Santiago de Chile: La Moneda – a coin factory as president’s palace, Coffee with legs, Machas a la Parmesana, Smog. Valle del Maipo.

Travelogue Chile 2003
Santiago de ­Chile

On Friday I went to my last stop Santiago. The first time in my trip it was difficult to find a hotel that was affordable AND acceptable. The first impression of the city was quite ugly and I wondered what I should do here for four days. But when I came out of the cinema in the night and the city was buzzing with life (Friday evening) I started to get a feeling for this place. Here’s what I saw the next days:

The changing of the guards at La Moneda, the president’s palace. A big military ceremony, rifles, bayonets, sabers and an orchestra, I guess it was some 100 men. It was nice and interesting. I was quite surprised when I saw on the music sheets of the musicians that they played “Stars and stripes forever”. Not that I can tell from hearing it, I’ve seen the notes. Chile is very closely connected to the US and so I think that this was kind of an expression of solidarity though the people here oppose the war as anywhere else in the world.

the changing of the guards at La Moneda, Santiago de Chile
the changing of the guards at La Moneda

It is quite funny to know why the palace is called La Moneda, the coin factory: 200 years ago they wanted to build a president’s palace in Santiago and a Moneda in Peru. Somehow they managed to not only mix up the plans but also to finish the buildings till someone noticed. So the Chilean president’s palace is quite functional and sober and somewhere in Peru they used to make coins in a very noble place …

If you are looking for the best coffee you have to visit the cafés con piernas (coffee / café with legs) as they call them, the names of these strange places are Café Caribe, Café Haiti etc. Here the coffee is served by waitresses in the tightest possible dresses that are even shorter than those of Ally McBeal. My guide book said that single women shouldn’t enter these places though they are open and in the middle of the main pedestrian zone. Well, some of the men in there look as if they need to come here (not for the coffee) but to be honest: In the streets of Santiago you see lots of women that are more beautiful and sexier than the ones in there.

I visited the market and all the fish looked wonderful and very tasty. The cold Pacific is very fertile. I did not expect tuna to be such a big fish. The ultimate recommendation: Machas a la parmesana, scalloped shell fish: You have to try it if you come to Chile.

To get a nice view of the city you can climb Cerro Santa Lucia (60m) and Cerro San Christobal (300m). But the best view I had from a place where Rosmarie took me, a former school mate of a friend of mine. Though the air was quite good for Santiago some of the surrounding mountains started to vanish behind the smog. In winter it gets really bad and they try to improve the situation by restricting the traffic to cars with certain end numbers on their license plates. But I was told that the Chileans don’t bother, they just buy a second car with a different number. Shortly after rain, when the air is clean, the view of the mountains must be incredible, especially when they are covered with snow.

Santiago de Chile under smog
Santiago and the smog

Rosemarie also showed me the most different parts of the city, starting with wonderful old houses, via parks to the villas of the richest of the rich. Very interesting and partly also very, very beautiful. Fantastic is the Palacio Cousiño, the former house of a very rich family where the interior is preserved as it was one or two hundred years ago. What a beauty! Unfortunately it is forbidden to take photos.

a small square with a fountain in Santiago de Chile
a hidden treasure

We also went to Valle del Maipo, where the air is clean and the valley ends in a canyon with stunning views.

Valle del Maipo, Chile
Valle del Maipo

By Tuesday I really had started to like Santiago but I had to leave. It was a long trip back, and I reached home after more than 24 hours (but I have to admit that this includes a wonderful cup of coffee in the Paris city center). Finally home after the most amazing journey I ever did.

view of the Andes of Chile from the airplane
Goodbye Andes! See you soon.

A last time I finish a report with greetings to you, this time from Munich, Bavaria
I am looking forward to seeing those of you living in Bavaria.