Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wander Wednesday: A Walk Around Town

Since I´m sitting in the Lima airport thanks to a flight delay, I might as well post. It´s 4 a.m. local time and I´ve been up and about for about 24 hours now, so apologies if I get a bit punchy. Since I´ve been wandering, today´s Wander Wednesday will be a few bits from Santiago.

After arriving in Santiago, I slept in a bit, grabbed some breakfast and tea, worked on the game plan a bit  then headed out for a free walking tour I came across in the hostel. Should you ever be in Santiago, I highly recommend the tours by Spicy Chile. Today, or I guess yesterday, I did the Good morning, Santiago! tour. I made it to the meeting spot with time to spare, amazing I know, and then waited, and waited and waited. Finally another girl showed up and we waited some more. She´s from Japan, but is studying in California and was traveling for the holidays.

The guide, Antonio, showed up a few minutes late and apologized profusely. Something had happened on his way to the meeting spot that involved broken glass and police, I´m still unclear.

And then we were off. First, he told us about La Moneda Palace, or the government palace. It´s a pretty famous place in Chilean history as there was a militaty coup d´etat on Sept. 11, 1973 and when Salvador Allende, the sitting president and a socialist, refused the military´s demand for his resignation, the Chilean Air Force bombed the building. Antonio told us that some believe the military stormed the palace and killed Allende, but some European scientists came in and discovered that Allende had actually committed suicide before the military broke in. But, Antonio said few know what really happened. Following that event, restorations included the addition of a bunker under the front square to protect then President General Augusto Pinochet from similar attack. Pinochet assumed his power through the coup that overthrew Allende. He then ruled Chile for 17 years as a dictator.

We looked at the Chilean supreme court and an art museum that is closed due to earthquake damage. We peeked at the ex National Congress. The government still uses the building, but Congress has moved to Valparaiso.

Just across from the former legislature´s home is a place known as a ¨coffee with legs.¨ The term is applied to coffee shops where all the servers are women in very high heels and short skirts but also to places with blacked windows, loud music, drinks and girls in skimpy clothing. Prostitution is illegal in Chile and Antonia said the ¨coffee with legs¨ is a growing phenomenon that is sort of a way around the law, for now.

After learning about such a place, we cut through the Metropolitan Cathedral. It´s absolutely stunning. I wanted to stay longer, but little time. Construction on the cathedral started in 1748, but wasn´t completed until 1800, with more alterations at the end of the 19th century. Earlier cathedrals in the archdiocese had been destroyed by earthquakes.

Exiting the cathedral into the Plaza de Armas is quite a sight. Just across from it is the Central Post Office building, a museum and what is essentially city hall. Those buildings are the oldest structures in the area, Antonio said. Many others were destroyed or demolished to make way for new buildings.

Alright, time to grab a snack and some water and just relax for a minute before the flight. On my way to Easter Island though this delay is seriously cutting into time there, but I´ll make do and wing it of course. Then another overnight flight back. I´m going to hate myself for this shortly.

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