Montivideo is the largest city, capital and chief port of Uruguay. Its harbour is one of the most important in the America’s. Surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches the city of Montivideo is a mix of historic old buildings (they have just realized what they have and are now busy preserving them) large shady squares, museums and art galleries. It feels very European. The nicest part for the tourist is the old part of the city with lots of nice bars and chi-chi restaurants. The population is nearly one point five million which is roughly 44 percent of the total population of Uruguay.
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For the British and Germans however, Montivideo is most famous for the Battle of the River Plate and the destruction of the great German pocket battleship, the Graff Spee, chased into Montivideo by the British cruisers Ajax, Achilles and Exeter.Unable to escape, her Captain was ordered by Hitler to scuttle the ship, and he later commited suicide.
Right in the centre of the port is one of her huge anchors as well as the massive range finder that sat right at the top of the ship. About fifteen minutes taxi ride away along the coast is a small Naval Museum at Puerto Del Buceo.
Inside the museum has plenty of photographs of the Graff Spee sinking and the famous photo of Captain Langsdorff giving a naval saluted at the graveside of his fallen crew members when everybody else was giving the Nazi salute.
Some say that Hitler was insenced by his actions, seeing them as disloyal and this probably contributed to Langsdoff’s suicide as he would have most likely been put up against a wall and executed on his return to Germany.
Other items of interest are Langsdorffs ceremonial sword and a uniform from one of the petty officers. Interestingly there is also a uniform donated by Admiral Harwood who masterminded the victory over the German battleship.
Outside the museum is a 150mm gun raised from the vessel and another small anchor around the side. Its only a small museum, but it is packed full of other stuff about the Uruguayan navy and it is all very well presented.Entrance is free and it is open from 9am to 12pm, then 2pm to 6pm except Thursdays. Well worth a visit.
On Feb 2006 the eagle figurehead from the stern of the vessel was recovered. To protect the feelings of those still sensitive to Nazi Germany, the swasita on the figurehead was covered as it was pulled out of the water. This reignited all the fears about neo nazism. However the idea is to salvage as much of the wreck as possible. Unfortunately this needs a ton of money so the Eagle will probably be sold, and it will be difficult to stop it getting into the wrong hands.