Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Partying in Valparaiso pt. 1

So where were we? Ah yes, Valparaiso... probably my favorite city I´ve been to on this trip.

    This place really took me surprise. I knew it would be interesting city, but I was completely mesmerized by the shapes that comprised the roads and the buildings, and street art covering all of it. It reminded a little of San Francisco, but the roads continued to wind and criss cross until you could completely lose track of where you were. The city was placed right along shimmering bay that yawned out into the Pacific, and the weather could not have been better; each day was cloudless and breezy and the nights were cool and calm. For me, the contrast of the aging beauty of the city with it´s current state of disrepair was what made it most appealing. Ever since the Panama canal was built the city lost its value as a sea port and all the rich European-wannabees were replaced with a poorer working class. However, the city seems to have never lost its touched and remained a vibrant, and fertile place for all kinds of art, many of which we got to experience while visiting. To see a beautiful mural painted on a house fallen into desrepair, next to an beautiful mansion with walls shaped to match the curve of the hill, and belwo all this an open and used trash pit is what really drew me to this city.

   After making our way up one of the city´s many winding hills, we came upon a hostel called Patapata. Although it wasn´t in the guidebook, a young couple walking out of the place could not stop raving about it, and since we were a little worn out from trekking uphill with our bags, we thought it would be a fine choice. The place was cramped but friendly and had a nice courtyard covered by trees. The ohter travelers seemed gregarious enough and one of the staff members, Jorge, made it his job to make sure we always knew about the most interesting things happening in the area, as well as the best places to get a delicious cheap meal. After eating a full course $2 lunch at what looked more like a convenience store than a restaurant, Carl and I decided to check out some of the city. After wandering up and down the roads staring at the street art and taking in as much of the epic views of the city as we could, we started to make our way down to the fish market, in the hopes that we could make ourselve another delicious seafood dinner. Unfortunately it was closed, and in my attempt to take a picture of the city, we were hounded after by two men desperately trying to get us to follow them into an alleyway. It was annoying, but eventually they realized we weren´t in the mood to get mugged and trudged off.

      As we continued to make our way through the city, we came across one of the functioning ascensors, elevators into certain neighborhoods. Valparaiso is built on a very steep hill, hence the winding streets, but at one point the city decided to build around 20 wooden diagonal elevators so residents wouldn´t always have to trudge up and down for their groceries. Like most things in this city, most of the ascensors were broken down and did not look like they were going to be fixed any time soon. But we were lucky enough to stumble upon one of the few working ones. We took it up for a mere $0.50 and found ourselves on a patio with an excellent view of the city. We got our picture snapping urges out of our system and began enjoying the surrounding neighborhood as well.

    We eventually made our way back to Patapata where Jorge had decided to invite a local band to play in the courtyard. Carl and I worked up the barbeque and made some shish kabob while listening to this very indie band. It was a lot of fun and we made friends with many of the backpackers and Chileans who were vacationing for a 3-day weekend. After a few more communal libations, the locals and Jorge introduced us to Valparaiso´s excellent nightlife. We all had a blast and were easily up past 5am (which became a reocurring theme in this town).

    The next morning, after a notably good breakfast, Carl and I hit the streets of Valparaiso again. We eventually came across one of the old cemetaries that was filled when the city was still incredibly wealthy. It had the panache of some of the cemeteries I had seen in Paris, but with a Latin American/Sea-side twist. We spent a good hour wandering around this slowly decaying site, peering into masoleums with broken angel statues and cracked but still beautiful stained glass windows. After having a stand-off with a pack of dogs (while I´ve had a great experience with stray dogs so far, Valparaiso definitely had a problem with turf fights between the packs) , we came across a cultural park with some amazing exhibitions of local artsists. The work was quite impressive and totally free to the public, I felt incredibly lucky to have access to so much wonderful art directly from the city, and wished I had a reason to stay in this city for much longer than would be reasonable for my trip.

    We eventually made our way to Plaza Bismark as Jorge had told us there would be an incredible clowning show at the TeatroMuseo (which of course I couldn´t say no to). After getting another amazing view of the city from the plaza we were excited to see the ´museum´ filled with clown puppets and carnival cannons, from which we got some pretty amazing pictures (take a look at Carl´s profile on facebook to get an idea) After enjoying the museum itself, we sat down on the back bleachers for one of the funniest shows I´ve seen in quite awhile. The clowns were amazing, and managed to sneak in a ton of adult comedy without the kids sitting in front understanding it in the slightest. Carl and I even got a little bit of attention since we were the only gringos in the audience, with the clowns hitting on us in English across the room. There were many moments where we almost fell off the risers from laughing so hard, and they managed to keep up some great skits for a good 90 minutes. It turns out they tour around the world quite consistently, even though they´re based in Valparaiso, and so I hope I´ll be able to see them again in the near future.

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