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A lesson learned in Valparaíso

To begin with, Valparaíso, the port city clinging to the hills right next to the Pacific Ocean just two hours to the west of Santiago, is a rather run down city. Almost buildings have certainly seen better days and there’s honestly more graffiti than wall to be seen on most facades. Add to that the fact that we arrived to the city on two o’clock on Christmas Day and the feeling as we walked along there streets was more that of the beginning of an apocalyptic zombie film than somewhere people actually lived. Literally every store was closed, very little people were walking the streets and those who were honestly seemed to be under the influence of at least one substance. Hence, after reaching our AirBnB and finding one small kiosk with something to eat we spent our first afternoon inside.

After that somewhat frightening introduction to Valparaíso though, the city grew on us. Our first non-apocalyptic day we spent wandering around the Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. While rather touristy, the sheer amount of street art meant that there was a new photo opportunity one every street. The sun was shining, the colours on the walls shimmering and the grey and dark feeling of the day before completely gone. After devouring two kilos of cherries we had bought for 1000 pesos (1,2 USD) we spent the afternoon in the upper scale coastal neighbour of Viña del Mar.

The view of Cerro Concepcion or Cerro Lagre, honestly never truly understood which was was which or where the border between them went.

Our last day in Valparaiso started off at the old prison once used to house political prisoners during the Pinochet dictatorship. Nowadays, however, it’s housing a beautiful cultural centre. While there wasn’t much in terms of exhibitions the vibe was very nice and the view of the city even nicer. The entrance is free and I truly do recommend a visit. After that we went down to the port area where sea lions were fighting with pelicans about the attention from the crowd, but where two sea lions finally won with their version of ‘king of the hill’.

The old prison turned cultural centre.

All in all, Valparaíso showed us that first impressions sometimes lie. What first looked to be a run down and grey city showed to be a gritty but extremely colourful gem on the Pacific Ocean of Chile.



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