Life in hostel#5

The last stop in my 9 months journey was in Santiago de Chile, where I spent 3 months of (almost) winter. This was, by far, the most challenging hostel of all.

Let`s start with the positive part: I was living close to the city center, in a bohemian borough, I was getting paid (not much, but enough to get through) and my boss was really nice, but a bit chaotic.

On the downside, the weather was cold since it was winter. Compared to European weather it was nice and warm, but unfortunately I did not have my winter gear with me, so I had to get around with the things I had on me. Which proved to be more difficult than I originally thought, since the hostel wasn`t heated and sometimes it was warmer outside than inside. I found out the hard way that hot water bottles can be a lifesaver, especially during the night.

The FIFA world cup was taking place in Brazil, so that`s where all the tourists were travelling to. Because of the high prices in football tickets and accommodation, few of them could afford to visit other countries in South America. As a result, the hostel was most of the time half empty. Not just my place, but the entire city was lacking tourists. Things were a bit boring, especially around the hostel.

My fellow travelers working in the hostel were not as friendly as my friends in Argentina. To be more precise, they were friendly and helpful, but they were busy with their stuff and didn`t have much time left to hang out. There was a French girl living in the hostel with her boyfriend and they were spending most of the time in their room. The other girl was also French, but she was constantly skyping with her boyfriend back in Germany. Luckily, other colleagues arrived from Canada, Mexico and Chile, so things got a bit more animated.

There were two other permanent members in charge of breakfast and cleaning, one weirder than the other. There was a younger guy in his 30s, always unhappy with something, always mumbling  and quarreling. He once tried to start a cocktail business in the hostel, selling drinks to clients without the boss’s consent. One of the clients told my boss how good the cocktail was and he got told off. My biggest issue was the noise he was making in the kitchen preparing breakfast, right next to my room. It’s not nice waking up each morning at 6am, in the sound of slammed cupboards and dashed dishware, so I started using ear plugs.  However, he was nice when he was smoking pot, and this was happening rather often.

The  other one was weird looking and socially awkward, sometimes even freaking customers off. I always compare him with Lurch from the Addams Family in my mind, although he isn`t as massive. A lean man in his 50s, with wispy hair, gray eyes and an overall dusty appearance. The hostel was constantly receiving bad reviews and complaints about him smoking in the shared dorm or just being weird. However, the boss only fired him only after he punched a guest in the face, who happened to be the cousin of the lousy guy. Throughout my stay, I was worried he might snap one day and burn down the place.

The best thing about my stay here was the fact that after a month and a half I received my own room and bathroom. Even if it was really small and crowded, it was exactly what I needed after several months of living in shared dorms.

The time spent in Chile was’t the highlight of my journey, especially since I was facing some personal problems. I sometimes think that maybe I wasn’t able to appreciate the people around me enough, because in the end my boss helped me with some issues and even threw a goodbye party for me. From time to time, I miss my little room and the  time I spent there.

traveller-s-place-hostel
Source: TripAdvisor

Street Art in Santiago de Chile

I believe that street art tells a lot about a community`s philosophy and spirituality. This is why I like to wonder the streets and to listen to what the images have to say.

Just like in Sao Paulo,  street art reveals a hidden face of Santiago and Chile through a wide range of messages and ideas, from fantasy-related themes to more serious issues such as poverty, ethnicity and ecology.

The paintings completely change the way the building look like, giving you the impression that you are walking into a fantasy world.

The most famous neighborhoods are Barrio Brasil, Barrio Yungay, Bellas Artes and Bellavista.

Discover Santiago through street art!

Barrio Brasil & Barrio Yungay

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Bellavista & Bellas Artes

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Things to do in Santiago de Chile

Santiago is definitely not the most beautiful city in South America, but its unusual charm starts to grow on you once you have a view of the Cordillera, once you set foot on the San Cristobal hill or once you start discovering its many secrets.

The first building I saw was the Central Station. There were many many people in a hurry, so it was a bit intimidating. But after getting over the first impression, I started discovering Santiago little by little and I began to feel like home. For over three months this was my home, and from all the cities I`ve visited in America it was the one that reminded me most of my home town, Bucharest.

estacion_central

Estacion Central Source: miviajeporchile.cl

Dont`t miss out on these thing while in Santiago!

 

A. STREETS AND NEIGHBOURHOODS

Barrio Brasil

A lovely neighborhood where you can wonder the streets, admire the street art, relax in small intimate squares and visit several museums. Plaza Brasil is the perfect place for eating, partying or enjoying a football match.

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Source: santiagochile.com

 

Barrio Bellavista

This colorful neighborhood is known for the street art. At night things tend to get a bit crazy as this is the official party district.

 

Las Condes & Providencia

The business center offers some good examples of contemporary architecture. The Costanera Center (300m) is the highest building in Latin America and the second tallest building in the Southern hemisphere, which is amazing given the fact that Chile is severely affected by earthquakes.

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Barrio Paris – Londres

Bohemian streets paved with cobblestone that start from the Colonial Museum.

Barrio_Paris-Londres

Source: en.wikipedia.org

 

City Center

The city center spreads along the Alameda boulevard, which is nowadays named Avenida Libertador Bernardo O`Higgins.

The central area starts from the Moneda Palace, follows the main boulevard up to the Santa Lucia Hill and goes North to the Plaza de Armas . Many old churches can be admired, as well as imposing institutions and elegant mansions.

Iglesia San Ignacio Church

San Ignacio Church

The Moneda Palace is the presidential palace. The name remembers that coins used to be produced here between 1814 and 1929. Is is in here that the former president Allende was killed in the 1973 military coup.

La Moneda

La Moneda

The oldest building in Santiago is the San Francisco church. The original construction ended in 1613, but the church has been rebuild several times afterwards.

Iglesia San Francisco Church

San Francisco Church

Biblioteca Nacional - National Library

National Library

The Plaza de Armas is the center point of the historical city. It is also the place where you can visit the History Museum.

History Museum Plaza de Armas

History Museum, Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Iglesia Santo Domingo Church

Santo Domingo Church Source: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

The streets in the city center offer interesting examples of colonial architecture. So go discover Monjitas, Agustinas, San Antonio and Bandera.

Paseo Huerfanos is the ideal street for shopping and for admiring street performers. Unfortunately, after 10 o`clock it gets kind of shady.

Paseo Huerfanos

Paseo Huerfanos

 

B. Culture

More info about museums, galleries and cultural centers in this older post:

https://simonadinescublog.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/museums-in-santiago-de-chile/

 

C. SHOPPING & FAIRS

Chileans are crazy for shopping, whether it`s a flea market or  expensive stores.

I was surprised to notice that during week-ends people go for walks in the malls and not in parks. So if you happen to pass through  a shopping center on a Saturday or Sunday it will be almost impossible to move or to buy something as the places are overcrowded with people.

However, compared to other south-american cities, Santiago lacks the doze of authentic souvenirs. You can find genuine creations in the south of the country, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny.

 

Santa Lucia Artizans` Market

This permanent fair is located right across the street from the Santa Lucia hill. You can find some authentic products, such as hand-knitted ponchos and accessories, or hand-made instruments, but most stores sell kitchy souvenirs.

Source: nathtrip.wordpress.com

 

Bio-Bio Market

This huge flea-market is the ideal place to find practically anything you want. Their motto is “Name it and we have it”, so you can find anything you think of in here. Beware of pickpockets.

Source: santiagodiy.wordpress.com

 

Temporary fairs

These are tricky to find if you`re new in town because these fairs just appear over night and then disappear as if nothing happened. I once spent one hour looking for a food market in a pretty small perimeter.

There is a big event in the Yungay neighborhood and in the Forestal Park, but aside from these popular events you have to ask around.

 

 

Costanera Center

I don`t enjoy visiting shopping malls, but I believe that the Costanera Center is worth a visit. It`s not everyday you get to visit the tallest skyscraper in South America.

 

Mercado Central

Having a 6435 Km long coastline, in Chile it is always easy to get seafood. For the ones who are dying to try oceanic fish, shellfish and other seafood specialties, the Central Market is the place to be. Whether you feel like eating at one of the many restaurants, browsing for fresh products or watching the skilled vendors, this market will make an impression on you.

santiago-central-market-mercado-central

Source: twandjo.wordpress.com

Mercado-Central

Source: a-perfect-escape.com

Fish-Market-at-Mercado-Central-de-Santiago

Source: davidcolemanphoto.photoshelter.com

 

Tirso Molina

Located across the river from the Central Market, in Tirso Molina you`ll find fruits and vegetables at the first floor and cheap restaurants with typical dishes upstairs.

Source: davidcolemanphoto.photoshelter.com

 

La Vega Central

These markets are basically arranged in a straight line (Mercado Central – Tirso Molina – Vega Chica – Vega Central). La Vega Central is the cheapest and the largest of them. In here you can find all sorts of products, from fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dry fruits and dairy.

Vega-Central-Santiago-Chile

Source: ultimateguidetochile.com

 

D. PARKS AND NATURE

Santa Lucia (629m)

The hill located in the center of Santiago is a remnant of a volcano. It is decorated with statues, forts and fountains. From here you can admire the city and the San Cristobal hill.  However, it can be dangerous, especially after dark.

The hill played a key role in the Spanish Conquista as it was being used as a lookout.

 

Cerro San Cristobal (863m)

To get a better view of the mountains and the city you just have to climb the San Cristobal Hill. You can go there by car, bike, walking or hiking.

Located on the top of the hill, the statue of the Immaculate Conception guards the city. It can be seen from afar due to its height (14m).

 

The Andes

The Andes have an amazing effect over the way we perceive the city. Sometimes you find yourself  walking through a dull neighborhood and all of a sudden you see the Andes at the end of a street and the colors around you just seem to change. It also helps a lot with orientation.

Unfortunately, pollution sometimes dims the colors of the mountains, so it`s best to admire the landscape right after the sunset or after the rain. You`ll be amazed!

 

E. STREET ART

More about street art in this earlier post:

https://simonadinescublog.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/street-art-in-santiago-de-chile/

 

F. NIGHTLIFE

I believe that there`s a party animal hiding even in the most peaceful Chileans. Just go to any bar and watch how decent looking people wearing business clothes transform after a few drinks.

Barrio Brasil and Barrio Bellavista offer the most options for drinking, eating, dancing and chilling, so these are definitely the places to be if you`re new in town. If you have friends in Santiago, ask them to take you to a less touristic place, there are many hidden bars and a rich underground culture.

La piojera

This is one of the oldest bars in Santiago as it opened its doors in 1896. It was originally the hangout place for people with low incomes, but it`s becoming more and more popular among tourists, hence the high prices. Even if it`s located in a bad neighborhood, at least five presidents have passe

oors and it`s been the favorite place of famous artists, such as Pablo Neruda.

 

Terremoto

“Terremoto” is Spanish for earthquake, but for Chileans it`s the name of a surprising drink  made of white wine, pineapple icecream, granadina and fernet. It may not seem strong at the first sips, but eventually it will make you dizzy and it will give you a hangover the next day, so don`t exaggerate!

 

(Mi)chelada

This Mexican recipe is very popular in Chile, but they make it a bit differently. Just add lime juice to your beer and spread salt on the top of the glass like you would do with tequila and you get a completely different taste!

Source: imbibemagazine.com

 

Pisco (Sour)

This is originally a Peruvian recipe, but it has become the national drink that can be found literally anywhere. To get the sour effect just add lime juice.

 

Wine

Chilean wines are world-wide famous and taste delicious. Chile is the  fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer, so if you have time to spare while in Santiago you can go visit the vineyards close to the city

Museums in Santiago de Chile

During my trip many advised me to avoid Chile from various reasons: it`s too expensive, there`s nothing to see there, it`s not “South American” enough, there`s not much going on there and the food tastes awful.

However, I decided to go with my gut and I stayed for three months in Santiago. The time spent there proved that all the rumors were untrue, except for the one about the prices. This is what determined me to use the future posts as an opportunity to go back through the things that made me fall in love with the city in the first place. In the end, how could a city located at the foothills of the Andes be dull?

From an architect`s point of view, I can say that Santiago is definitely a captivating place from which all could learn some valuable lessons. I believe that the museums are one of the most memorable assets of this city. For those who still think that there`s nothing to do here, consider that the museums listed below are just a few of the many options the city has to offer.

For more information, check this webpage:

http://www.800.cl/?id=1093&c=1563&r=664&esp=1563&p=0&t=Todos+los+Museos+en+Santiago

1. Gabriela Mistral Center

http://www.gam.cl/

Opened in 2010, this cultural center defines itself as a center for the arts, for culture and for people. Also, it aims to be a meeting point between audiences and creators and it hosts events related to theater, choreography, music, visual arts and cinematography.

Occupying a surface of about 22.000 square meters, the center includes a library, a recording studio, a space for temporary exhibitions and many classrooms for theater, dance and music.

What stroke me was the fact that people were actually using this space. And I`m not referring to  the tourists, I`m talking about the locals who come here to interact in the opened squares or in the main  lobby and about the teens who practice their choreography outside.

The center publishes a monthly brochure from which you can find everything about the events taking place; ask for it at the info point.

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

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Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Santiago de Chile

The main square is opened to the public, becoming a point for meeting and interaction.

2. Museum of Memory and Human Rights – FREE access

http://www.museodelamemoria.cl/

The museum commemorates and honors the victim of the military dictatorship that occurred between 1973 and 1990, which led to 3000 victims and 200.000 forced into exile.

This is a good opportunity to  learn about Chilean history and culture. Even today the society is still traumatized by the past events and knowing more about the recent history helps one understand more about the people and their  lifestyle. As one might expect, the pictures and testimonies are quite shocking.

Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

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Museos de la memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile  FOTO: DAVID VON BLOHN Source: ellibero.cl

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago de Chile
FOTO: DAVID VON BLOHN
Source: ellibero.cl

3. Pre-Columbian Art Museum – FREE access on Sundays

http://www.precolombino.cl/

Located in the center of the city, the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is a great way to learn about the history and culture of the indigenous tribes in the Americas. Although in some South American the indigenous heritage is ignored and many artifacts have been lost or destroyed, Chile takes pride in this unique collection that speaks about their ancestors.

It is fascinating to visit this museums as it tells the stories of cultures very different from ours with day to day objects, with musical instruments or objects used in rituals and burials.

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Interior courtyard – Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Main staircase – Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

The underground rooms – Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

This artifact reflects the ingenuity on the Inca civilization – as they did not discover writing, this was the most efficient method of counting their resources. Each knot represents a unit for a natural resource (for example 1 knot stands for 100 cows) and the color of the thread represents the resource (for example yellow thread for corn plantation).

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Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago de Chile

4. Matucana100 Cultural Center 

http://www.m100.cl/

Located close to the Quinta Normal Park, this cultural center is dedicated to theater, music, dance, visual arts and cinema. It defines a space for reflection, debate and education.

Centro Cultural Matucana 100 Source: http://voyageaddicted.com/

Centro Cultural Matucana 100
Source: voyageaddicted.com/

Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago de Chile

Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago de Chile Source: http://www.martinhurtado.cl

Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago de Chile Source: www.martinhurtado.cl/

Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago de Chile
Source: http://www.martinhurtado.cl

5. The National Museum of Fine Arts – FREE access

http://www.mnba.cl/

Located in a beautiful historical building, the museum offers a rich collection of paintings and sculptures. Check the temporary exhibitions, there`s always something worth seeing.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile Source: www.skyscrapercity.com

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile
Source: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

6. Museum of Contemporary Art (Parque Forestal)

Many locals don`t know that right behind the Fine Arts Museum you can find the MAC that always hosts interesting and many times interactive exhibits. Expect to find an interactive installation in the main lobby, which will allow you to play and experiment.

MAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago, Parque Forestal, Santiago de Chile Source: en.wikipedia.org

MAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago, Parque Forestal, Santiago de Chile
Source: en.wikipedia.org

MAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago, Parque Forestal, Santiago de Chile Source: www.georgesrousse.com

MAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Santiago, Parque Forestal, Santiago de Chile
Source: http://www.georgesrousse.com

7. Museum of Contemporary Art (Quinta Normal) – FREE on Sundays

The Quinta Normal is the equivalent of the Museum Quarters in Wien. You can find here the MAC, the Natural History Museum, the M100 and the Museum of Memory.  If you arrive here on a Sunday you can enter for free to all these museums and you can enjoy the park that is particularly lively during those days.

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo MAC, Quinta Normal, Santiago de Chile Source: www.uchile.cl/

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo MAC, Quinta Normal, Santiago de Chile
Source: http://www.uchile.cl/

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo MAC, Quinta Normal, Santiago de Chile Source: www.mastraviesa.com

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo MAC, Quinta Normal, Santiago de Chile
Source: http://www.mastraviesa.com

It is interesting that some Chilean artists are working inside the museum – during some days you can watch them while they are working and even talk to them. Their work is a bit scary, but fascinating.

More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristobal_Le%C3%B3n_%26_Joaqu%C3%ADn_Coci%C3%B1a

8. Sculpture Park – FREE access

While walking along the Mapocho river from Bellavista you`ll find a charming park with contemporary sculptures.

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Sculpture Park, Santiago de Chile

Sculpture Park, Santiago de    Chile

Sculpture Park, Santiago de Chile

Sculpture Park, Santiago de Chile

Sculpture Park, Santiago de Chile

9. The National History Museum – FREE access on Sundays

Located in the heart of Santiago, in Plaza de Armas, the museum presents the country`s history.

National History Museum, Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile

National History Museum, Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile

 

10. The National Museum of Natural History – FREE access on Sundays

Although the building is beautiful, the collection is not that impressive, aside from a few exhibits.

National History Museum,  Santiago de Chile

National History Museum, Santiago de Chile

As you may have realized by now, the cultural life in Santiago is very intense – basically there`s always something worth seeing. And, of course, the same goes for the underground culture, of which I will talk in later posts.