If you fall down from the sky in Montevideo, you can instantly recognize the place by the people walking on the streets with mate cups and straws.
According to some historians, Montevideo is not a name, it is an address – Monte VI De Este a Oeste. Roughly it translates as the sixth hill from the east to west.
The city has beautiful squares, wide boulevards lined with big trees, artistic fountains and free Wi-Fi in the parks.
Montevideo is often rated as the city with highest quality of life in South America. Looking at the happy, relaxed faces of the pedestrians, the clean streets and the beautiful houses, I would agree with this.
The cafeterias and the restaurants were full with people enjoying their time and not rushing for anywhere. It was the middle of the summer and the city had some kind of wonderful sunny sleepiness.
The most famous fast food in Uruguay is called Chivito and is one of the most caloric things I have tried. The top version of this national dish is called Chivito Canadianse. With this name, there was no chance for us to skip it. It contains thin steak slices, lots of bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, fried eggs, olives, salad, french fries. The burger is more than a pound and we were fortunate to order only one portion. After dinner, the dessert is a must. Their bizcochos are heavenly good pastries, filled with dulche de leche, covered with white or dark chocolate and topped with lot of whipping cream.
After a dinner like that it is not surprising that most of people on the streets carry mate cups and thermoses with hot water. It’s fun to watch how they walk with the matte cup in one hand, the thermos carefully hugged under the arm and a phone in the other hand.
Mate in Uruguay is not a drink, it is social event and ceremony. People drink it at work, when walking on the streets, when driving, I guess some do this even when sleeping. The tradition requires the same cup and the same straw (bombilla) to be used by everyone. When people get together or meet on the streets they share their mate. Only the owner of the matte cup is supposed to pour water and everyone is proud of his mate making skills. Our host in AirBnB, as well as, our guide in the city walking tour poured water in their mate cups and shared it with all of us. My European sense of privacy screamed that I cannot drink from the same straw with a complete stranger, but my Canadian politeness took over and I did it.
The tea-like drink is made by the same Yerba mate, but tastes different depending of the secret recipe of the maker. Some add chamomile, some add mint or oregano. The drink is so popular, that on the streets there are hot water charging stations. If you run out of hot water during the day, you have a place to refill it.
Colonia de Sacramento and ferry to Buenos Aires
Colonia de Sacramento is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It’s a colorful place with too many restaurants and amazing retro cars art installations on the streets.
That was our last stop in Uruguay.
The next step was to board the ferry and head to Buenos Aires.