Saturday, February 25, 2006

Montevideo

When I arrived in Montevideo on Thursday in the morning, I was tired of the long and almost no-sleeping flight and even though I managed to resist to the overwhelming will of laying in the bed and sleep, I wasn’t too adventurous and just went for a walk in the neighborhood of my hotel, Pocitos. My first impressions of Montevideo were of one quite big city, with a subtropical environment, mixed with a very European atmosphere. And, of course, Montevideo is a city where you can have the best beef in the world and excellent wines for very reasonable money.

Yesterday I slept until quite late and when I woke up it was raining, windy and quite fresh (around 20°C). It rained all day long and the violence of the wind was such that some trees fell in the street and the Rio de la Plata water so troubled that the port had to be closed-down. Therefore, I decided to go to the movies! I saw “Crash” and liked it so much that I have to confess that now I feel happy that it was raining and I had to find out an alternative to the planned city sightseeing.

I did the sightseeing today. I took a taxi until Plaza de la Independencia and from there walked the Ciudad Vieja until the Puerto. I found out that Montevideo was founded back in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, the Spanish Governor of Buenos Aires, to prevent further incursions of the Portuguese who had founded Colonia del Sacramento in the previous century. It became the capital of Uruguay in 1828 and kept being a minor settlement for many years. In 1860, for instance, the population was of less than 40,000. From 1884 on, however, the population started to grow due to immigration, especially from Spain and Italy. During the mid-20th century, military dictatorship and economic stagnation caused a decline whose residual effects are still seen today. Many rural poor flooded the city, with a large concentration in Ciudad Vieja. Recently, economic recovery and stronger trade ties with Uruguay's neighbours have led to renewed agricultural development and hopes for greater future prosperity. As of 2004, the city has a population of 1.35 million out of a total of 3.43 million in the country as a whole. The greater metropolitan area has 1.8 million people.

Ah, by the way, in Montevideo you can also have very good fish and sea-food!

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