Uruguay updated

The brand-new third edition of my Bradt Travel Guide to Uruguay has just landed on my desk, and it looks great! This is one of the four guidebooks I’m still actively involved with (Uruguay and Georgia for Bradt, Romania and Wales for the Rough Guides), and as all four of them are in theory on a three-year updating cycle it’s clear that I can’t just do one update per year. This year I did Wales in the spring (well, two chapters of it – see here) and am off now in the autumn to do Georgia – but I decided that I didn’t want to go to Uruguay as well, so Bradt found the estimable Sean Connolly to step in for this edition. he’s added an interesting new box on border disputes (p.355) and new material on nature reserves in the far north-west. I’m grateful to him for doing such a thorough job, as updaters can sometime be a bit shy.

Looking at the proofs a couple of months ago, I was amazed by how well I could visualise almost everywhere – it was like a tour of the country in three days. No need for virtual reality headsets! And it is a lovely country, I really enjoyed my virtual visit. It was also interesting how many typos there were in the previous edition – clearly it was finished in a bit of a rush. This one is much better.

So what’s new? The world’s only 3D meat museum, it seems (in Montevideo, page 141). And on the same page, the Museo Andes 1972, telling the story of the October 1972 plane crash high in the Andes and the 72-day struggle to survive of the Uruguayan rugby players and others on board. There are also lots of new hostels – the Hostel Punta Ballena Bar (p.214) seems particularly good, while the marijuana-themed THC Hostel (p.234) may be of interest to some – Uruguay has legalised marijuana for residents, but is keen not to encourage marijuana tourism. In the Colonia area, just across the estuary from Buenos Aires, La Posadita de la Plaza (p.288) seems very interesting, and there are lots of niche gourmet places outside Colonia such as Le Moment Posada Boutique (p.290). There are also new nature reserves in the far northwest of the country, a new bus terminal in Paysandú and one under construction in Tacuarembó.

A few things have come up since we finished editing – from next year Norwegian will be flying from London to Buenos Aires – this will probably become the cheapest route to Uruguay. And, less importantly, in the world of soccer, Manchester United defender Guillermo Varela has rejoined Peñarol in Montevideo, and Gus Poyet resigned a few weeks ago as manager of Shanghai Shenhua. Edinson Cavani, until now the star striker at Paris St-Germain, is having to adjust to playing alongside Brazilian superstar Neymar.

And it seems that I have written an e-book (my first!) on Montevideo – actually it’s just the Montevideo text (and a bit more) from the previous edition of Uruguay, but it may be useful to somebody. It actually came out in 2014, so I assume a new edition will be out before too long.

Davos – just dropping in

I spend a lot of time in Switzerland every summer (on expenses, thank goodness), usually going to familiar towns and hiking routes, and I have nothing new to say about them – but I did manage a quick visit to somewhere new and vaguely interesting this year. Davos used to be known for TB sanatoria and as the setting of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and as a ski resort (some people confuse it with neighbouring Klosters, thinking this is where the British royal family ski). Now it seems to be better known for the World Economic Forum, where the likes of Bill Gates, George Soros and Bono confer with the world’s political and industrial leaders. We actually stayed in the Intercontinental, where the high-fliers stay during the WEF – it looms over the town like a cruise liner over Venice, but its design is actually said to be inspired by a pine-cone. It’s very comfortable, but you probably didn’t need to be told that. We usually stay in the more historic Hotel Schatzalp, also sitting a funicular ride above the town. There are plenty of other hotels, and a youth hostel, now rebranded as Youthpalace Davos.

However for me the main interest, apart from excellent hiking, was discovering that the painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner had lived here for the last two decades of his life. He came in 1917 after suffering a breakdown while serving in the German army, and lived here until his suicide in 1938 – he had been targeted by the Nazis in the notorious Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition of 1937, which attacked Jewish and modernist artists. I knew about Kirchner’s earlier career due to writing the Bradt guide to Dresden, where he had co-founded Die Brücke (The Bridge), the group which created German Expressionism. Here in Davos he developed a late style which was more abstract and emblematic, and much less angst-ridden than early Expressionism – I liked it very much. There’s a selection of these works in the small but perfectly formed Kirchner Museum, a simple glass-box design with bare concrete walls inside which has won various architectural awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also the admirable Heimat Museum, covering traditional local life and history (and less than half the cost of the Kirchner Museum), and a Winter Sports Museum, which I haven’t visited.

Most of the town’s restaurants seem to be Italian – we ate at Da Elio and Der Pate (The Godfather, with plenty of moody shots of Marlon Brando), both busy and cheery and exactly what Italian restaurants should be. The food was excellent too (pizza, pasta and more), and the prices were fair for Switzerland. I couldn’t help noticing that there’s a large number of mini-supermarkets here (and bigger ones too) – there are multiple branches of Co-op, Spar, Migros and Migrolino (a mini-Migros, on railway stations and so on).

Did I say excellent hiking??