Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Semana Santa en Chile

So Easter Week led me across the border and across the Andes to Chile, Argentina’s skinny neighbor. After an easy 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires, an annoying $100 “reciprocity fee” that all U.S. citizens have to pay to get into the country (a clever way for Chileans to get back at the U.S. for charging $100 just to TRY to get an American visa), and a quick shuttle ride from the airport we were in Santiago, the capital. We spent 2 nights in Santiago and I really liked it – even though it’s a huge city, it felt much more laid back and WAY less hectic than Buenos Aires. We stayed in a really nice neighborhood, Bellavista (described as the “bohemia” of Santiago), which had tons of colorful houses, cobblestone streets and little restaurants and shops.

We spent most of the first day exploring a bunch of Santiago’s modern and fine art museums, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Art Museum and the Museum of Visual Arts. A lot of the art dealt with the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende (a democratically elected president) and the almost 20-year military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet that followed it. Besides still being very present in the art we saw, the memory of the “Chilean September 11th” was all over the streets:

We also took a tour of La Chascona, Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago, which had lots of artwork and gifts from famous friends of his like Diego Rivera and Siqueiros, his Nobel Prize, and tons of quirky furniture, dishes and decorations. After a late lunch we wandered over to the Plaza de Armas, the city’s main plaza:

On our second day in Santiago, we took a funicular up to the top of San Cristobal Hill, the highest point in the city, which (of course, this is Latin America) has a huge statue of the Virgin Mary on top, watching over Santiago.

Usually San Cristobal has an amazing view of the city and the Andes behind it. Sadly, you can usually only see that “amazing view” right after it rains because Santiago is absolutely covered in pollution. We did get a good view of Santiago itself, but could only make out the outline of the Andes behind the thick smog. Here are a few views of the city from the top (you can sort of make out the outline of the mountains in the background if you look closely):

After our few days in Santiago, we took a bus to Valparaíso, a port city about 2 hours north of Santiago. The city is built on a huge hill overlooking a bay, and tons of the houses are painted bright/beachy colors. We spent one morning exploring the hilly streets and looking at the colorful houses, a lot of which are decorated with murals and mosaics.

Even though Valparaiso was really pretty and seemed like a great place to live, we discovered that there wasn’t a lot to actually do there, so we spent most of our time at the beaches in Viña del Mar, the town next door. Needless to say, after being in the urban jungle of Buenos Aires for five weeks, it felt really nice to see the ocean again. Here are some pictures of the beaches in Viña:

Overall it was a really fun and relaxing trip. It was really interesting to experience another Latin American country and see the differences in everything from accents to food to architecture. Here are my favorite things about Chile:

1. The fact that they put palta (avocado) on EVERYTHING
2. The Santiago subway system (well-organized and planned, clean, and not ridiculously crowded - Buenos Aires, take note)
3. The lack of humidity
4. The fact that no matter where you go you're never too far from the ocean

I’d also say that one of the highlights of the trip was the people we met in the hostels we stayed at. A lot of them had been traveling all throughout Latin America for months, and it made me realize that there’s so much more of Latin America that I want to see. We even met one Canadian couple who had been traveling around the world for almost a year and had been to every single continent. Amazing.


Karen said...

Loved seeing the pictures!!!!

Joni said...

Great update. Pete thought the reciprocity fee was pretty funny! Beaches must have been a nice change from the "concrete jungle" but I gotta say, they don't look like our Maine beaches!!
Keep having fun!

Carol said...

Sounds like you are making the most of your experience, as usual. I can't believe the smog in the city! I mean, I can believe it, but it really is evident in your pictures. Looks like the weather is great there. We are so ready for great weather here!

Great pictures. Thanks for writing and keeping us posted on your adventures as well as being so informative!!!


Caitlin said...

Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like you are having a great trip! Maeve loved her postcard. We have been following your blog in class and some students have questions/comments.

What is it like to go to school there?

Why is Santiago so polluted? WOW!

It is really cool that you get to travel to so many different countries and experience different cultures.

Why did you decide to go to Argentina? How many people are you with?

Is a funicular like a cable car on a zip line? How long did it take to get to the top of San Cristobal Hill?