Museums and Boardwalks
One of the beautiful things of landing in a place with very few plans is that nearly everything is unexpected and the way the day unfolds unforeseen. The weather was nice almost the entire time and the city is fairly compact, a perfect recipe for putting my walking shoes on. Our first apartment host had left us with 2 maps and a booklet from the tourism bureau and as I studied the maps it seemed there were dozens of museums in our midst. While I don’t typically seek out numerous museums on a visit to a city, I do usually like to stop into 1 or 2. I didn’t really have my eyes set on any particular museum but in my daily walks came across several and since they were all entrada gratis, I popped in.
Two of these museums really impressed me, both for their exhibits and for the buildings that housed them. The first evening we went out for a quick walk to get our bearings, we walked past a old colonial mansion that was simply beautiful in the twilight. A few days later when I walked past during the day, I discovered it was the Museum of Decorative Arts. Most of the collection is furniture and artwork from a time when this petite palace was a home to a wealthy family in Montevideo. It has also added various collection pieces from other similar homes. It was a very grand house and must have been quite the place in its heyday!
Another museum favorite was the Museum of the Cowboy, or Gaucho. The gaucho is a very important part of Uruguayan history and modern day culture and their story has changed significantly over the past 200 years. This museum has a really great display and storyboard. Even more than the display, the building is beautiful and ornately decorated and the gentleman who kept an eye on the place was very informative and basically gave me a brief Uruguay 101 history lesson.
Even though I’m no sports buff, a visit to Uruguay would not be complete without a visit to the Museum of Soccer (Museo del Futbol). This museum is located inside Centenario Stadium, built in 1929 to host the very first World Cup. It is a classic and a historical monument in the world of futbol. If you can’t get to a game, this is a good way to get a glimpse inside the stadium.
One slightly strange thing I noticed was the absence of the “official museum feel”, if such a thing exists. Several of the museums I wandered into had very little signage and often times I had to wander up or down a level in order to find any kind of entrance, which was usually marked with only a small placard on the wall. There may or may not be a guard or museum host at the entry way and there may or may not be any kind of direction as to how to properly experience the exhibit. I’m used to museums that are formal, or at the very least you know when you are inside of a museum instead of wondering if you’re in the right place. Several times I found myself wondering if I was in an off-limits area, but no one ever seemed to care:
Another great thing about Montevideo is the 22 km (nearly 14 miles) of boardwalk that skirts around a very large portion of the city. Montevideo juts out as a peninsula into the Rio de la Plata but at a point where the river is very close to joining with the Atlantic and is very wide, seeming more like the ocean. The boardwalk, or rambla as it is called, is mostly well kept and in several parts it is very wide with lanes for bike traffic and pedestrians. Due to the rambla, Montevideo seems a fairly active place with lots of runners, walkers and bikers at all times. I don’t think I managed to walk all 22 km, but probably pretty close as I walked different parts at different times.
Montevideo is the seat of the administrative headquarters of Mercosur, South America’s leading trading bloc. Because of this, they have a very active port area that Luis and I checked out one day and at all times a steady row of container ships can be seen in the horizon as they make their way out to sea to distribute goods from all over South America out into the world.
Still more to come from Montevideo….