Valparaiso means ‘going to paradise’ and that is exactly what Valpo (the short version of Valparaiso) is – a little bit of paradise. We went to Valpo and Viña del Mar for a weekend with our Chilean friends Oscar and Stephanie. The weekend started on Friday night with Stephanie’s birthday party at her house with the most beautiful cake ever! We witnessed an interesting ritual where the birthday person’s face gets pushed into the cake after the birthday song. I’m glad South Africans don’t have any birthday traditions like that (that I am aware of).
We went to Valpo for the Red Bull Flugtag event, which is this extremely entertaining event (if you watch it on TV) where crazy teams build vessels with which they try to fly and end up falling into the ocean. If you actually attend the Red Bull Flugtag, you will know that in reality it is a badly organized event where thousands of spectators stand around roasting and bored in the sun. They can’t see anything, because the ‘launchpad’ is miles away and there is only one big screen behind it, which means that only about ten people can actually see the going-ons.
Our interesting ‘platter’-to-share contained all sorts of strange seafood. Unfortunately, later in the day, both Oscar and I were affected by the seafood mix and felt slightly sea-sick. This of course completely ruined the National Piscola day for us, where it is expected that you drink lots of Piscolas (Chile’s version of Brannas and Coke).
Valparaiso’s charm lies in the fact that the city is divided into two levels – the city center on a lower level and the surrounding hills (cerros). To move between the upper level and the lower level, there are ‘accensors’ (funiculars) that you can ride. If you walk in the city center, you can see the colourful houses built on the cerros between the buildings. Valpo is also known for the great murals you stumble upon while walking in the city.We spent Saturday afternoon exploring Viña del Mar, which is a ten minute bus drive from Valpo.
Sunday was spent on a beach in Quintero, a small port city about an hour’s drive from Valpo.