Travels without Charlize: More Mercado del Puerto and Montevideo

This is a photo of one of many small restaurants inside the Mercado del Puerto. All of the separated restaurants have an open, wood-fueled, grill like this one where most of the cooking takes place.

This is the chunk of loin I was served. Alexis had a rack of lamb with at least 10 chops. The meat portions were gigantic, but tender and tasty, a carnivore’s kind of place.

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We saw several of these horse-drawn carts while out and about in the city. Although there is full employment in Uruguay, jobs for anyone who wants to work, one sees people going through dumpsters to salvage paper, cardboard, plastic bottles and other recyclables. The horses are very calm amidst the heavy, fast-moving, car, bus and truck traffic. Lane markers seem to be just a suggestion, with two lanes accommodating at least three vehicles, more lanes more vehicles. Horns are used to let other drivers know where you are.

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Out in the countryside, horse-drawn carts are even more common and are used to transport goods short distances. It is obviously much less expensive than gasoline that sells for about $8 a gallon. The high price of gasoline also accounts for the small size of the automobiles, although we did see plenty of Mercedes and other luxury vehicles. Protected parking space is also a premium and we saw many houses with just enough room to squeeze the car inside the security gate.

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Most but not all houses in the city were guarded by high security, walls topped with wire or broken glass, or tall spiked bars topped with electric fences, windows covered with bars and/or heavy shutters. The yellow sign warns of the charged wires above the 10-foot tall spiked fence.

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We asked about all the security and received a variety of answers. It appears that violent crime, including home invasions, is rare. There is some breaking and entering and stealing from vacation homes when it is clear the owners are away. Mostly, we were told, the crime rates are quite low but when there is a crime the news media tend to sensationalize it and thus there is a high level of paranoia. This paranoia is fed and encouraged by a home security industry that seems quite robust. We talked to some home and business owners with lower levels of security and they seemed to be unafraid and unconcerned. Certain areas are considered to have higher crime rates than others, so that’s not unlike our own neighborhoods, but we did see a lot of security.

– By Dr. David Gross

Retired veterinarian Dr. David Gross writes about his adventures on the road — this time without his dog Charlize.

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