A celebration of house paint

Trip Start Jul 02, 2009
Trip End Jun 28, 2010

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Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Valparaíso is definitely worth visiting and can easily be done as day trip from Santiago.  First stop was the naval museum which is at the west end  the bay.  It's a great place to get a view of the bay and port facilities.  

As you'd expect from any self-respecting naval museum, there was an intimidating display of naval artillery outside the front entrance including a forty-pounder that was salvaged from the Esmeralda.  I wasn't convinced that this would have been much use against the Peruvian Monitor that sank the Esmeralda but if it had been then Arturo Prat probably wouldn't have got to be Chile's National Hero.

Since it is the naval museum and since Prat was a naval officer, it is not surprising to find a respectful quantity of space devoted to Chile's National Hero.  Two of the portraits of him suggest that Prat's twenties represented a period of great hair loss, given that he was just 31 when he died.

There was even a stained glass tribute to Prat which I though was just a little OTT (although I wouldn't have dared to express this opinion if Pinochet was still calling the shots).   However, it was time to move on and check out some of the other stuff for which Valpo is famous. 

The city rises steeply from the sea which means that you can expect a good workout during your visit.  Being built on a hillside means that the streets are not arranged on a grid so it's easy to get lost but at the same time difficult to lose your sense of direction.  I think that this really adds to the charm of the place but I guess not everybody would agree with that. Here are three pics that'll give you an idea of the local topography.                                        

Of course your don't need to spend your whole day in Valparaiso climbing stairs because there are a number of ascensors on which you can ride up the steep bits.  These are funicular railways and I believe that some are over a hundred years old (this one certainly felt so).

The next pic requires some explanation.  In my home country (Trinidad & Tobago) the colours in which the house is painted are associated with a local beer (Carib) and like a Pavlovian canine I gravitated towards it only to find that it was just a house.

Now it's time to sit back and enjoy the house paint.  I've organised these pics into two groups of six.

Here's the second group.  Do they have to coordinate with their neighbours?

The Nobel-Prize winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda had a house in Valparaíso and this is no open to the public.  It's a bit of a hike to get to La Sebastiana but I was very glad to have made the effort.  I didn't know much about Neruda beforehand but the audio guide is excellent and he comes across as a very warm, likable person (not sure that Pinochet would have agreed with this assessment).  The study is right at the top of the house and I had it to myself for about five minutes.  Unfortunately photography was verboten although that didn't stop a number for people snapping away (occasionally even in full view of the staff). 

There were also some examples of excellent mural art and I got some fun pics.  The 3D mural was really freaky (it really did look 3-dimensional) and I assumed that the dogs humping in another mural could only have been painted since the fall of Pinochet since the old Caudillo would surely have had the painter shot for treason.

It really had been a great day.  I'd learned more about Prat and Neruda and the bold colours of the houses left me in a most excellent mood.  I couldn't help thinking that a number or British towns that would benefit from similarly bold colours although selling this to the residents would be a tall order.  However, once I got on the bus back to Santiago my thoughts started to focus on the forthcoming visit to Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and whether I'd be auto-da-féed after my lecture (nothing to with history despite including images of a stuka, B52, General Paulus and General de Castries).

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