Just one Place Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso

Valparaiso

On hundred and fifty years ago Valparaiso, Chile was one of the world’s busiest ports.  Located half way along the Pacific coast of South America it was an essential stopping point for vessels rounding Cape Horn on the way to California from the East Coast of the United States and from Europe.  

Wealthy with the passing trade the city grew with beautiful art deco buildings in its center which was connected to the surrounding hills by an ingenious network of funicular railways, each with a colorful name like ‘Queen Victoria’.  Settlers came from around the world to seek their fortune here.  The new comers  founded not only a church for each European 

Piano stairs

Piano stairs

language group but also a fire brigade for each group to serve their own section of the city.  Then it all came to end.  The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 some three thousand miles to the north destroyed the city’s prosperity in a single blow. 

Murals

Murals in Valparaiso

 Today Valpo, as it is known locally, is finally bouncing back.  Its architecture frozen at the moment the economy died has been recognized as a treasure of world heritage and placed under international protection, meanwhile restauranteurs, poets and artists have made the city their home.  The city glows with the energy of a thousand murals and tourists enjoy the still-functional funicular system.  Views of the city and the ocean from the surrounding hills are unforgettable.  If you ask about the city’s recovery people will tell you it isn’t the first time.  The city has survived earthquakes, war and even being burnt to the ground by a pirate.  Which pirate? you may ask.  Frances Drake, you’ll be told.  History looks different when seen from Valpariso.

Valparaiso

Another Valparaiso mural

Thank you to my Cousin, Prof Nicholas J Cull for this piece on friendlytravelguides Just one place series, If anybody reading this has any anecdotes or Just one places of their own please email friendlytravelguide

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