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Published: August 26th 2019
While still in Buenos Aires, Argentina before the wedding, I came with the idea to visit Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
. I was willing to go by myself if others weren't interested to join. I went with three of Gidi's friends: Stefano (Italy), Yaron (Israel) and Adrien (France). We took the ferry in the morning from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires and crossed Rio de la Plata towards Colonia. The journey took about 1 hour on board of a comfortable, modern ferry. We spent the whole day in Colonia.
It is was my second visit to Uruguay. Back in 2010 I did cross with a ferry and landed in Colonia too, but immediately took a bus towards Montevideo.
Colonia del Sacramento lies at about 45km from Buenos Aires and has only about 30.000 inhabitants. The city is well-known for its historical inner-city which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1995; two years before Willemstad, Curaçao. We visited Colonia during the week and it was relatively quiet, but during the weekends the city is much busier with day-visitors from Buenos Aires and Montevideo among others.
We took a "walking tour" in Colonia
del Sacramento, absolutely worth it because it doesn't make sense to walk around the city by yourself while not knowing what you're looking at. The city was founded in 1680 by a Portuguese called "Manuel Lobo". The site for the city was deliberately chosen, right across from Buenos Aires, which would have brought a lot of trade. Spain reacted quickly and attacked the city in 1680, conquered the city and imprisoned Manuel Lobo in Buenos Aires. Due to the strategic location of Colonia del Sacramento, a lot of goods were being smuggeled through the city and this was lucrative for the merchants. It lead to often battles between Portugal and Spain as consequence. The city changed often between Spanish and Portuguese rulers throughout the years and has been also British and Brazilian just before becoming an official part of Uruguay in 1828.
To enter into the historical part of Colonia del Sacramento, the "Barrio Histórico", you have to walk through a city-gate which is part of the city wall built by the Portuguese in the 18th century. The Barrio Histórico is small and well-maintained, easy to walk through. Most parts of the historical inner-city remained authentic and
that gives the city a unique, "dated" look and atmosphere. The streets consist predominantly out of cobblestones, which also contributes to the atmosphere I just wrote about. One of the most popular streets is called "Calle de los Suspiros" (street of sighs). There are a few theories as to why the street has that name. The most interesting one is the fact that it there used to be several brothels there and a lot of "sighs" were often heard in the street. The street has a slope and gives a good view towards Rio de la Plata and in the past it was excellent to be able to see the enemy nearing from the river.
The area around the Plaza de Armas Manuel Lobo is colourful and cheerful with terraces and cafes. In a streets adjacent to the square I saw two old cars which gave the impression of being way back in time! Here at the Plaza de Armas we sat down and had some lunch, where I enjoyed a good "Chivito". Chivito is a national dish which is a like a burger with beef steak, cheese, vegetables and often also with cooked eggs and/or bacon
strips. A Chivito is pretty big usually, so just one is more than enough! At the same Plaza de Armas you'll also find the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, a Catholic church built in 1810. Just a little further away we decided to climb the 199 steps towards the top of the Colonia lighthouse, opened in 1857 and it of course offers a good view over the historic centre. The ruins of the monastery "Convento de San Francisco" are directly next to the lighthouse. It was built at the end of the 17th century and was destroyed by a fire in 1704.
At the Plaza Mayor, the biggest one in the historical inner-city, we were able to witness a tango performance on a stage and it was very nice to see this beautiful dance art which originated during the end of the 19th century in both Argentina and Uruguay, along the border area (river). Along the shores of the river there were a few areas where people go to lay down in the sun to get some tan, or just sit down, picnic etc. I am not sure if people would swim there in the summer, but the
water looks anything but attractive. Before sunset we took the ferry back towards Buenos Aires. A visit to Colonia del Sacramento is worth it in case you ever come to Uruguay, or also as a daytrip from Buenos Aires (eventually also Montevideo for a few more days). If you are not much interested in history, then just avoid Colonia.
My next entry comes from a country close to Argentina and Uruguay which I had never visited before. I entered this country after my visit to the Iguazú Falls.
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