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Vina Del Mar / Valparaiso, July 23 2009

sunny 17 °C

Today I saw Chilean sea and for the first time the real sun warmed me up since I am hire – so much that most of the day I spent in a T-Shirt. This morning I caught the bus in Santiago and after an hour and a half I was in Vina Del Mar. The day was beautiful, the sun, the sea, and the beach atmosphere warmed me up quickly. City has around 300,000 inhabitants, it is quite fancy and expensive, for Chilean norms at least. Not by an accident has Chilean President chosen to have a residency here. Vina Del Mar is connected with Valparaiso, a city that interests me more and where I think I will spend more time during the next 3 days.

I spent the day sun-tanning and walking on the beach. The city is not quite by my taste, its quite bland and characterless but I am content that I saw more of Chile. I expect more from Valparaiso.

I got accommodated in a appealing little hotel, got a good deal due to the low season. I have some sort of a view to the ocean and sun in my room to wake me up in the morning. Again the problem is freezing room that only actually bothers me during the night. These people that they live in Caribbean so why would they need heating?

So most interesting thing that happened to me today was the night out. I met my other contact from Toronto here – Rodrigo that lives in Vina Del Mar. We met at 9, and after he suggested we join bunch of his friends / colleagues drinking in a bar nearby. Of course I accepted – these days I am my sociable myself again. Bar was awesome, somehow reminded me of teenage life in Sarajevo during the pre-war era, not much light, people drinking and smoking, nice music, couples kissing passionately. Rodrigo is a journalist, so all 6 of them were from the local publishing house. They were a happy alcohol intoxicated bunch, and tone of their laughs and screams made our table the loudest one in a bar. Of course as a newbie, I was a joke of the day at first. My nick name from my childhood – Gogo – that I planned on using in Chile instead of my English unfriendly real name, they found hilarious. Even though they hardly spoke any English, they very well heard of Go-go dancers. Took them 5 minutes to wear out the topic, when they started pulling my leg that a custom in Chile is that a extranero pays the bill. All that after they all ordered drinks and a bite to eat. Well I wasn’t born yesterday and swallowed all that being a good sport. In order to catch up with their sense of humour, I swallowed a couple of pisco-sours, their sweet, sour, and strong authentic cocktail – and their pride and joy. I relaxed completely after that, and my Spanish started flowing from my sleeve. Karaoke started after that, all local Celine’s and Mariah’s – they love their sobbing tears songs. Later on I started singing in Spanish as well. Anyhow bunch was a happy one and me with them as well, so first social adventure wich Chilenos was a compete success – another good sign. At the end of the night – of course they covered the bill.

Daily budget:
Return ticket Santiago – Vina Del Mar (1,5 hours) US$12
Hotel Capric Vina Del Mar (2 beds with a bath and breakfast) US$19
Glass of a excellent white wine in a nice pub/restaurant US$1.50

Posted by Srechko 22:05 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Andes in sight!

Santiago, Chile

semi-overcast 6 °C

As I heard, after the rain sun usually comes out, and it was like that today. I was finally able to see snow capped mountain tops of Andes that Santiago is surrounded with and scene was phenomenal.

I started the day by climbing the small hill “Santa Lucia” where the castle Hidalgo is located, from where the founder of Chile Pedro De Valdivia used to rule the country. To reach the top, I went through the maze of stone stairs and hidden pathways and passed by number of fountains and monuments. From the top of the hill, fantastic view of Andes opened up as smog cleared up a bit. Here, the old man from yesterday chatted me up again, with the same strike of the educational workers story. He didn’t recognize me, and after my comment that he is all over the city and that I remember him from yesterday, he disappeared like magic. Aah old man is a master of his domain….

Later on, Gustavo joined me and he showed a few more city attractions, among them the powerful presidential palace “Palacio De La Moneda”, main justice court, Chilean government building, and neighbourhood “Cocha y Torro” where several artists - architects competed with building architecture originality. We also entered the main city’s Cathedral that left me speechless by number of details and its magnificence. Not quite like St. Peter’s cathedral in Vatican but close. City is abound with perfectly maintained and preserved plazas, parks, and open spaces that maybe more than anything else give it its grandiose flare. So far I found London to be the best cosmopolitan city I ever saw, however Santiago makes a competition now.

I am totally relaxed these days, however I do still think of the obligations coming up. Today I was informed that on Sunday at 3 pm we have a orientation meeting at “Hostelling International” with the people going to Chile’s north region (15 of us). Before that however I still have time to fool around a little more, so with that in mind tomorrow I am heading to the coast, and will stay 3 days in Vina Del Mar, popular touristy place here.

A little about the culture and tradition. Since I started feeling problems with acid reflux, I am avoiding coffee, however today I couldn’t resist the smell coming from a interesting looking cafeteria – in Latin American style. I ordered a cappuccino, and I got café Monte Cristo of some other mix of coffee and amaretto decorated with a thick layer of heavy whip cream, waffles, sprinkled with colorful chocolate bits, all that with a big straw. Umbrella they forgot. Responding to my question, the waiter confirmed this is cappuccino so I drank it joyfully!

Daily budget:
“Capuccino” in cool café: US$4

Posted by Srechko 23:33 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Rain rain go away

Santiago, Chile

rain 5 °C

Just like that, its 4 pm, I am covered with 3 blankets in my room looking through the window and listening to the rain drops. I was lucky as I walked a lot today and just as I got in my room to get something it started pouring.

I had another interesting day in Santiago today, more and more I look at it from the possible future resident perspective, I definitely like it more and more, people maybe the most.

Talking about interesting things, walking through the center today I experienced the calm protest of educational workers – no hostility displayed. Carabineros were behind just in case. On the main city’s square, Plaza De Armas, an old man chatted me up explaining problems Chilean educational workers are going through as well as problems of the students having to pay for their studies. Of course he asked for contribution later – and when I had given him 2 bucks worth of pesoses, he got quite disappointed. He accepted however my explanation that I am unemployed and I can’t give more. I think I will use this excuse when necessary. In principal, not too many people ask me anything here or pay attention to me whatsoever and that makes me feel very comfortable. Based on looks I don’t think I appear like a stranger and that’s important to me.

I saw two markets today, one people’s and one fancy / touristy. First one was an ordinary market, didn’t see anything unusual for sale, like live stock or cockroaches, so I was quite disappointed with that. I did taste some exotic fruit, that was okay, would not consider them a special discovery though. Old rule to eat at markets I didn’t let down this time either. I had a real homemade stew with cooked meat and vegetables like my mom used to make – it was delicious. That was the best meal I had in Chile so far. I am still circling around the fish restaurants, as I am not sure how and which fish to order. Sea food seems to be a true Chilean specialty.

In the afternoon I went for a walk to a newer part of the city called La Providencia (my accommodation is in city’s centre). I took metro for the first time alone, no comments there, everything was quite tidy and well organized. I enjoyed the metro ride quite a bit, as it was the warmest place I was in the whole day (well maybe I felt warmer in my room under 3 blankets). I also liked the people’s behaviour in the crowded wagon, as people are concerned I really have to complaints.

To make the story short – Santiago is AWESOME!!!!

I decided to take a little trip to the sea on Thursday and see two interesting places there, historical Valparaiso and flashy and touristy Vina Del Mar.

Daily budget:
Stew at marked, salad and mineral water US$3.50
1.5 kg of fruits at the market US$1.50

Posted by Srechko 23:32 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

So the city is truly awesome!

Santiago, Chile

semi-overcast 8 °C

I got to know Santiago more seriously today and other than smog I don’t see major negatives. It is tough to tell it’s a South American city as it reminds me a lot of some European cities, however it feels kind of different here and more down to earth. People seem special, they’re pretty open however still quite conservative – exactly the behaviour I respect. When it comes to the way they look like, they are shorter in height, I feel like a giant (finally!!!!), their tan is lighter than what I’ve seen in Latin America by now and they appear quite humble. There are no other races here, other than some blacks, and even less Asians, majority of population appear of Latin descent. Racism doesn’t seem to be a stranger here, Chileans don’t like their neighbors, predominantly Peruvians as they bring their lack of cultural behaviour, and Argentines because of their arrogant behaviour. That’s what I heard and read.

Today I moved to another hostel, Gustavo helped me carry the bags, they weight a ton, seems like I packed bricks. As soon as stepped inside the hostel “Green House” I felt heating which was a big plus, however once they showed me my tiny tiny room, located right in front of the common breakfast table, I decided to move back to the first hotel the next day. After my complaint to the owner, he offered me another much bigger room, in another – more quiet location for a little higher price, so I am very happy with my accommodation right now.

Today’s plan was claiming the hill following my good old tradition. I don’t recognize a town without a good hill to climb. Santiago has several, and today we chose hill San Cristobal on whose top there is a 9 m tall statue of some cool Virgin. On the way to the climb starting point, we passed through the lively and colorful neighbourhood of Bellavista. Area is packed with bars, discos, and cafes. Gustavo says that at night it gets so crowded here it’s hard to get through. There was some shy sun today, so we enjoyed lunch outside in a patio, yeah here they sit outside in the middle of winter as well.

We climbed the hill in 45 minutes. Other than the virgin, there we saw a famous Santiago smog layer. Yeah its definitely there, and the Andes that surround the city, were completely impossible to be seen.

I got a Chilean mobile today! Process was quite simple as Gustavo was with me so I didn’t have to use my brain or flash my perfect Spanish. After unsuccessful attempt to bring back to life my Canadian Fido, we entered a telecom store with intention of buying a new phone. Gustavo negotiated everything with a sales woman (who I didn’t understand a word, she spoke like she was on ecstasy), so 15 minutes later I had my first Chilean shopping done. Price was excellent, phone is capable of sending messages internationally which was my major expectation, so I am quite happy now.

Daily budget:
One metro ride US$0.80
Mobile phone, charger, headphones, and 100 minutes included US$35

Posted by Srechko 11:22 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

First impressions

Santiago, Chile

overcast 7 °C

It’s the end of my first day in Chile, and time for the summary of my impressions.

I arrived to Santiago around 10:30 this morning, paid “reciprocity fee” of US$132 (guessing that’s how much Chileans pay to enter Canada) and passed through the passport control without any questions asked. Of course immediately after that I lost something (no surprise - happens all the time), baggage tickets this time. Luckily, this is South America, regulations are bent often, so nobody prevented me from walking out of the duty-free zone. There in the main airport hall, I was pleasantly surprised by the calm atmosphere not typical for a large Latin American city. Other than a few cab touts nobody bothered me. Anyhow I exchanged a few dollars into pesoses and as oer arrnegement set in advance, called Gustavo who I found quickly. Knowing someone and not knowing anyone in a given new city was again proved to be an experience as different as night and day. With Gustavo on my side, I disconnected my brain immediately, boarded the bus he found, and arrived to Santiago center in ½ hour. Gustavo by the way recognizes some 20 English words, so I figured that talking to him I would be placed on an express speedy Spanish course. I am doing awesome with Spanish by the way, only 3-4 repetitions are all it takes for me to get the point.

I instantly liked Santiago, as it unbelievably reminded me of my homeland cities, with the architecture, pedestrian walkways, and busy squares - Belgrade above all, just a little more grandiose version. Thinking of my eventual future life here I realized that the idea would be totally realistic with a higher level of Spanish.

The day was weather wise lousy, cloudy and smoggy. It got quite cold in the afternoon, temperature fell to 4C, which is not that bad considering winter is in full force now.

Worse that cold outside, was the cold in my hostel “Plaza Londres”. It is centrally located in a nice and quiet European looking street and looks great from the outside. On the inside looks pretty run down, but it is clean and staff are friendly and helpful. I am here only tonight, and tomorrow I am moving to another place where I booked 6 nights. Will be interesting to compare the two accommodations.

Tonight I walked around the center a bit, I felt pretty safe, and other than a chase after one kid done by two older guys, I haven’t seen anything suspicious or unusual.

Still not everything is this normal, it’s close to midnight now – there are some kids playing soccer underneath my window- yeah this doesn’t happen in Canada.

Daily budget:
Centropuerto bus airport – Santiago center US$3
1 bedroom (shared bath) Hostal Plaza Londres US$20

Posted by Srechko 08:52 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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