Out, Up, and Down in Chile’s Valparaíso

Valparaiso, Valpo, Navy, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture

Chile is truly an amazing country.  Nature, in and of itself, offers a myriad different possibilities from the Atacama Desert and the salt lakes in the north to the fjords and glaciers down in Patagonia.  But Chile’s urban areas offer some incredible sights and experiences.  And Valparaíso may take the cake as its character is quite unique.  No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Valparaíso sits by the sea but it does not have the almost unmanageable scale of Rio.  It is old (founded in 1536) but does not have the colonial feel of cities like Old San Juan or central Lima.  And though it is large (the greater Valparaiso metro area is Chile’s second largest) and a center of portuary activity, it is not an economic center like Santiago is.  It faces the ocean but it is not where tourists go for their summer beach vacation – that would be neighboring Viña del Mar.  However, what makes Valpo, as it is referred to in Chile, so great is the charm it has which is a combination of its setting and that it has not been spoilt by becoming a megalopolis.

Out to sea

Valparaíso is surrounded by hills and exploring the city is not just exploring sea-level Valpo but exploring its hills.  But before going up those hills, the best thing to do is to admire Valpo’s lay of the land by taking a boat tour in the harbor.

Valparaiso, Valpo, boat, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

The boat taking us to cruise the harbor

Valparaiso, Valpo, sea lion, marine life, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Sea lion enjoying the summer day

Valparaiso, Valpo, hills, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Looking back at the town and hills of Valpo (notice a funicular in the center of the photo)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, National Congress

National Congress (on the left) sits in Valparaiso, not Santiago, the actual capital of Chile

Valparaiso, Valpo, port, ship, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View across the harbor back towards the center of the city

Up the hills

Valpo is quite famous for the funiculars (or ascensores) that help move people up and down its famous hills.  The oldest funicular was built in 1883 and it is still in service.  Many of these funiculars are an experience onto themselves with very unique stories and some are considered national monuments.

Valparaiso, Valpo, funicular,rail, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

One of Valparaiso’s famous funiculars – we didn’t take this one

When we went, we were advised by some locals to keep an eye out as we went up to the hills as not all areas above are equally safe for people who look like tourists.  We took the advice and went up making sure we were aware of our surroundings.

Valparaiso, stairs, funicular, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

For the sake of the experience, we climbed the stairs…

Valparaiso, Valpo,funicular, cat, rail, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

… and this cat had a similar, if different, approach to going up.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A house perched on one of the hills looks mighty precarious to me… one lil tremor and…

We were rewarded not only with views of the city and sea below, but also by some neat architecture in the hill we visited.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards some of the other hills (spot the funicular on this pic!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards the harbor

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

House up in one of the hills

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Another great sample of the neat architecture around

And then back at sea level

All this being said and done, I just enjoyed walking aimlessly through the city.  Here are some of the images from our exploring “sea-level” Valpo.

Valparaiso, Valpo, old payphone, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Charming “booth” for a pay phone

Valparaiso, Valpo, power cables, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A mess of utility cables… who knows how many legally set up!

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A side street that was not as interesting (they deserve to show up on a website too!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, bus, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

Valparaiso, Valpo, Navy, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture

Navy Building in Plaza Sotomayor

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, monument, war, history

Monument to the Heroes of Iquique (war memorial) in Plaza Sotomayor

Valparaiso, Valpo,Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, architecture, dog

Dog laying in the middle of the street (right below where the bus shows)

My favorite souvenir from my year in Chile is a wood carving depicting one of the stairs and funiculars of this charming city.  A great reminder in my every day of this unique town!

There’s Something about Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia, charming, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, Reval, Baltic, medieval, city, architecture, history, , UNESCO World Heritage Site

On my way around the Baltic Sea with my family a couple of years ago, we stopped in the capital of EstoniaTallinn.  It was not a picture perfect June day weather-wise but, of course, we wanted to get off the ship and see the town.  Tallinn is an old city in that part of Europe (think 13th century) and was known for most of these centuries as Reval (file under the “I’d never heard that name” category…).  Nowadays is called more the Silicon Valley of the Baltic due to the presence of technology companies (Skype came from here!).

Estonia has a a strong cultural affinity to its northern neighbor, Finland (or is it the reverse?) and after Estonia broke the yoke of Soviet rule, it pulled towards its northern and quite successful neighbor.  Tallinn itself is only 50 miles from Helsinki, Finland’s capital – a ferry ride away if you are ever in that part of the world or if you are lucky enough to fly Finnair to connect and go elsewhere (I flew that airline in 1997 and it is still one of my top 2 flying experiences!).

In any case the best thing for me about Tallinn was its charm.  You truly see that it has been there since medieval times, yet you can tell that it has been through other periods too as its architecture well shows.  From the city walls, to the 15th century Church of St. Olaf, to the 18th century Toompea Palace, to the late 19th century Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, to its very modern district, the city covers many centuries where it was spared destruction, unlike cities like Berlin, Warsaw, and others.

I hope the pictures I share here give you a feel for what I mean that there’s something about Tallinn.  A one day visit clearly not enough to truly enjoy the town (wish I could have hung out at the cafés enjoying a few beers until sunset…) but I never complain about getting to sample a place, especially when it is as charming as Tallinn.  It is no wonder it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site!  I hope to return and explore ALL that the city has to offer!

Click on the photos to enlarge!


 

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