Yesterday fellow traveler and blogger Kendra Thornton talked about her favorite city, Las Vegas, and its charm beyond its flashy casinos here on Wanderstrudel. Today, I would like you to get to know one of my favorite cities – Valparaíso.
Valparaíso, de mi amor
Even though I lived for almost 3 years in Santiago de Chile, my favorite Chilean city was and is without the shadow of a doubt Valparaíso. Sure, I like Santiago, and it is a nice city overall. But I LOVE Valparaíso. Valpo as Chileans call the city lovingly, always seemed more lively and more colorful to me than its big, modern, but also somehow more sterile neighbor. By colorful I don’t just mean the picturesque houses in all possible in impossible shades from blue to yellow to red to green that frame the many hills of the city, by colorful I also mean the people and the general character of Valparaíso. Valpo is a port, the Chilean port to be more precise, which makes it also Chile’s portal to the world. Therefore, you will find fishermen as well as cruise ship travelers roaming around the city. Valparaíso is also abig college city with a prestigious university, attracting Chilean as well as many international students, that make Valparaíso – according to my own statistics – the Chilean city with the highest dreadlock rate.
You will find tourists from all over the world visiting the city that has been a UNESCO cultural heritage site since 2003. It is also the city where the National Congress meets, so you will most certainly find many people in suits frantically yelling into their Smartphones, or buying a hot dog (completo) for lunch from a street vendor. On weekends you will find many Chileans from the surrounding cities that come to Valpo to party. In the summer many people come to Valparaíso from its twin city, Viña del Mar, a popular tourist destination for anybody who is looking for sandy beaches and crystal clear water. And I bet that all of these different people are probably sitting together, laughing and talking, sharing a bottle of vino at one of the many taverns in the city (as a matter of fact, I have been one of them many times). Valparaíso is vibrant, lively, young, fresh (literally, as it is also always a touch colder than Santiago), alternative, sometimes smelly (blame it on the fish), full of music and it never seems to sleep.
Valparaíso is constantly celebrating something: The New Year’s celebration in Valparaíso is famous throughout all of Chile and beyond, just like carnivalesque the Festival de Mil Tambores (Festival of the Thousand Drums), the Art Festival, the International Fotography Festival … It is also the city where you can find one of Pablo Neruda’s more colorful houses. He is probably the best-known Chilean poet, Nobel Prize winner, and a national hero. His three extravagant houses are legendary, and one of the most popular tourist attractions. It is not a coincidence that he chose the hills of Valparaíso as a location for one of his houses.
For me, going from Santiago to Valparaíso always seemed like a vacation. It also seemed like diving into a different, more magical world. If Santiago is the city that moves Chile’s economy, Valparaíso is the city that moves the country’s soul.
What about you? What is your favorite travel location? Which place has a special place in your memories?