Santiago hit me big time as I hadn’t been in a large city ever since Buenos Aires, which was over a month ago. It is amazing to see the snowcapped Andes from the city. For some reason I hadn’t expected Santiago to be this close to the mountains. It made me realize how narrow this country is. Because Santiago is surrounded by mountains and hills, the city is almost always covered by a cloud of smog. That, the amount traffic and the many people was just too much to handle and thus I escaped the city on my first day for a bike and wine tour at Cousiño Macul on the outskirts of the city. Highly recommended! It does not involve a lot of cycling, just a short ride to the vineyards. But it includes a wine tasting and an interesting tour around this old winery.
Plus, you have to get there, which is part of the fun if you take the metro – it is a great place to people watch. I don’t think I have ever seen this many women breastfeeding their babies on public transport!!! It made me realize how conservative we are in Europe. Here it just seems very normal. One three or four year old kid, however, sat on his mothers lap and simply got out the breast himself… I would imagine that being rather unusual, but who knows?!
Pablo Neruda’s house was a highlight in Santiago, as was the view from San Christóbal, the city’s biggest hill.
On day two I took the free walking tour (tour for tips), which had been recommended to me by numerous people and I, too, highly recommend it! I especially enjoyed the markets, a Santiago institution, where you can also go for a great meal.
The large cemeterio was nothing like any other cemetery I’ve seen before. It is so big that a sceen at the entrance lists the funerals and their location. Apart from the usual graves there are large buildings, e.g. one designed like an italian shopping mall, including an elevator, some enormous mausoleums and the presidents buried here all have very special graves, too.
This was the point when I finally learned a lot more details about chilean history, i.e. the presidency of Salvador Allende in the early seventies, the 15 year long dictatorship under Pinochet and the turn to democracy in 1989. Chile’s constitution established that at the 1988 plebiscite the voters could accept or reject Pinochet and to Pinochet’s surprise he was rejected by 54,4% – which also shows that the country was basically split into half! Most importantly our sympathetic chilean guide explained to us that the Pinochet era, after 25 years, still divides the country. That is because some people benefited while lots of others suffered, disappeared or were killed. This topic might even split families into half, resulting it to be a tabu at family reunions!