What breed do Uruguayans belong to
Montevideo, South America's insider tip
The long shadow of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires extends as far as Montevideo: Uruguay's capital on the north bank of the Rio de la Plata is often compared to its Argentine competitor on the south bank. Especially by the locals who live more or less on both sides of the river mouth.
For outsiders, the two metropolises could hardly be more different. While Buenos Aires presents itself as rich in tradition with a glamorous past, Montevideo is a city that radiates youthfulness everywhere - with a pulsating street art scene, countless bars and cafes and a lively street life on the Rambla, the beach promenade along the city coast. The city's young attitude towards life is most evident in its small squares. For example in the Plaza de la Constitución in the old town, where the younger generation uses free WiFi and e-scooters.
With WiFi in public places and e-scooters filling the streets, Montevideo is the top dog of the digital age in Latin America
Even the most famous café in town, Café Brasilero from 1877, is run by students. Brass chandeliers shed their light on the youthful baristas, while Montevideo venerable ancestors of portraits on the wood-paneled walls sternly stare at the waitresses, who - according to the self-chosen creed of slow food - take all the time in the world, even when they are doing the simplest espresso serve.
The most modern city in Latin America
Uruguay ranks first in Latin America when it comes to issues such as e-government and democratic participation, according to an assessment by the US State Department. A quarter of the population is under 15 years old, the majority between 20 and 50 years old, and only 15 percent are over 60.
The Uruguayan tango is officially part of the Intangible UNESCO World Heritage
So you can hardly escape the young atmosphere of the capital. Still, Montevideo retains its customs. About the tango. It is danced on the street corners. Or in the popular "Baar Fun Fun". Here, however, it is more like a delicate foreplay than a choreographed sequence of steps. Anyone who assumes that the sensual dance is of Argentine origin is likely to get into serious trouble. The nearby museum also provides information about its history, in which the cashier expressly points out to visitors that this is the Uruguayan tango and not its Argentine counterpart.
The Candombe parades in Montevideo include drums of different sizes
In the neighboring streets on the weekends you can meet dozens of drummers who beat the heavy beat of the candombe. Slaves abducted from Africa once brought this percussive dance to Uruguay. Today it is not only part of the traditional Montevideo Carnival; Candombe street musicians regularly draw spectators in the capital like a magnet. If you feel too insecure for tango dances, you can swing your hips here in the open air without any prior knowledge.
A feast for the taste buds
To top off the dancing Montevideo experience in culinary terms, head to the Mercado del Puerto, the lively old port market. Here, bearded hipsters shake hands with butchers who - unlike their beef - look like they're way past their sell-by date. Grilled meat and fresh fish from the Rio de la Plata are on sale at the stands. Adventure seekers dare to try a "Choto" - a grilled lamb tripe dish that can only be found in Uruguay.
While candombe is Uruguay's rhythm, tannat is its distinctive flavor
With a tannat - the velvety red wine is considered the national grape of Uruguay. There are 270 wineries in the Canelones district alone, which also includes parts of the capital Montevideo. If you wake up with a hangover the next morning, Montevideo has a solution for you too: Yerba Mate.
The yerba mate cult
What coffee is to New York, yerba mate tea is to Montevideo: an attitude towards life! The caffeinated herbal tea is sucked out of a spherical vessel with the help of a metal straw, which filters out the tea crumbs. Locals of all ages always carry their favorite hot drink with them in a set with a thermos.
Without yerba mate, life in Uruguay would not be the same - and tourists would have one less souvenir
Drinking mate is part of the culture and also has the role of a ceremonial pipe of peace. So it's best to drink it with strangers, where everyone drinks from the same straw. It is a ritual that brings people together in Montevideo regardless of age, gender, race, socio-economic status or class. The proverbial glue that can hold everything together in this fascinating city.
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