The Belgium of South America

Uruguay, sandwiched between two much larger neighbors, and of which virtually no Westerner can claim any knowledge, is an awful lot like the Belgium South America. It is smaller, but also wealthier than either of its much larger neighbors, and in some ways more civilized; It is the only country in Latin America to have achieved consistently safe and sanitary drinking water.

We left Buenos Aires today for Colonia del Sacramento, which is about where the “R” in “Rio de la Plata” is on your map. As a side note, you might notice that what looks like ocean is still being referred to as the River Plata. Apparently the Plata empties enough water into the small gulf to make this area fresh water rather than sea water. Getting out of stinking Buenos Aires was good. Colonia is barely over an hour away by the massive and luxurious Rapido ferry leaving from the docks of BA, 3 hours by slow ferry, and there is a 1 hour time difference.

Our accomodation in Colonia is the best of the trip so far, a pension at La Casa de Teresa a few short blocks from the town center. The path to our room leads through a lush courtyard with an outdoor, semi-enclosed kitchen, and a dog that lays himself shamelessly at your feet for a belly rub. For anyone interested in traveling to this part of South America, this is a great find!

Colonia is a small, picturesque town on the Rio de la Plata, originally founded by the Portuguese to counter the influence of the Spanish Buenos Aires. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage sight. Most of the sights lie in the extremely compact Old Town (Barrio Historico) and it’s also great for just wandering around taking pictures. Both Spain and Portugal fought for control of Colonia and the surrounding territory and control of Colonia changed hands several times until Uruguay achieved independence from Brazil in 1825.

Today, Colonia is a sleepy tourist town frequented by wealthier Argentines from Buenos Aires, and international tourists. There were plenty of Americans and Germans on the ferry from BA. Swank boutiques line the streets downtown, and dollars are accepted virtually everywhere and can even be withdrawn from the ATM.

Uruguayans and Argentines share many similar customs. They both pride themselves on their beef and drink the same Mate tea from a hollowed out gourd. Tonight also features the best meal of the trip a la Matt, a Uruguayan steak, sausages, spinach with garlic, and rice.

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5 thoughts on “The Belgium of South America

  1. Mom/Chris

    I didn’t know Uruguay was wealthier than Argentina.

    I wonder if you didn’t like BA because you’re used to living in a much smaller city.

    Lovely hostel and love the dog–you will see lots of them in SA and people are very kind to them. None of the dogs are nasty.


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