Museos en la Noche

Posted on January 4, 2009

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Every year since 2005, Uruguay has held a special event called “Museums in the Night”. From 8pm to midnight, many of the museums throughout the country are open free of charge. There are special events at each of the museums, including plays, music, lectures, and tours. This year, 67 museums throughout the country (33 in Montevideo and 34 in the country) participated.

Museo Zorrilla
I took advantage of the opportunity to see two museums that had been on my to do list. The first museum I visited is Museo Zorrilla, the former home of Juan Zorrilla de San Martin. Juan Zorrilla lived from 1855 to 1931 and was active in Uruguay’s arts and politics. He was prime minister, a renowned poet, a jounalist, and diplomat. He is especially well known as a gifted orator.
The museum is located right along the coast on the rambla only a few blocks from my hotel. The museum features white-washed masonary walls, lots of beautiful spanish tile, and a modern wing that features paintings by Uruguayan artists.

Museo Militar Forteleza del Cerro

A distinguishing characteristic of Montevideo is how flat it is. The flattness makes the old military fort on top of a large hill all that more distinctive. The fort overlooks the central harbor and sits on the only elevation in sight. I have been told it is the place for the best view of Montevideo, so naturally it was next on my list of places to visit.

I found a taxi and in my best Spanish told him to bring me to Museo Militar on the Cerro. The driver turned around and asked me if I was really sure I wanted to go there. I said yes as it was only 10:30pm and I still had over an hour until the museum closed. I knew the museum was clear on the other side of Montevideo and that this would likely be an expensive cab ride. The cab driver shook his head and said ok. We raced through the dark streets of Montevideo pointed in the direction of the gleaming white fort on the hill.

As we approached the fort I started to understand why the cab driver questioned my sanity. This was clearly not a good neighborhood. You wind around the hill and seem to climb forever to get to the top. At the top is the fort surrounded by tin shacks and people sitting outside around fires. I noticed that I seemed to be the just about the only person around. No other taxis, only a few odd people hanging around, nothing going on. I realized that if my taxi dropped me off and left, I was in trouble. Calling a taxi is not simple since they do not speak english and I really had very little idea where I was. My spanish lessons paid off though and the taxi driver agreed to wait for me, meter running. I noticed he locked all the doors after I got out.

I ran up to the fort and found that it was closed! Big disappointment but I could still walk around the walls of the fort and take in the view. The view was incredible! From the walls you could see the entire city and far out to the ocean. It looked like the view from an airplane. I took a few photos, circumnavigated the fort, and ran back to the taxi before he left without me.
This turned out to be my most expensive cab ride during my entire visit to Uruguay. The total was about $35 including tip. The New Yorker out there will scoff that this is nothing, but remember I was trying to live on a $40/day stipend. I know I made my cab driver’s day, because on the ride back he called his wife and told her about the “loco Americano” he picked up. He told her that the fare would be a lot, and he was right.
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Posted in: Uruguay