Montevideo Jewish and City tour
Feb 12, 2020
|We docked in Montevideo around 0800h. We had booked a private tour off the ship to give us a city tour with Jewish highlights. There were 8 of us, along with our guide and driver.
Highlights of the sites.
1. Our first stop was in the Jewish section of the old city. Although the first Jews arrived after expulsion from Spain and Portugal, the majority came in the 20th century. They were largely Eastern Europeans, who made their living as peddlers. The Sephardic synagogue in the old city was built in the 1950s, but now only holds services at the high holidays, as most of the Jewish community has moved out of this area. There are still some businesses here.
2. The city is situated on the Rio de la Plata, which is 220k across at its widest point. There is a beautiful rambla, or paved path that is over 20k long. Along the way, there are 7 swimming beaches. The water is quite brown, because of the sediment carried in it. I did consent to a photo to prove I am really here!
3. Situated right along the rambla is the Holocaust Memorial. Its construction was ordered by the president, and funded by members of the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and German communities. It includes a map of the site and begins with a set of railway tracks, symbolizing the trains that carried people to concentration camps. Ana Balog was a 15 year old Uruguay born girl who had travelled back to Hungary and later died at Auschwitz. She is believed to be the only Uruguayan person to die in the Holocaust, and her memorial represents all who died.
The memorial is built largely of pink granite, beginning with a wall that increases in height as you walk down a path. The wall is built in a pattern similar to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and the six rows of stone at the bottom of the path symbolize the 6 million Jews who were exterminated.
The broken wall indicates the disruption of the community, and is followed by a meditation square, and continuation of the wall, as the community was being rebuilt. There are three steles, containing quotes which are loosely translated in the photo labels.
Finally, the row of twelve stairs represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and they lead you out of the memorial.
4. Yavne is a Jewish community complex that includes primary and secondary schools, a synagogue, kosher bakery, and sports facilities. There are several Jewish sports complexes in the city.
5. Graffiti is profuse throughout the city. It seems to be more common than street murals. Almost of the streets are lined with large trees that form canopies over the road.
6. A tour would not be complete without a visit to the famous Montevideo sign, along the rambla. Glen and Fanny, our guide, struck a tango pose for a photo.
7. The ox-cart sculpture is a tribute to the drivers of the 19th century. Many settlers would have travelled this way.
8. We enjoyed lunch and a browse through a large agricultural market, which had stalls of produce, meat and fish, as well as other types of shops.
9. The parliament building was constructed in the early years of the 20th century. It is built in the neo-classical style and is made of 27 different kinds of marble, all sourced from Uruguayan quarries. There is a recreation of the columns of the Parthenon at the very top, even including caryatids.
10. Independence square is the main square in the new city. It is surrounded by elegant buildings in many different architectural styles and is highlighted by a large sculpture of Jose Artigas, who was instrumental in freeing Uruguay from Spanish rule.
11. The city was once surrounded by a wall, but the only part that remains is the gate that leads from Independence square to the old city (ciudad viejo). The main street there is a pedestrian boulevard, where many tiles are embedded in the cobblestones. They honour important people, kind of like the Uruguayan version of the Hollywod boulevard star walk. The oldest square in the city, Constitution square, is here. It is a lovely, leafy square highlighted by a beautiful fountain that was a gift of the British government.
We arrived back to our stateroom to discover cake and a bottle of champagne, along with a card wishing us a happy anniversary. Well... that is in August. Guest services didn't know who sent it, but said to enjoy.