Dismantled Brazil Could Still Finish 3rd


Well, I didn’t predict the winner – I had Brazil.  But I did predict that the losing team would score 1 goal.  You see, I had Brazil beating Germany 2-1.  I never imagined that in a semi-final World Cup game a team would/could score 7 goals. 7 goals! Germany completely dismantled Brazil with seemingly little effort, scoring 3 goals in 3 minutes and 5 goals total in the first 29 minutes.

I happened to be watching the game in Rio in the comfort of a friend’s apartment drinking sangrias (fittingly so it turns out). And good thing, because if I had been down by the beach drinking caipirinhas watching the game on one of the Jumbotrons set up on Copacabana beach, just down the street, who knows what might have happened to me.  I’m not saying I would have been attacked or anything, but I do look more German than Brazilian and don’t speak Portuguese. And trust me, the vendors make a beeline for me at the beach, marking me as both a tourist and a probable gringo with dollars. No one has yet to ask me, “Alemao? or “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”

The game was an embarrassment to watch and I am sure an embarrassment and shock to all in the soccer community, Brazilians and Germans alike.  A 6 goal differential is the largest defeat a host country has ever suffered in a World Cup game and 7 is the most goals ever scored in a semi-final game.  And it’s too bad it happened in the way that it did.  Brazil had two men down essentially – star Neymar and captain Silva…but they did have the home field advantage with the support of the entire soccer crazy nation.  Soccer is a religion here.  An addictive drug one could say that keeps the masses distracted from the many problems Brazilians face from wealth inequality to corruption.

Whether Brazilians will forgive their team for their pitiful performance remains to be seen.  Many left the stadium before the first half even ended.  After the game, some of the players and the coach apologized to the fans and the country.  Players were praying on the field as if asking god for forgiveness for their sporting sins. The Brazilian team can only hope for a victory against the loser of the Holland and Argentina match – certainly no small feat.  It would be a consolation prize that could help heal the damage that Germany inflicted and restore the people’s pride and faith in their national team.

Uruguay Travelogue Day 4: the Gliptodonte


The Glipto

We started the day off at the Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena (MAPI) housed in one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The four story Italian influenced building must have been constructed in the late 1800s. It may have been another kind of museum or perhaps the headquarters of some important company, or a government office. Actually, I found out that its original purpose was to be a spa with thermal springs.  Re-purposed as a museum, it has many rooms each with different exhibits of archeological finds including fossils, dinosaur bones, pottery, jewelry and musical instruments. My favorite creature on display was the Gliptodonte that looked like a distant and heavily armed cousin of the armadillo, with a long tail that might have been the inspiration for the gladiator club. A janitor, or perhaps she was the art conservator, told us to take the old open-faced service elevator to the top floor, that could have once been a storage room for surplus art, to get a view of the old city. We did, and what a view it was of the foggy la Ciudad Vieja, with its many white buildings and houses where colorful laundry flapped in the cool air like flags. In the distance, the Bahia de Montevideo awakened with activity as barges emerged from breaks in the fog.


View from the top floor of the MAPI

After the museum, we headed to Jacinto, a chic cafe recommended by the New York Times in an article entitled “36 Hours: Montevideo, Uruguay.” We started with a salad of the day that was to die for: greens, green beans, beets, blue cheese, thin crispy onion strips, with a drizzle of olive oil served with a dinosaur-sized soft boiled egg, The selection of fresh bread was some of the best I’ve ever sampled and came with some sort of chick pea puree sprinkled with sesame seeds. Our entrees included pork chops with sweet potato mash, fish with a puree of carrots and a vegetarian and roast beef sandwich with a liberal smearing of horseradish sauce. The ice-cold Patricia beer, the Budweiser of Uruguay, quenched our thirst. I had a glass of the local tannant wine, that was much fruiter than others I have sampled and I imagine it had some Merlot to sweeten and soften. We ordered a round of cortados and shared two dessert dishes. The first was a poached apple infused with glazed almonds and a caramel crunch served with a delicate dollop of vanilla bean ice-cream. Our second dessert was a chocolate banana sponge cake with caramelized almonds and cardamon-laced bananas or something like that, I don’t remember for sure. Top tip: dishes of the day like our salad and the apple dessert are significantly discounted.

We left the Jacinto for the Plaza de Independencia to warm up in the sun. It’s really cold here in Montevideo, especially in the shade. We watched Uruguayan soccer fans pass by waving flags, in some cases draped in a flag, head off to where they would be watching the match with Colombia. Chile and Brazil had played to a tie and we ambled up the way to watch the penalty kicks outside a pizzeria where fans gathered to see Chile ultimately lose making only 2 kicks to Brazil’s 3. The mood was somber afterwards as it appeared that many of the locals had hoped Chile would win.

We took a bus to a working class residential area of the city down by the river, took some fotos, dodged dog poop every step of the way and ended up randomly at a public viewing of a the World Cup match between Colombia and Uruguay. As it got underway, fireworks deafened our ears as the local police force looked on with bullet proof vests and clubs at the ready. The festive folks in the crowd were drinking beer and passing around what looked to be wine, not the usual mate. As it became a little more crowded and chaotic and canons went off, I felt like I was on a battle field and that it was time to leave. And we did, but our daughters wanted to stay and film the spectacle. We ultimately caught an empty city bus to head to a cafe to watch the game. We ended up at the Cafe Paris, in a mall of all places, and saw Colombia dominate Uruguay who played without their star biter, Luis Suarez, who had been banned in a previous match for biting an Italian player.  Last stop before retiring was La Inglesa, a Walmart like superstore, with better working conditions for the workers, as the cashiers sit on the job in comfortable chairs and watch TV on their screens when things slow down. There, we bought an international calling card, some bread and another bottle of cheap tannant that my wife and I polished off back at the house.


Abandoned apartment complex

South America Travelogue – Montevideo

Santiago Day 3

We were in Santiago for 3 days and actually did not see much of the cordillera because we stayed in Lo Valle Campino, a hillside community near the airport, no Andes in sight, obscured by hills and smog. Nena took us to El Centro which I guess translates to downtown where we met up with my niece Nati and her boyfriend Andres to watch Chile vs. Holland. Fanaticos were out in force ready for a grand celebration that never happened as the Orange clad Dutchmen lead by striker Robben outplayed the scrappy Chilean squad.

Downtown Santiago is a linear collection of buildings and shops for miles and miles. It has a little bit of a NYC feel without all the tall buildings and the sense of neighborhood. It felt like a giant outdoor shopping mall.


Graffiti is in abundant supply and some curious and colorful murals adorn city walls and subway structures, some of it good, some not; some sanctioned, some clearly not.


Our gracious Santiago hosts, Milton and Nena, made us feel at home in their tidy house with a living room constructed of pine wood adorned with local art. In addition to good conversation and cheer, we ate well. Nena served up Cazuela, a typical Chilean soup made with a clear broth, squash, beef, corn, potatoes, peas and green beans cut french style with pebre (a hot sauce) and fresh cut cilantro to sprinkle on top. She also served fish soup, fillet of reineta (a local fish) and Pastel De Choclo, a distinctive corn-based casserole. Wine poured a plenty, all local reds and whites. My favorite was the sweet late Harvest Riesling that had just the right balance of sweetness and acidity.

Montevideo, Days 1-2

From Santiago, we took a short flight to Montevideo and then a local bus from the Carrasco International airport to the city. We got off at our stop dragging our heavy bags, the heaviest weighing over 22 kilos, an oversized LL Bean bag. As we looked around for another bus to take to our friend’s apartment, we crossed a busy intersection, bags rolling behind us and I tripped over the bulky LL Bean bag my wife was dragging in front of me, getting good height and landing on my stomach atop my own bag, which served as sort of an air bag. Fortunately, I didn’t break any bones and only scrapped the bottom of my left hand that I used to help break my fall. The hand burned for a bit but seemed fine. When we finally got to the apartment, I noticed it was bleeding. I rinsed it off and applied a triple anti-biotic ointment I had brought along just in case. My youngest daughter, who witnessed the fall, could not stop laughing, to the point that she drew tears and a hiccup. I was not amused at the time. There were many locals standing around who also saw my tumbling act and god only knows what they must have thought of the strange gringo doing odd acrobatics with an orange bag.

If you know Spanish well, you will immediately notice that the Uruguayan accent is distinct. It’s hard to describe, but it has a sibilant quality, a sort of airy lisp that is pleasant to the ear, or at least to my ear. The people seem nice and accommodating thus far, although my wife had a bad encounter at La Chacra supermarket. All seemed fine at first. When we entered the store just as the sun set, a radio station was playing the song “Southern Nights”. The workers seemed friendly enough giving us recommendations on pasta, red sauce and the butcher prepared us a good cut of beef (lomo) that is popular in the country.  Uruguay is a meat eating place if ever there was one. And not surprisingly, beef is its major export.  But trouble began when my wife tried to buy the groceries unwittingly with my daughter’s debit card and her own ID. Obviously, the names didn’t match and they gave her a hard time about it. Ultimately, I had to pay with my debit card using my ID which matched. My wife asked the cashier to double bag some things but the cashier threw the bags at her in a huff and told her to “do it yourself”. True story. On a side note, I bought a combination corkscrew that cost 85 pesos or about $3.7 U.S. which turns out we didn’t need because there where 3 just like it in the kitchen drawer of our apartment.

We bought two 960 ml bottles of beer, one called Patricia, a hoppy and light lager, and a Pilsen Especial, which truthfully was not very special. The Patricia cost 57 pesos, ($2.49) and the Pilsen, 62 ($2.70). I doubt the locals drink these forgettable examples of Uruguayan swill. Being a local now for the next 7 days, I won’t be drinking the stuff either, well at least not the Pilsen.

The Internet here is interesting. For one, the government issues every resident, from what I can gather, equipment to enable free Wi-Fi – “Automatic for the People”. Our friend’s apartment has a modem/router with this free Internet but as we found out, it’s good for only 1 gigabyte of data per month which is little more than a few Google searches, 10 minutes of a movie on Netflix and about 4 photos uploaded and posted on Facebook. So, being the nice guests that we are, we used up her data plan as soon as we got on the Internet. After much bureaucratic maneuvering, several phone calls and a visit to the government owned Antel office, we, or more accurately, my eldest daughter  managed to “recharge” the 1 GB of data that we used for about 200 pesos ($10) and now we hope this gets us through our week. We pledged not to stream any movies or videos and only to check and send emails de vez en cuando.

We ventured downtown by bus (which is about the only mode of public transportation), got some maps of the city, headed to the Plaza de Independencia, to see the green statue of founding father Artigas, had an early dinner at the Cafe Brasilero that had free Wi-Fi, sent some emails, watched a World Cup match – Ecuador v. France, bought some beer and wine, which I am now sipping, the wine that is, a Uruguayan Gewurztraminer which cost about $8.60, that is, to be frank, slightly syrupy, not unlike a Viogner, and leaves a sweet and unpleasant medicinal cough drop like aftertaste. This recommended wine is unbalanced, but drinkable.


The tourist information clerks said that Uruguay is known for meat and in particular, the Chivito sandwich, a carnivorous delight and what I ordered from the Chilean waiter at the Cafe Brasilero in an area of town called the Old City near Plaza Matriz. This cafe has been around since 1877 and sports antique chairs and tables, brass chandeliers and a big screen TV for world cup enthusiasts. It seems to be a good place to chill, get connected, have a bite and a Cortado, (the local version of a latte) which we did, or a drink, which we did not. The Chivito consists of bacon, ham, beef, tomato and lettuce served open-faced on toasted bread topped with a sunny side up egg surrounded by lettuce and fresh cut french fries, all for 230 pesos or about $10.

We walked a lot on our first day in the city. My pedometer had me at over 14,719 steps or 6.9 miles, which is the farthest I’ve walked by far since I began using the app on my phone back in October.


Buses spew diesel fumes, and generally foul the air. Hybrid buses have not yet come to this big city nor has a subway system. Though we are not too far from Buenos Aires, the air is anything but good. And to make matters worse, everyone seems to smoke, and not just cigarettes, but weed too which is legal here.  With the air thick with toxins, and the population dieting largely on red meat, it’s a wonder the lifespan here is 76 years old.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it seems that most people are dressed in black. I’m not sure if this is just tradition for this time of year, which is the beginning of winter, or maybe it’s simply a fashion statement. People seem happy enough, but dress, ironically, as if going to a funeral.

Tattered Mural