Valparaiso / Chile

14 04 2011

Translation into English: Aygül Karındaş

For our Valparaiso photo album:

For our Vina del Mar photo album:

28.05 – 03.06.2010

Once again, we get our backpacks checked and enter Chile. We move down the Andes through the border and mountainous passage which is called “Caracoles” (“snail” in English). Each curve here is numbered. And I can only catch number 23. There may be more than 23 though. Valparaiso is one of the coastal cities of Chile.  With its elevators and pictured walls, it is the most popular city among tourists.

Our first host is Hernan. He lives at an old mansion in Valparaiso’s district with university. He teaches at that university. Seeing the house makes us excited; because, it is a perfect Valparaiso house with its pictured walls and ancient structure. Hernan lives with his brother. The mansion has 14- 15 rooms some of which are lent to students. We will stay in one of these rooms.

Valparaiso has 15 ancient lifts. The city rises rapidly starting from the coast and these lifts are for the residential places over the hills. They were made about 100 years ago. The oldest one was made in 1883. Most of them are used for transportation purposes. Only one of them (Cerro Polanco Lift)  ascends steeply. The others are funiculars.

There is a Maritime Museum and one lift near the house we stay in. Luckily, all museums are free on the days we stay there.  We take a short tour in the Maritime Museum. We are so hungry, though. As soon as we get off the lift, we rush into the first restaurant can find. Then that restaurant becomes the place we frequently drop by. We take some seafood and calamari empanada in return for 1000 Chilean Pesos (around 2 USD). Empadanas are so big that one or two empadana is enough for us.  Another time, we have the menu of the day at the same place. Almost all restaurants have menu of the day in Chile, so, it is easy to have really cheap meals there.

Valparaiso town center has many magnificent buildings. The parliament building and the center of navy are here. The city is made of extremely contrast structures. On one side are huge magnificent trade centers, banks, government buildings and on the other side are patchy suburban houses made of tin plates. Lots of homeless people reside in the streets; and this makes us just uncomfortable after seeing the sterilized Argentina. We just can’t feel that safe anymore.

In the evening, Herhan takes us to a social club called “El Rincon de las Guitarras”. This is a place where only Chilean people go; so, there is no tourist here. It is a café made out of a small house. There is live music and everybody does “cueca” dance.

The reason why we came here is to watch the dances, dance along and have “chorillana”. Chorillana is a meal made of French fries at the bottom and a mixture of eggs, onion beef and sausage on top. It has a thousand calories, but still delicious. It would go very well with beer, but we don’t drink beer.


We have “terremoto” (earthquake) which is a typical Chilean drink instead. It is made of white wine, rom and pineapple ice cream. It comes in a jug with a huge ice cream on top. First we blend it and then drink.

Afterwards, they order me a “pisco sour” shot. I just love it. It is so tasty. Pisco is originally a Peru drink. Peru has a city named Pisco. Pisco sour is made of pisco, lemon juice and sugar. It originally has a little bit of egg whites. We will go visit the guy who found this drink and have his pisco sour; which will be the subject of another story. I order a pisco sour. Hernan gets excited and orders a bottle of pisco. They mix it with coke and drink. It is stronger than vodka.

We eat and drink and watch the people dancing. And it is our turn. They insist and get us dancing. After watching the people such a long while, we dance very nicely and wave our scarves.

At the end of the night, live music is replaced with a gay musician. He dances waving his scarf; makes joke with everyone and makes us laugh. We go back home before the sun is up. And this is the best night since we have been in South America.

In the morning, we find out that the German CS girl (we expected to come at night) could not make it, as the road is shut down due to the snow. The road is shut down in one day; just after we passed by. It must be our lucky day once again.

As Valparaiso is a coastal city, the Mercado here is filled with seafood. The original Mercado was damaged by the quake in Conception, so it is empty inside. Seafood restaurants and salespeople fill this street. We pick a crowded restaurant on the street and walk in. I order “macha a la parmesana” (macha mussels cooked with parmesan cheese- 5200 Chilean Pesos) and Murat orders a “mariscal cocida” (mixed seafood with all kinds of shelled food- 3200 Chilean Pesos). In Chile, they always serve a tomato onion sauce as a starter. Unfortunately, we cannot eat this because of a herb like parsley. But the meals we have ordered turn out perfect.

macha a la parmesana
mariscal cocida

Afterwards, we try “paila marina” (2800 Chilean Pesos) at another place. This is also a kind of mixed seafood dish. And it has a huge mussel inside.

paila marina

We see older men playing bridge on the street.

And we spot a boat trip for 1500 Chilean Pesos while walking down the seaport. Then we walk in curiously. The boat leaves the port among lots of pelicans; moves by a shipyard afloat. We spot some marine ships and a submarine approaches to the port just as we are passing by. Then comes a surprise! Sea lions! There are sea lions just beside the port! It seems they have been waiting for us here all the time we were looking for them in the deserts of Cabo Polonio and in the roads of Puerto Mardyn. They are lying in a lazy mood.

Upon returning from the port, we see a man on a bicycle full of country flags. We approach and talk to him. He is travelling on his bike for a few years. He always meets with government people or military people there. We ask him if he plans to come to Turkey.  He says he plans to come to Turkey in 2013. Then we start following him on Facebook. We find out that he has crossed the wild mountains and caracoles borders all on his bike. He continues travelling while I am writing this. His last spot was Ecuador.

As we planned to stay at Hernan’s for only three nights, we change our host. We will stay at Josue’s place at the other end of the city. Josue lives with his wife Miriam and his two kids. One of his kids is at elementary school; the other is just four years old. And we will stay in their room which is the most colorful room we have stayed so far. It is filled with toys. 🙂

Josue and Miriam take us to the open museum. Almost all houses here have pictured walls. The paintings on the walls are a little bit faded; but still colorful and beautiful. Narrow, steep and pictured roads with steps… Ahead of these streets on the steepest spot is La Sebastiana which is the house of the famous poet Pablo Neruda. Another day, I tour the house when Murat enjoys the garden view.  The museum is nothing more than “Pablo Neruda would drink his coffee here and would bathe there”; but what impressed me here is Neruda’s love of life, joy, aesthetics and his creativity. At such a time when Chile only had three ordinary colors of bath tiles, and everyone had boring bathrooms, Pablo Neruda mixed a pinch of those three colors to form such a nice bathroom. Small details made his life joyful. The house looks on the whole Valparaiso and is filled with various stuff from all over the world. We greet Pablo Neruda, a close friend of Nazım Hikmet and leave.

On the way home, Miriam wants to know more about Turkey. She asks how women dress in Turkey. The general view about Turkish ladies is that they wear headscarves. People want to know about weddings. If we are around a computer, we show them videos about Turkish people on Youtube. When we return home, we show them slideshows about Turkey and some of our photographs. We often find ourselves doing publicity of our homeland. We are sure that many people will consider Turkey as a vacation spot next time they travel.. 🙂

Valparaiso’s street food is meat on skewers and “sopaipillas”. Sopaipillas is squash flavored fried pastry. As they use very little squash, it does not taste good; but still good for emergency situations.

The day after, we go to the place of the man who created “chorillanas” following advice of Josue. The place is called “J Cruz M Museum Casino Social”. It is a very simple place; the oilcloths on the tables are filled with the writings of the visitors. The walls are covered with the previous customers’ photos and much other stuff. It is a whacky place. Food is served in portions minimum for two people. The food is firstly for the sailors. Thinking of a cheap and practical food to give sailors energy; they came up with this dish made of potatoes, meat, eggs and onions.

On our last day, we go to Vina del Mar with Josue and all his family. This is another city 10 kilometers to Valparaiso. Vina del Mar is close to Valparaiso; but two cities look so different. Valparaiso is old, a little bit ragged and very crowded; but Vina del Mar has nice apartments rising by the coast. With its nice city arrangement and palm trees in rows; it resembles to Karşıyaka. Valparaiso is like İzmir, in this case. On the way to Vina del Mar, you can see one of “moi statues” on Easter Island. It is brought from the island. The statue only has a head. It is not as big as the ones on the island. Easter Island is one of the places we wanted to visit but could not; because of its cost. However, we are happy to see one of these statues.

On Valparaiso, Pablo Neruda said “Taking all the steps of this city means travelling the whole world”. But Valparaiso is not enough for us, so, we take a 1,5- 2 hours’ trip and arrive at Santiago, the capital of Chile.

For our Valparaiso album:

For our Vina del Mar album:

Gülen & Murat





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