Mansions and Slums
Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
117Trip End Ongoing
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The city is located on 42 hills that fall steeply to the sea. We stay in one of the rejuvenated bohemian areas where houses are painted a multitude of colours and small hotels and hospedajes proliferate. Little of Valparaíso's colonial past has survived thanks to pirate raids, tempests and earthquakes, especially the devastating one in 1906. What has survived are the unique ascensores (or finicular railways) that ferry people for a couple of pesos up and down the steep hills
We take a long walk through the maze of paths and narrow streets in the slums and at times it's an uncomfortable experience. After the relative prosperity of Santiago, it feels as if we've seen the underbelly of Chile.
Our family-run hospedaje (Casa Liesel - firstname.lastname@example.org) is cute, comfortable and great value for the area, with a very generous European-style breakfast. Ten minutes walk away is the Museo al Cielo Abierto, a collection of 20 street murals on the exteriors of buildings by some of Chile's finest contemprary artists.
To us, the city seems a little schizophrenic with a personality of extremes - extreme wealth and poverty, bohemian artistic flare and people struggling to survive. I enjoy being in Valparaíso because to me the city seems truly unique and memorable stacked up against everything else we have seen in Latin America.