To explore strange new worlds, to boldly go! travel blog

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception

Gorgeous Chilean woollen crafts

Streetscape, Santiago

Art at one of the train stations

Keeping cool

Santiago seems a very good-natured city, replete with buskers and ice-cream eating locals. While there are few 'must-see' attractions, this is part of its charm, allowing visitors to wander at leisure. Santiago is sometimes called 'Sanhattan' in the Andes (like Manhattan} due to its skyscrapers. But, it is definitely much more of a Spanish city, where people gently promenade (do the paseo) and very sensibly enjoy an early afternoon siesta, given the heat.

The local buskers include: young men juggling skittles at traffic lights (instead of the regulation window washers that we get in Melbourne); a Punch and Judy puppet show that attracts large crowds of delighted children each evening; and an excellent male singing group that we listened to while having dinner outside in the main square one evening.

There are often several ice-cream shops in each block. Long queues form at the apparent favourite, Bravissima. Fortunately, my basic Spanish extends to numbers, as you first buy a ticket with a number at one counter, and then line up to order ice-cream at another counter when your number is called!

On Sunday we visited the best known landmark of Santiago, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, a 14 m high white statue at the summit (500m) of a local park. We caught a bus up the mountain on a road with many switchbacks, a 15 minute drive. We were surprised to see hundreds (if not thousands) of cyclists and walkers enjoying their weekend recreation going up the mountain. Just below the statue is a huge open air chapel where John Paul II said mass in 1984.

However, I think the stand-out highlight for both of us was the Museum of Memory and Human Rights which only opened in 2010. This museum tells the story of the 17 year dictatorship (1973 to 1990) of General Pinochet. It is definitely a confronting museum (similar to the various Holocaust museums), with many graphic stories of torture and the thousands of people who 'disappeared'. Chile ended up having not one, but two, Truth and Reconciliation commissions to undertake investigations after the fall of Pinochet. The museum also provides some information on similar commissions in other countries. There are apparently several hundred memorials throughout Chile to honour the people who were hurt or killed over the period. We took advantage of the excellent English audio visual guide.

As expected, it has been hot in Santiago (about 30-35), so we have been using the excellent Metro, as well as walking. There is some fabulous art in some of the train stations.

Tonight (New Year's Eve), we are going to wander down to the Presidential Palace where we think there will be a concert and perhaps fireworks.

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