Saturday, October 26, 2013


Hi everyone! I've had more traveling adventures!!! This past week was by far my favorite trip yet, and I hope that I can do justice to all of the great things I saw and the cool people I've met through this post! Since there's a lot to talk about, I'm going to split my adventures into two posts so that you don't get terribly bored reading so much (:

Hayley and I on our first night in Santiago!
Last week I had the opportunity to head north to Chile's capital city, Santiago, with my GV friend Hayley. Her sister Jackie and friend Jen from back home came to visit her in Chile for two weeks, and they arrived in the country on Saturday morning. Hayley and I met them at the airport and together we started exploring the city. We wandered around the city all afternoon (we're still not in agreement with how many miles we walked altogether that day... but it was a LOT) and planned what we wanted to visit during the rest of our time in Santiago.
Hayley, Jackie, and Jen!

Graffiti of Pablo Neruda 

Sunday was a fairly calm day as well. We went to tour the house of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet who won a Nobel Prize for Literature. He owned three houses in Chile during his lifetime, and the one in Santiago --- La Chascona, which means "crazy hair"  --- was a "secret" abode that he shared with his mistress, who was known for her wild mane of red hair. Neruda loved the ocean, so all of his houses have maritime influences, and it was really neat to see all of the ways that he incorporated the sea in his homes.
La Chascona

Neruda was also a big fan of surprises and the unexpected, and had lots of funny and quirky knick-knacks and items for decoration --- everything in his homes had a significance or a story behind it. It was really cool to walk through the house and to think that someone so influential in the Spanish literary world had designed the house and had lived there. We couldn't take pictures inside the museum, but you can check out the museum's image gallery to see some of the things from the house. Later we met up with Hayley's Chilean mom and little sister for lunch at Chile's oldest mall, which also was the first mall in South America, if I remember correctly. We visited with them for a couple of hours, then window-shopped in the mall for the rest of the afternoon.
A "street" in the cemetery

These are some of the buildings that are used for bodies
On Monday we navigated the Subway system to get to El Cementerio General de Santiago. The cemetery is utterly massive and was designed to be like a "city" for the dead, including streets and addresses for the specific graves. I was impressed with the differences in how people are buried here; there are buildings with tombs stacked one on top of another, and multiple urns with ashes are often kept in the same family plot. There were few places in the cemetery with ground-burial areas that are often used in the States. Many of Chile's most  influential figures are buried in this cemetery, including past Presidents, writers, and singers.

We unfortunately didn't obtain maps until the end of our visit, but we stumbled upon a memorial for those who disappeared and perished during the dictatorship from 1973 until 1990. The memorial lined with empty spaces waiting for the bodies of those who mysteriously "disappeared" during this regime was one of the most sobering sights I've ever seen. Even today there are so many families who have no idea about what happened to their loved ones during this terrible era.
"You're alive; the only death is that
which is forgotten. For your body,
flowers; for your soul, prayers."

After this, we went back to the heart of Santiago to the Plaza de Armas, a literal town square that nearly every major city in Chile possesses. After a delicious lunch near the plaza, we visited the Catedral de Santiago, or the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, which was utterly beautiful. The intense attention to detail in the architecture and every aspect of the church was incredible, and I wish I could attend a service once just to hear the music echoing in that huge space.

We then went to Palacio de la Moneda, which is the Presidential Palace for Chile. It's called La Moneda, which literally means "the coin" because Chilean coins were manufactured there for over a hundred years. The building is gorgeous, and the pictures that I took really don't do it justice. This is also the building where the coup took place in 1973, so it's an important national icon, just as the White House is in the States. On the opposite side of La Moneda, there's an underground Cultural Center, and we checked that out. There were exhibits on modern Chilean art, on ancient African culture, and on Violetta Parra, a famous Chilean singer and artist.

La Moneda

We still had enough pep for one more adventure, and so we went to Cerro Santa Lucía, the hill from which Santiago was founded. On the hill there's a castle, el Castillo Hidalgo, that looks almost like something out of a fairytale, and there are winding steps that take you to the top of the hill and you can look out over the city --- it reminded me quite a bit of the steep steps at Castle Rock in the U.P. By mustering the rest of our energy the four of us climbed to the summit. It was an utterly gorgeous day and you could see the Andes Mountains setting the backdrop for Santiago.
One of the buildings on Cerro Santa Lucía

From the top of Cerro Santa Lucía

El Museo de La Memoria
Tuesday was my favorite day in Santiago. We started off bright and early with a visit to el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, a museum dedicated to informing what happened during the dictatorship and the human rights violations that occurred during that period. As terrible as it was to learn about the atrocities that those in power committed and as heartwrenching as it was to imagine how so many were mistreated, this museum was honestly my favorite part of my time in Santiago because after going through it I feel like I understand so much more about what Chileans experienced, as well as how and why they are still affected today by that dark era.
The list of those who died and/or disappeared during the
dictatorship; this is in el Cementerio General

After getting lunch, we tried to go to el Museo de Arte Precolumbiano, or the Precolumbian Art Museum, but this, unfortunately, was closed due to construction. We traveled across town to el Museo de Bellas Artes, or the Fine Arts Museum of Santiago, but this seemed to be in a period of transition and didn't have many exhibits open so we didn't stay terribly long. The building itself is absolutely beautiful, though, and has been around since the 1800s.
El Museo de Bellas Artes

We decided to have a fancy schmancy dinner in Patio Bellavista. the most touristy and artsy sector of Santiago filled with pubs, bars, restaurants, and little shops. I'd really like to explore this area more if I ever get the chance because it's so colorful and full of life. We ate Peruvian food (which is utterly delicious) and drank Pisco Sour made in the Peruvian fashion (also delicious), then headed back to the hostel because Chile was playing Ecuador in a soccer match to qualify for next year's World Cup, and we wanted to watch the game, as well as to avoid rowdy fans.
Hayley and me in the square after Chile's big win

Chile ended up winning the match, and the whole city practically exploded! I was a rebellious child and went with Hayley and Jen to the plaza closest to our hostel, which was only about a ten minute walk --- there was no way I was going to miss seeing how this passionate country reacted to such a proud moment. I can honestly say I've never seen anything like it: all of the cars were honking as they passed us on the street and waited at red lights, and the crowd in the square was immense and only grew more as time passed. Everyone was yelling and throwing confetti and waving Chilean flags, and climbing on anything and everything possible; groups climbed on the top of bus stops and jumped up and down, and one guy scaled a traffic light and waved an ENORMOUS Chilean flag in a manner reminiscent of Les Miserables. It was absolutely incredible, and I'll be sure to post a video that I took, just so that you can all get an idea of how noisy it was. We stayed for probably twenty-ish minutes, but decided to leave when the crowd started setting off fireworks. Check out the video at the bottom, and the videos in these links!

La Virgen 
We got up early again on Wednesday, and went to el Cerro San Cristobal, the tallest hill in Santiago. We took a funicular ride up the hill, passing the National Zoo on the way up. I'd never been on a funicular before, but I thought it was super interesting how one car of the funicular is used to balance the other completely --- no fuel required! Pretty neat, if you ask me. Anyway, we made it to the top, where there's a huge statue of the Virgin Mary that looks over the city; we could even see her from our window in the hostel. From the top of the hill you can see all of Santiago, even more that one could from Cerro Santa Lucía; unfortunately, the day wasn't quite as breezy as it had been when we climbed the other hill, so smog was pretty thick over the city.

High above Santiago

I've never really encountered air pollution, so this was an experience for me, and that was basically the only negative that I encountered in Santiago. We explored the church and touristy shops on the hill for a bit, ate a light lunch, then took the funicular back down to pack our bags for the next leg of our trip.

In all, I really enjoyed Santiago a lot. The culture is significantly more urban than I've ever experienced, especially in comparison to Chillán and Grand Rapids. It's not exactly a beautiful city, but I like the "vibe" that I got while being there --- I could see myself living there and being content, should the opportunity arise. But, of course, that's way too much to think about at the moment, and I have absolutely no idea what the future might hold for me (:
Colorful graffiti outside of Neruda's house

That's all that I have for now! Stay tuned to read about my favorite city so far --- Valparaíso! Thanks for reading!

Love and besos from Chile!


Santiago <3
Me with the Virgin
In Cerro Santa Lucía
Hayley and I are going to make a slideshow
of all of the pictures we take side-by-side
to show the change over time, haha

Cool fountain in a park

Viva Chile! <3

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