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Published: September 27th 2006
A mate from home, upon hearing that we'd be travelling to the area, insisted we visit the town of Fray Bentos and send a postcard. I hadn't even realised there was a town to back up the history of meat products and pies in tins we're all familiar with from growing up, so we thought "why not"?
The main (really "only") attraction of the town is the dilapidated old meat processing plant now open to the public as the Museum of the Industrial Revolution. The name seemed strange to me until the visit, when I realised that the place really did have it's place in the industrial revolution (for Uruguay, anyway), in that Herr Liebig (he of Liebig condenser, Father of Organic Chemistry, etc) first productionised his process for essentially reducing cows to gloop here. Also, this is the place OXO cubes were born.
The tour of the plant itself was less interesting than the Museum hall, not because the tour in Spanish lacked content, but because much of the old plant is not able to be visited due to the poor state it's in - much of the areas we did visit should really not be visited on safety grounds, but there you are, this is South America.
Basically, as far as I could tell, cows went in one end and meat products came out the other...yum!
Our guide mentioned that they were attempting to raise some money to restore other areas of the site for historic purposes, but for now cash was limited and they'd have to make do.
Seriously, if you're in the area, have any interest in chemistry and have time, the plant is very much worth a visit - I was certainly surprised at the history of the place. The town itself isn't much, but the walk by the river ("the Ramblas") is pretty. Best visit now before they complete the new pulp mill on the outskirts of town.
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