Uruguay, a small country somewhat squeezed up between the South American giants Brazil and Argentina, is often forgotten by travellers. Do not make that mistake. Uruguay is worth the visit. It will prove itself to be a gem waiting to be explored.
Montevideo is the capital city of the country. It is home to over a million and half people which is little more than half of the entire country’s population. Montevideo is as tranquil as the rest of the country and it does not feel like you are in the country’s capital city.
Perhaps for the renowned tranquility that surrounds this charming town – yes, Montevideo has the soul of an old town filled with character and nostalgia – time works in a different manner. The second you step out of the plane, or the bus, you are welcomed with a big fat slap across your face by the hands of time. It is shocking. Time suddenly stops.
They say this is a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand the days are long. That means you can do anything and everything you wish to do, and still have time to walk the rambla (the boardwalk along the coast of the town), enjoy the sunset – preferably with a mate (a traditional drink made by the infusion of the mate dried leaves) – by yourself or accompanied, and get lost by the never ending waters of the Río de la Plata, the River Plate. By the way, the sunsets in Montevideo are nothing short of spectacular. Quite literally, take a sit at any one of the benches scattered along the rambla and enjoy the show.
On the downside… well, honestly I haven’t been able to find a downside to the tranquility that hovers over the streets of Montevideo. Maybe the downside of it can only be experienced once you skip town. I imagine the contrast between the “real” world and this rabbit hole could drive you mad.
Quality of life
For the Uruguayans quality of life is a non-negotiable serious business. Uruguay is a naturally grown-homemade-handmade country by the proud brave hands of the generations that fought against the Spaniards and the Portuguese a couple of centuries ago, all the way to the hands of the rebels that fought off the CIA sponsored dictatorship over thirty years ago, and all the generations in between.
Uruguay appreciates freedom. Perhaps for having to fight for it so many times, they take it seriously. They may not agree with how you live your life but they will never tell you what to do with it. They respect your freedom. As long as your actions don’t get in the way of anybody else’s life they don’t give two craps about what you do with your life.
I find it to be one of the most beautiful things about this culture.
The respect is incredibly sensible you can almost feel it with your hands, and you can certainly feel it with your heart.
This country is as real as it gets. And they like to keep it real when it comes to their food as well. Thank God for that, your palate will appreciate it. I’m sure you can find them “Chicken” Nasty-Nuggets and your highness’s burgers here and there however you will get the feeling they are there more for the tourists than for the locals.
The montevideanos usually go to the farmer’s market rather than the lifeless supermarket chain you will run into every other corner in most of the “more developed” countries out there. That by itself says a lot about a culture. That does not mean that they are too crazy about eating “healthy” as they are about eating real.
Uruguay is also a wine loving country and they also produce their own wine. Their wine may not be as prestigious as their neighbours to the west Argentina and Chile but it is damn good – and also cheap. Around here dinner isn’t really dinner without a bottle of wine to wash down the pesticide-free naturally grown veggies, and all the grass-fed beef that Uruguay is so famous for.
The desserts don’t fall behind. They are just as good as the meals. I could go on for hours and hours about the “alfajor”. It takes only a bite for you to fall madly in love with it. It is still unknown if the alfajor is a gift from heaven or the fruit that will get you kick out from it. Either way those two cookies separated by the caramelized “dulce de leche” and covered in chocolate will get you down on your knees begging for more quicker than the seven goals Germany scored against Brazil.
The dulce de leche is a dessert made out of milk, sugar and vanilla. It is brownish in colour and caramelized in texture. You can find it anywhere in Uruguay. It is worth the money. Just be careful not to get too addicted to it. You could easily gain a lot of weight very quickly. It is that good!
However tranquil this blessed country is it also offers plenty of options for you to have fun. The nightlife can be busy as well. The night starts out quite late. The locals will get together and dine at around 10pm. After dinner there’s the night’s warm up. Which usually means a few extra bottles of wine before going out to the bars or the “boliches” (the clubs), and the night will go on until the sun comes up.
Here’s a tip for those looking for some fun: Pocitos.
Pocitos is a neighbourhood in Montevideo known for its bohemian vibe. In Pocitos you will find a great variety of very good restaurants and amazing bars. Keep in mind that if you are on a budget this may not be the best idea as Pocitos is also known to be relatively expensive.
Whether you are searching for your soul, or you just looking to chill out and relax Montevideo is the place to come. Its serenity is contagious, and the peace of mind you will experience is out of this world.
Frankly the biggest problem you will come across here will be leaving. How could you go back to madness after finding Peace?