat is roasting (even for me as an almost vegetarian a great sight) and you can pick your piece of meat, steak, your sausage or whatever you like and in about 10 minutes it's ready to go! Love it!
To be fair, on our first night we did get to see a very impressive candombé parade. Montevideo is famous for its candombé tradition (not CANDOMBLE), a tradition that came with its African slaves. Originally, the drumming sounds were made by captive slaves in order to communicate to other slaves what tribe or nation they belonged to. Walking and dancing along to the drumming sounds became something slave owners started competing over: Who had the best musicians and dancers among his slaves. Nowadays, the Uruguayan Candombé is practiced every weekend and especially during carnival season. So far the official definition. If you are in the middle of dancers and drummers, it's a big, loud, chaotic, charming and simply wonderful street party. People on the streets just stop walking and start dancing along with the formal group of dancers and drummers - to an extent that one procession can block traffic for many blocks and for hours! If you ever go to Montevideo, just follow the sound of the drums and you'll find yourself in the middle of a Candombé party!
The most action we got from our stay in Montevideo, however, was a classic fist fight. Outside a bar all of a sudden we see this huge commotion (somebody had said something to somebody else and this somebody else apparently didn't like it) and people forming up into two groups. Next thing you know, they were beating each other up - until some girlfriends stepped in and dragged their boys away from the fight (quote: "What the hell are you doing there fighting?? - Well, he's my friend. - "So what?! You don't even know what they were fighting about. We had an agreement - when we're out together you don't fight any more!" - Yes, honey. I am sorry sweetie. It won't happen again, I promise.). Meanwhile our Uruguayan friends apologized over and over again, insisting that this usually NEVER happens ("Montevideo is such a tranquil city, nobody ever fights here!" - Yes, we had realized!). Well, what can I say, we were the first spectators in line, cheering for the fighters. Finally, some action in Montevideo!

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