By Ricky Skelton
October 1, 2007

I had a weekend in Montevideo recently, having decided to go on a visa run from Buenos Aires. The ferry over the Rio de la Plata stops at Colonia, which has a lovely little historic part to it, and cobbled streets where you can eat paella under trees in the square, or eat calamari by the river. Colonia has the air of a church or a museum, the kind of place where everybody walks around with their hands joined behind their backs and nobody ever shouts. It’s a relaxing day away from the big city across the brown water but not much more than that. So having been there twice before, we decided that we had to go to Montevideo this time.

It was a Saturday. It was raining. It was grey. There wasn’t anybody else around. The first stop was the Solis Theatre. Signs outside mentioned opera, we had visions of a cultural weekend instead. There was nothing on. Nothing. Saturday night. We went for lunch across the road. The caf was empty of customers, a bit of a surprise as it was the only one open. Nobody passed the windows either. The rain didn’t ease. The old centre seemed to be so old that nobody lived there any more. The Iglesia Matriz was open though, so we paid some money to an old woman and wandered inside. A service was taking place in the little chapel to the right so we wandered around the church in the dark until we were politely asked to leave. It was closing.

The night was no easier. We’d asked the waitress in the caf where we should go at night. She recommended the cinema. We went back to the pedestrian precinct by the theatre (behind the large building in the photo) and wandered around looking for a restaurant that had closed down. There were a few kids hanging around outside and a few adults in the bars. We walked past a group of similarly baffled Brazilians and headed for the bright lights. A shout from behind us made us turn. A couple of the kids were scuffling on the floor, no big surprise. One of them got up and made to run off. The other one on the floor had grey hair. His companions were shouting, they were older too. The kid turned around and held both hands up, like he was apologising for bumping into the man. Then he ran up a dark street as the people started to complain. The man patted his pockets. He still seemed to have his wallet. We checked that they were ok and walked on. Ten seconds later, another yell. Again, somebody on the floor. Another kid was running away. I shouted at him and started to run. He stopped and looked at me before heading up the same direction as his mate. A dark street, two of them there carrying who knows what and with other friends around – these are the things that you have to be aware of, if only to excuse your own cowardice afterwards.

The woman’s bag had gone and so had our night. We went to the beaches the next day, where we were advised to go the night before, but still found nothing. No bars, cafes or kiosks along the beach road, nowhere to have lunch with a view of the water. The whole place had the air of a tired English seaside town stuck in the 1940’s on a Tuesday afternoon in early February. Even the mugging couldn’t make it interesting.

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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