In deepest Uruguay lies a little town called Alejandro Gallinal. Though everyone calls the town Cerro Colorado or Red Hill and there’s no hill to be seen.
You’ll pass the town on your way to the lovely country hotel San Pedro de Timote or as you travel north on Ruta 7.
San Pedro’s last great landowner, the philanthropist Alberto Gallinal donated the land to the local townspeople. In addition, he built the school, the police station, an amphitheatre for popular entertainment and the clinic from his own pocket.
He called the town after his own father, Alejandro. I guess he had licence to, considering. Cerro Colorado was the name of the now defunct train station.
Gallinal also built a very ornate watertower. Here it is next to the amphitheatre.
A carillon is a set of bells in a tower that can be played using a automatic “piano roll” system, as well regular hammers.
This 130-foot carillon was built between 1954 and 1960. It has twenty-three bells brought over from Netherlands. Each bell is named after a Uruguayan hero or a member of Gallinal’s numerous family.
The carillon was silent for the last twenty years as the perforated rolls had become very fragile. However luck is on your side.
In 2016, the system was overhauled. And now traditional Uruguayan marches, the national anthem and even the Marseilles can be heard ringing out on festival days.
The tower is illuminated at night – a spectacular thing in the middle of the country and the pride of the town.
And the views from the top overlooking the Florida countryside are spectacular.
To visit the carillon
The carillon is in Alejandro Gallinal, province of Florida, just off Ruta 7 at km 142.5. You can climb to the top of the belltower (if you are in good shape).
The keys are with Leonardo (who you can see clanging the bell in the video), who works in the government office (the Junta Local) at the foot of the building. Pass by in the mornings weekdays so that he can open up for you. Or if you are staying at San Pedro de Timote have them call the Junta to arrange your visit. Please note he does this voluntarily so be prepared to be flexible.