Today I went to discover what Santiago has actually to offer. In the past I was very much excited about cities and visited more or less all sights listed in the guide book in the shortest amount of time possible. This drove my friend Michael, who did many city tours with me, crazy since he likes to sit in little cafés or restaurants and simply enjoying the atmosphere of the surrounding area. Nowadays, I’m less excited about cities since in the end a city is just a city and many big cities are kind of the same. Santiago is such a city where you have nothing to regret if you haven’t seen it. After reading about it the Lonely Planet I was really wondering what is actually to see there. Stuart and Jeremy even decided to split from the group and spent one more day with outdoor activities in Pucón. Also talking to the people who went sightseeing yesterday while Jurie and I were in Viña del Mar and Valparaíso didn’t made me enthusiastic about the city.
I purchased a ticket for the hop on hop off tourist bus driving a two hour loop around the city. The ticket was with 19,000 Pesos (42 USD) not really worth the money since most of the stops are not sufficiently marked which makes it impossible to walk between them and also some of the loudspeakers are very quiet making it hard to listen to the explanations. My hotel (Hotel España) was situated right next to the Plaza de Armas where the bus was supposed to stop. However, since the stop wasn’t marked in any way I was unable to find it and needed to walk to the next stop at the Mercado Central where one of the tourist information centers is situated.
Before hopping on the bus I had a look around the market which is mainly known for Chilean seafood. There was a large amount of market stalls where you could buy fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean. You could also sample them at the heart of the market where typical Chilean seafood dishes such as Conger eel were prepared. Next I got off at the Sanhatten area which is the new financial and hotel district of Santiago featuring a number of skyscrapers. As you might have guessed the name is a mix of Manhattan and Santiago. Right next to Sanhatten is the large private golf club Los Leones where probably most of the business is made.
At lunch time I stopped at the Parque Arauco shopping mall where I had a brief look around in the shops and some delicious pizza. Next was the exclusive residential area around the Alonso de Cordova Avenue where you can find the more expensive shops such as Louis Vuitton and Armani. There are also a number of good restaurant, cafés and art galleries. Here I even spotted a German beer garden called “Starnberg”.
In the afternoon I took a funicular to the peak of the San Cristóbal Hill situated in the Metropolitan Park. From there I had a view on the smoggy city and the statue of Virgin Mary. To get some exercise I decided to walk down which wasn’t as steep as expected but 6km long and took me an hour. While walking down I noticed the park is very popular among mountainbikers as I saw a countless number of them. Down from the hill I landed in the Bellavista neighborhood which offers a colorful mix of handicraft and clothing shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. I ended my sightseeing tour in the city center with a look around at the National Fine Arts Museum and the Plaza de la Constitucion.
Since I was born in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) whose head of state Erich Honecker spent the last year of his life in Chile I tried to find any kind of sight or his graveyard in the city. I found out there is actually nothing to see since according to internet sources his body was never buried, neither in Chile nor Germany.
At the evening our group met in the lobby of the hotel. Anki gave us a read of the trip diary she kept during the last three weeks which was very much entertaining. We also celebrated Ross’s 40th birthday which was actually yesterday when he and Anki disappeared into the luxury of a five star hotel. It was also time for me to say good-bye to everyone since tomorrow morning the trip will continue to travel to the Argentinean wine region of Mendoza while I will connect over Germany to Istanbul for my Central Asia adventure.