Alan and I arrived in Santiago on the 10th of September just in time for the 11th of September which is a very important day in Chilean history because in 1973 a military coup began on this day. It resulted in many of the main government buildings being bombed including the Presidential Palace. The president at the time (Allende) shot himself rather than be captured. The next 17 years involved about 3,000 people disappearing because they had socialist views or were sympathetic to the fallen government. On the 11th we visited the Human Rights Museum to learn more about what happened on that day and afterwards. It was really sad to hear some of the stories from people who were there on the day but also really interesting to see how it has shaped Chilean culture – apparently the population is still divided on the matter, so the 11th was a bit of a crazy day as half the people celebrate the downfall of the government while the rest mourn the loss of life that occurred during the Pinochet dictatorship – which meant that there were quite a lot of clashes in the street.

Rebuilt Presidential Palace

Statue of Allende

September is also the month that Chile celebrates their independence day. The actual day of independence is the 18th however for the whole month leading up to it there are Chilean flags everywhere, and I mean everywhere! They practically cover the majority of the buildings in the city. On the 18th every house has to have a flag outside, and if they don’t, they get fined! And, if they don’t hang the flag correctly, with the star on the left (because that’s where the heart is) then they also get a fine! Crazy huh?!

While we were in Santiago we also went to a futbol match between the University of Santiago and the Montevideo (Uraguay) National team. My friends Jenna and Angela from back home were in Santiago so they came along too. The game was nuts! The crowd stand on their seats and chant for the entire game. There were flares going off, people chucking toilet paper and the biggest drums I’ve ever seen being beaten by the biggest Chileans I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere was amazing! At the start, and when Chile scored a goal, the biggest flag I’ve ever seen would be passed down over the heads of the people in our stand so it covered the entire section. And Santiago won, so the crowd was ecstatic, every one left the ground chanting and singing at the top if their lungs.

And then the real fun started – trying to get a bus along with the thousands of other fans. People would stand in the middle of the road and flag down buses, that would generally just keep driving straight through the crowd because they were already full. At one stage a riot vehicle came past and started beeping at everyone to get off the road because they were holding up traffic, they had the water cannon on top whizzing around looking for someone not obeying but everyone just went piss bolting behind the bus stand and then started yelling and gesturing at the truck. It was a very scary looking vehicle, all black with protective metal wiring around the windows and the menacing barrel of the water gun on top. It had dints all over so it looked like it had copped a few bullets in it’s time or something else being launched at it. I wasn´t game enough to get a photo unfortunately.

Eventually we managed to get on a bus with what seemed like 200 other people, we were crammed in like sandines and people were hanging out the doors. Then they all started singing and clapping, at one stage the bus was jumping up and down with the passengers! What an experience!

A few other things we got up to in Santiago that were really good were:
– did a free walking tour of the city ( it was really informative and I learned a lot about the city and the history of Chile in general).
– took the funicular up the 870m San Cristobal hill which gives amazing views of the city and the mountains behind.
– visited the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino which has artifacts from all the pre-Columbian civilisations from 4,500 years ago until the Incas. Very interesting and it had signs in English which is rare.
– walked around Santa Lucia hill which is a little refuge in the middle of the city with nice gardens and great views.
– had a seafood dinner at Mercado Central. Straight from the ports of Valparaiso, the seafood is amazing – I was brave and had what was basically a seafood stew, I barely had a clue what I was eating but it tasted pretty good.
– tried the local student cuisine called chorillana (spelling?) in the hip neighbourhood of Bellavista which is made of beef chunks, onion and served on chips. Was pretty tasty but as you can imagine it was pretty greasy too!
– tried the local beverage called a Terramoto (which means earthquake) at the roughest bar I’ve ever been in. It’s a drink made of wine, Pisco and pineapple ice-cream (no wonder it’s rough!). Towards the end of the night there was a bar fight between some locals that turned into an all in brawl, even the girls got involved, one threw a chair at someone else. It was intense! After three earthquakes we were all walking like there was an earthquake taking place!
– went to what is apparently the hottest bar in Chile called Bar Constitucion where all the celebs hang out. Didn’t manage to meet any of them but had a good night nonetheless.

– went to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. It was awesome!

– hung out in the Parque Forestal in the afternoon pretty much everyday, enjoying the sun and making friends with the locals (well  local dogs anyway).

– drank a LOT of red wine. At $4 for a 1.5 litre bottle, how can you say no!

The ride on the funicular

The view from San Cristobal

The mountains overlooking the city (it was a bit smoggy)

Santa Lucia

Enjoying the view from Santa Lucia

Seafood dinner at Mercado Central

Chorillana

Support Act for the RHCP

Alan…a true fan

Our spot in the park

One of our new friends

 

Advertisements