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Published: December 21st 2019
A not-very-pretty sight met our eyes in the harbour – a fishing vessel graveyard. Extraordinary really. At the road entrance to the port is the anchor of the Graf Spee, the German pocket battleship which was scuttled early in WWII. The guide told us that the badly damaged ship come into port for repairs but was only allowed to stay three days as Uruguay was neutral. No one would repair it so the Captain scuttled it instead of leaving port to face what he thought was a large British fleet but really only the NZ Achilles and the RN Ajax.
How many cows does NZ have? Uruguay has 10 million and they are all grass fed. Actually by cows I mean Angus beef cattle. They also produce and excellent Malbec wine made from Tannat grapes. I haven’t heard of that variety. We learnt all this on our tour of the city, not that we saw any cattle or grapes.
Our walking tour started out in 28 degrees and was rudely interrupted by a squall when the temperature plummeted and we all sheltered in an Art Gallery. That was fortuitous wasn’t it! Guess who left their raincoat at home?
It’s not a very attractive city being all grey concrete or stone relieved occasionally by squares with trees or indigenous palms.
A treat for us was an impromptu short performance by opera students in the Solis Theatre, from the Opera La Revoltosa. A beautiful horseshoe-shaped theatre with 5 tiers shared by the National Comedic Theatre, the Sinfonia and Philharmonia Orchestras. The Performing Arts are very democratised with some seasons having very cheap prices such as $5, $6 and $7 respectively.
The Art Gallery was all about Joaquin Torres Garcia who had an unusual style as you can see from the photos.
The guide called for the bus and we went to the next stop in luxury and warmth. Outside in another smaller square our guide brought us up to date with the history and statistics of Uruguay while a flock of very noisy green and red parakeets raced around in the trees overhead.
She was very proud of the fact that Uruguay is the most equal society in Latin America with a very large middle class earning $US12 -1500 a month. They have 8% inflation but salaries are adjusted each year in line with that. The
Loaded with grain...
... earlier in the day we watched the gain being loaded by a chute and a bulldozer spreading it all around.
minimum salary base line is $US400 a month. If you learn less than that you get free health care, if more then you pay and your money goes into a central fund to help pay for the health care system. It’s always interesting to listen to people from the USA react to the idea of free health care and government subsidies. There has just been an election and the government will change in March to a conservative. It is compulsory to vote. The President can run twice but not consecutively.
Interestingly the guide said that the professions were part of the middle class. There are no wealthy doctors or lawyers.
Nearby the former mansion of the wealthy merchant Taranco family masqueraded as the Museo de Artes Decorativas. Most of the artefacts are made up of the families belongings left just it was when they lived there. They had not one but three baby grand pianos. We did a bit of a whistle stop tour as the ship was about to leave.
We watched amazed at how such a large ship could manoeuvre out of such a tight spot. A we left the 240 km wide river mouth
we met the ocean swell.
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