For those of you who don’t know, I used to live in Valparaiso…Indiana. I read a book by Isabel Allende when I lived there (don’t remember which one) and it made me want to go to the other Valparaiso too. The way she wrote about it made it sound so interesting, beautiful, full of character, etc. We spent Christmas in Valparaiso and it was all those things that I had hoped for!
The city is old, originally developed by the Spanish and is and was a major port out of South America. Much like San Francisco, it is built on extreme hills which led people to build wooden elevators (acensors) around various parts of the city to avoid walking up the hills. The hill by our apartment did not have an acensor and after hiking up it several times a day, I could understand exactly why they were built.
As you saw in my previous post, the buildings of the city are covered with murals, adding even more character to an already unique city.
Other interesting details?
Valparaiso is a UNESCO world heritage site.
There was a huge forest fire a little ways away from the city on Christmas Day and the day after. This meant that it was basically raining ash as we wandered around the city and led to some really creepy looking pictures.
Here are just a few of them:
The fruit and veggie market.
The seafood market was also across the street. All that weird seafood we ate was in a restaurant on the second floor of this building.
We wanted to stay somewhere with more of a homey feel rather than a hotel feel for the holiday. This meant we could make breakfast on Christmas Day and use the wireless to call our families on Skype.
The mechanics of an acensor. Most of the acensors were built before 1900. They look old and rickety and most of the ones we rode were run by elderly people which seemed fitting.
And then the forest fire got worse. The fire was actually on a hill behind the city, but the wind blew all the smoke over Valparaiso.
I overhead a guy on the street describe the scene as feeling like a war and I couldn’t have agreed more. It felt like I was in a scene from Saving Private Ryan except without the gun shots. It was creepy and deserted, ash was falling from the sky, the power had gone out and the whole city was filled with a cloudy yellow aura.
We kept our sunglasses on to keep the ash out of our eyes and wandered around watching all the stores close (nobody wants piles of ash on their merchandise!).
Valparaiso has busses that run on electric wires above the streets. When the power went out they all stopped right where they were. We found them deserted with the doors open as people had gotten off to catch non-electric busses and the drivers had found other ways to occupy themselves.