Valparaiso

Pintorestic Valparaiso

Pintorestic Valparaiso

San Francisco is pretty famous in America for its numerous hilly areas, but it was nothing compared to Valparaiso. This unique city is almost like two cities in one, a lower flat part and the large upper part of the city, with giant hills that make San Fran’s hills look like speed bumps.

The lower section is very flat and condensed, packed full of various stores and businesses, as well as the waterfront area. The majority of the houses are contained in the upper areas of the city, clinging to the steep hills like fungus on a rock. Many sections of the upper area still contain cobblestone streets, a feature I’ve always loved, but in many instances these have been worn away by time and the passage of cars, leaving the streets smooth as if they were paved.

Houses are mostly two and three story buildings of cement and stone, though adobe buildings still exist across the city, owing to the city’s World Heritage standing. For this reason’s it’s also called The Corrugated City, due to the astounding colours splashed across the many corrugated cladding painted adobes.

This cladding is originally from ships which came into Valparaiso carrying gravel, with the sheets being used to separate the many different types of gravel being transported. Once the gravel was unloaded, the cladding would be cast aside, eventually being picked up as used by the locals to cover the walls of their adobe shelters.

Valparaiso colors

Valparaiso colors

The cladding is still produced today, now coming directly from manufacturers and not simply as castoff pieces. Because of the city’s status as a World Heritage Site, much of the new construction that takes place in the city must conform to using this cladding to blend in with the existing structures and maintain the same consistency and feel of the area. Cladding is typically raised and then left for two years to weather before the paint is added to it.

Because of the steep hills, Valpo can feel like a real labyrinth to get around, though you won’t mind getting lost with all the visual splendour and ingenuity surrounding you at every turn. Unlike Santiago and its smog, Valpo is also clear, giving the colours that much more integrity.

The colours and character are somewhat muted by a problem which also rears its ugly head in Santiago, and that is crime. Most houses have bars over the windows and doors, as break and enter crimes are prevalent throughout these two cities. The bars really contrast with the carefree style of the houses and paint. Unlike Canada, where people can freely leave their doors unlocked without fear, and there isn’t a bar to be found on a window or door anywhere, I often felt it must be tough to live like this, almost as within a prison. I guess if that’s what you’re used to it’s probably not so bad, but I still found it kind of sad.

Valparaíso Hills

Valparaíso Hills

Dogs are everywhere throughout the country, and are often very friendly. They’re so well integrated with the citizens that they’ll freely lie down and snooze just about anywhere, even in busy plazas.

The last thing you’ll notice about Valparaiso is that homages and references to poet Pablo Neruda are everywhere. His house in Valpo, one of three he owned throughout Chile, is now a museum, and much as he left it. Throughout the city you’ll see his name and image associated with everything from restaurants to shops. Commercialism though it may be to some extent, you also get the feeling that the citizens are truly proud of one of their most celebrated citizens.