Saturday, December 17, 2005

MONTEVIDEO: South, but How Far South?


Editor's Note: Again, I send my apologizes for not updating more frequently. Work, a family funeral on Friday and holiday parties have obstructed my blogging. Christmas and travel through New Years will probably keep me offline for extended periods of time. Here's to steady blogging in 2006.

I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED to visit Uruguay, in particular its capital, Montevideo. There's always been something about the Palacio Salvo -- that much-loved, much-hated Italian Gothic/Art Deco skyscraper once the tallest building in South America -- that has made the city on my short list of places to visit. (An idea a friend originally from Buenos Aires has been thoroughly disgusted with since I suggested it many years ago.)

This weekend's Financial Times has a sizeable travel article about Montevideo, which seems to focus on the capital's "pervading melancholy." This quote, from a former Uruguayan ambassador, stands out:
We are tragic, like the Spanish. People in Buenos Aires are like the Italians -- they are superficial and happier. We are deeper but we suffer much more.
All in all, if you like the interesting aspects of darkened depression, Uruguay might be for you, says the FT:
For all its attractions, living in Montevideo's past is not easy. The package may include fittings and furnishings that stimulate the senses. But it comes without the lights -- many bars are so dark, customers have to stand by windows to see what they are drinking -- without music and, above all, with a claustrophobically slow pace of life. Overdo it and Montevideo's melancholic charms can easily turn oppressive.
Hmmm, sounds inviting. I wonder what cities are sister cities with the Uruguayan capital ... That would be Montevideo, Minn., which has a city symbol that incorporates elements of the Uruguyan flag. Also, back in 2001, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin, a Montevideo Key to the City recipient, pledged to forge stronger sister city ties between Montevideo, Uruguay, and the industrial paradise of Tianjin, near Beijing.

With the article, the FT claims that Montevideo is the "world's southernmost capital." As someone who takes pride in the arcane details of geography, I had to question this at first. Initially, I thought that Buenos Aires and perhaps Santiago were more south. But in South America, indeed Montevideo is at a slightly more southerly latitude than Buenos Aires, which lies west and just slightly north across the Rio de la Plata.

But the world? According to InfoPlease, the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, is the world's most southerly capital, not Montevideo.

Image of the Palacio Salvo via Flickr user groove3.

2 Comments:

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