The colorful punk on the wall seems not to like it all that much to have this American tourist right between her thighs , while the lady does not seem to be aware of her delicate position at all. The young Chilean, guide of the American tourist group speaks with a broad U.S. accent, he explains the murals left , the paintings and graffitis on the right. It is not before he starts explaining artist and painting of what is exactly behind the lady in blue that she feels uncomfortable. Now she realises and takes a few steps back, since the attention of the whole group suddenly catches her, almost being one with the girl presenting herself in this vulgar position.
Much happier overlooks a girl with beautiful brown hair the scene of the tourist group. The tourists with their little backpacks and baseball caps are real, the pretty brunette not quite. She does not belong to an American group of tourist. No, she is part of the omnipresent art in the streets of Valparaiso . Art and culture that shows through the ever changing urban art on the city's walls that distingish Valparaiso. But the Fasznation for this over 42 Cerros - hills - extending city does not end here .
The chain rattles at the bow of the ship, the anchor sinking to eventually burring itself in the sand of this lush green, north-facing bay. All of this happens a couple of years before the blue truck ever sets its wheels on South American ground, we count the year 1536: Juan de Saavedra, a fancy Spaniard in an even fancier costume stands on board, just a year after he had conquered Peru at his father's side. At that very momoent he has no idea that the pretty bay in which he sets anchor that day, would one day be one of the most important ports at Americas pacific coast, right in line with San Francisco, yes exactly, that San Francisco. Until then, however, a few more years have to pass. First ir requires an Italian to set anchor in the bay.
Eight years pass since Jaun de Saavedra vessel settled in the green waters of the bay. Now 1544, another Jaun anchored in the bay, no not famous Don Juan, but the Italian Juan Bautista Pastene is founding Valparaiso. But the Italo with the goatee has no idea of how much history at the small city he has just founded will happen in the years to come. After the Spaniards and the Italos it is now on whom? Right, the English. Francis Drake tough was not satisfied with a drink in a waterfront bar. As nameless pirates briefly before and after him he robs not just the warehouses at the harbor of the growing city at the Pacific but at the same time all the private homes of the little colonial town. Years later Francis Drake will be a celebrated hero on his home grounds in the UK. Nevertheless, Valparaiso's status of being second most important West Pacific port and the resulting wealth should get lost again .
In 1908, the year Salvador Allende was born, it might have been foreseeable already, that the city's importance as a harbour is about to get lost. 1914 the ships heading up the west coast of the US to the ports of San Francisco and further up as far as Vancouver will no longer have to sail around Cape Horn or through the dangerous strait of Magallan. What happened? One year before the birth of another man who will write Chilean and in world history, Augusto Pinochet, the Panama Canal celebrates its opening. The ships save many, many days and miles and pass through the channel in Central America instead of the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn and do no longer stop in the bay in front of the 42 hills.
From 1973 to 1990, the reign of the dictator, born in the same city as the last democratically elected President, lasts. Today, 24 years after the dictatorship: Around three hundred thousand people live on, between and around those 42 hills of Valparaiso. Agglomerations included this results in a city of similar size as my hometown Zurich; approximately one million inhabitants. Valparaiso is now the seat of the Congress of Chile, the harbor is the home port of the fleet of the Chilean Navy and claims back its importance through the economic boom of the country. Since 1952 the only trolley bus of the country runs trough the streets of the city, if you are lucky you can even see one of the original buses from the 50s.
The city , around and between the 42 hills is not only the seat of the Congress, it is probalby the country's most important urban center apart from Santiago and it also has built up successfully maintained its reputations for being the country's capital of culture and art. It has long been a magnet for artists, poets, philosophers and writers.
Valparaiso may not be your typical tourist stop on your South America trip but one I strongly recommend not to miss!
This interesting Simulator that I saw in the same museum as the ghosts has a full functional cockpit, with cluch brake and gas pedal as well as a gear shifter at the steering column. Speedometer, ignition and hand-brake. The road underneath the car is rolling according to the gas-pedal's position and the car moves on the road depending on the position of the steering wheel. There's also a traffic light on the top right hand corner.
In the rear view mirror you probably see your driving teachers secretary sitting at her desk doing her best to distract you from paying attention to your on-road adventure.
Did you learn driving like that? - I figuered that is the true way to be driving "off-road".
"Do not get scared, we do have a couple of ghosts that came with the classic cars to our museum..." We did look a little puzzled, when the gentlemen at the ticket counter in the samll chilenian Automuseum sent us off into the halls of the museum with those words. And of course we did not really believe those words. With a little critical smile on our faces we were heading towards the first of the halls.
We admired the classic cars, enjoyed seeing some of what even we drove once in our lives, like a Citroën 2CV like my first girlfriend had one or an original British Mini just like the one, built 1971, I was once driving around in at the tender age of 18. As little as we were looking for those ghost-drivers as little we expected them.
But check out those pictures, just for a few seconds at the time they appeared. A lady-driver in Studebaker Pick-up, when I pointed the camara at her she gave me a big smile just before disapearing once and for ever. The gentlemen we spotted minutes later seemed to be ready to rattle off and out of the museum in his Ford Model A 1936.
Chiles capital is Santiago as you know. But Chiles capital of culture, art and weirdness for sure is Valparaiso. Here is a first selection of pictures of this fascinating city. - Keep following my german blog for a story about Valparaiso that I am working on right now and that will come up and on-line soon.
For more pictures of Chile's central part, from Santiago to Puerto Montt, also including a lot of Valparaiso pictures, visit the newly fed photo gallery HERE.
For many faces that my camara has focused on since travelling the Americas click HERE.
To watch pictures of Chiles breathtaking far North you want to click HERE.