In Bulgaria we meet the New Year with full bellies, dressed formally in the center of a mix of alcohol, traditional dances and so on… Montevideo has such a party planned for the night, but in daytime things are different. The locals are armed with water bottles, buckets of water, hoses, water balloons and similar things. This way they bless each other and wish a Happy New Year. It sounds exciting but through the eyes of a foreigner it looks like the beginning of a war.
In the central market (Mercado del Puerto in the Old City) we found a crowd of old and young smiling people who bathed each other in water and cider. At some point a band of samba drummers came around and lifted the spirits even more. Even the foreigners got swept up, whoever entered the square left it soaked to the bone.
We carried a considerable amount of gadgets and documents with us so we had to avoid the excitement and had to pass through the back alleys in order to get to our apartment.
That wasn’t even the safest of routes because the rooftops and the balconies were full of people who threw balloons or whole bucketfuls of water at the pedestrians below. There was one guy who had come out in the street with a hose and blessed everybody enthusiastically. Thanks to a little jog we got away with only our feet wet. The neighbors also had come out and showered everyone without mercy. Somehow we escaped and went inside unscathed. Our room had an amazing view towards a pedestrian street and we had the pleasure of observing these weird and especially entertaining New Year’s celebrations.
We were wondering how they’d keep up at this rate of showering and running around and took a delightful nap. Around 21:00 we decided to go grab something to eat, to buy a drink and celebrate with our hosts on the rooftop around the grill and the fire. If you’ve seen the movie “The Purge”, that is what the streets resembled. They were empty, full of flying pages from old calendars (another tradition in Montevideo) and all the shops were closed. We got worried that we’d have to greet the New Year on empty stomachs.
Luckily we stumbled across a small shop and managed to buy wine, bread, yellow cheese and canned vegetables. Humble but hearty meal.
Our hosts turned out to be vegetarians and had prepared a delicious salad. We joined forces and organized a great party on the roof early in the morning. At midnight the purge begins. Fireworks were flying everywhere for about an hour. It seemed a bit excessive to us and as we were told that there were fireworks-related incidents every year. For the locals it is a question of honor to buy fireworks for New Year’s. The impression of a battlefield was further enhanced by the songs of several ships anchored nearby.
The next day the streets looked no different, but were perfect for sightseeing.
We only passed by foreigners with cameras like us. After taking a walk of 2-3 km we found an open restaurant and ordered some cooked food. For dinner our small shop was the only option again. Was Purge 2 about to start soon?
As a whole we liked Montevideo. It is big, but not huge town with large squares and parks, a delightful alley for walks along the river and famous harbor where cruise ships from all over the world drop anchor. The traditions are entertaining. Maybe this is what people mean when they say they are going to bathe on New Year ’s Eve. However, on January 1 it looks like a bomb has been dropped. Long live the local shops, you know who you are!
Some things we left for the next visit. For example, in the market in the Old Town there were very appealing bars with huge appetizing grills. Sadly, we didn’t try them.
At Montevideo we arrived smoothly after 2 hours with a comfortable bus from Colonia. We are leaving here on a ferry to Buenos Aires, full of nice memories and experiences. Bye, Uruguay, see you again.
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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