August 24th, 2004

Ant

Valparaiso

I had been there already on sunday, though only at the busterminal and the football stadium, but it seemed interesting enough to spend the day, so today I went back to the harbour town Valparaiso.

When I looked at the map and the accompanying text, the first city that did spring to mind was Napoli in Italy. Harbour town, plenty of old parts, funicolares to take you to the higher parts of the town, they do seem very similar. And seeing that I still consider the Italian town as one of the nicest cities I have ever visited, my expectations were high.

And to start with the conclusion immediately, my expectations were too high. It does seem logical. Napoli seems to have taken mythical proportions in my mind, it has been 8 years since I was there, since I wrote my first travel story and I only spend 16 hours there.

Valparaiso couldn´t possibly live up to that standard. After walking all the way through the flat town center, I took the first elevator up the hill. Actually it was the last one, the furthest south, but that´s just a detail. The view over the harbour and the rest of the city was great. Instead of visiting the navy museum there, I decided to do what I like best; just stroll around the streets and see where I end.



The strolling wasn´t too easy though, as one´s sense of direction gets inevitably confused walking around in this strange grid of streets where no 50 meters are straight and no 10 meters are on the same level. Constantly walkin up and down, trying to find a way to walk back to the previous elevator turned out to be a real task. It took me hours to get there. In the meantime I did enjoy all the great views though and saw plenty of very nice houses, mostly improvised against a mountain wall. Somehow I have always liked deserted building that were once nice. Not ruins yet, but not used either, in Vaparaiso I saw plenty of those buildings.

The elevators are a very nice feature in the city. They are on some list of top 100 things that are most likely to disappear worldwide, which would be a shame, as they are not just fun, but also very useful. They seem very dodgy when you get in, mostly only suitable for 7 to 10 people. The track they take is always rusty and as soon as it starts moving, everything squeeks, but it is never dangerous and a minute or 2 later, one is suddenly 100 meter higher without having to take 373 steps up the hill.

After lunch I found another one, though I must have missed two others I realised when I looked at the map on top of this elevator. Luckily the walk to the next one wasn´t as long as the one in the morning.

I had decided to go to Viña del Mar for the last bit of the afternoon, but by the time I was at the Congress (Pinochet moved it from the capital for some reason a decade ago) and noticed what a hideous and ugly building that was, I found myself opposite the busstation and decided not to bother with Viña anymore. Just to be able to say that I had been there, it wouldn´t be worth it. Just a beach resort, like many others, too much for my tired legs.

And I was very tired, I read a few pages in the bus back to the capital, but woke up soon afterwards when we got there. I really slept, not easy in a bus.