Montevideo: City Tour
República Oriental del Uruguay
May 3, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
Soon after I purchased my Lonely Planet Argentina travel guide, I wrote a strong letter to the editor. I told him I was disappointed that the front cover, the spine and the inside cover neglected to indicate any reference to Uruguay. The small Uruguay chapter is at the very end of the book and appears to be just an afterthought.
The editor responded with some silly explanation but will consider my recommendation for the next edition. (I checked. The latest addition is modified per my comment.)
Uruguay does form a buffer state between its enormous and popular neighbors, Brazil to the north and Argentina to the south. Yet, Uruguay is a sovereign nation of more than 3,300,000 citizens. Surely there are many worthy unique sights to see. Surely there are local food and beverage specialties to try.
As my time in Montevideo was limited, I followed my Cousin Diana’s advice and hired a guide for the day. Gabriel Catz is a retired architect and was quite pleased when he learned that I love to photograph unusual buildings and structures. **
Our first stop was Atelier Guillermo Algazé, the workshop of my talented cousin Guillermo – painter and sculptor. Guillermo presented me with one of his small oil paintings.
Although the Jewish population in Uruguay is only about 20-25,000, there are several sites of interest. The old retail district (the Cohen Brothers shop, for example), and theAsociacion Comunidad Israelita Sefaradi - the Sephardic Synagogue where there was a special program so the sanctuary was filled with visitors.
Usually, when I encounter a Jewish group, many if not most of the folks look like my “Aunt Sue and Uncle Harry” – descendents of the Ashkenazi community of north and central Europe. Not here in Montevideo. Folks look different because most are descendants of the Sephardic communities of Syria, Morocco Egypt, Greece and Turkey.
The understated yet moving Holocaust Memorial is installed in a park alongside the placid, eternal Océano Atlántico.
For lunch at an outdoor café, I sampled my first chivito – the large Uruguay special sandwich of chicken (or beef), mozzarella cheese, hardboiled egg, tomatoes and olives…and the ever popular fritas.
Maybe next time I will try another national dish - el asado - a concoction of grilled meats and vegetables that is served at a multitude of restaurants at the Old Port.
** For an excellent personal guided tour of Montevideo, contact Gabriel Catz: