|Giant Chilean flag flies in front of Plaza de la Ciudadania|
What a year 2010 has been for Chile! Chileans celebrated their 200th year of independence from Spain in September 18. Tragedy struck in February when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit this country with so much damage to lives and property. And of course, who wouldn't forget those 33 miners who were trapped for more than two months and just recently rescued? I came to Santiago knowing that both good and bad news blanketed the city within the last 9 months. For now, the local residents are still ecstatic about the miners and that Chileans in general are currently feeling good about themselves.
Three years ago was my first taste of Chile, up north in the dry desert region of San Pedro de Atacama. It was a short 3-day visit, one that was part of an overland journey from Salta, Argentina culminating in La Paz, Bolivia. Enamored by the desolate moonscape of San Pedro, I longed for the day when I finally will return to the country and visit the other areas. This after all is a country with a tremendous length, some 4,830 kms long from north to south with an average width of just 180 kms. Within this serpentine shape lies a staggering display of diverse landscapes. One that really excited me the most however is southern Patagonia - my main Chilean destination.
But to go there, I have to pass by Santiago. Most people on their way to the north or the south merely dismiss Santiago as a boring stop-over, feeling like there's nothing to see. Home to more than 6 million people, Chile's capital city sprawls within the shadows of the Andes. That for me makes the city already attractive, sitting close to the serrated peaks of this huge mountain range. Since I had a full day to explore the city before flying south the next day, I decided on seeing two areas: el centro and Barrio Bellavista. As Che Lagarto Hostel is conveniently within el centro area already, I merely had to walk to the places of interest.
|Enjoying a game of pool at the hostel. There's also table tennis & foosball.|
|Plaza de Armas in the grittier part of downtown.|
Santiago's main public square was founded in 1541 by Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valvidia.
|a crowd of Chileans gather in front of the Catedral Metropolitana.|
|What used to be the colonial Governor's Palace and one-time Presidential Palace is now the|
Central Post Office or Correo Central. To the right is the Palacio de la Real Audiencia,
built between 1804 & 1807, and is now the Historical Museum.
|Pedestrian street leading to the Plaza de Armas.|
Built in 1625, Iglesia de San Agustin
is Santiago's second oldest Catholic church.
|The southern facade of Palacio de la Moneda, the official seat of government.|
In 1973, this was damaged during the infamous coup led by Pinochet
which ousted the democratically-elected President Allende.
Inside the palace, Pres. Allende allegedly committed "suicide".
|Presidential honor guards in front of La Moneda.|
|The Church of San Francisco is Santiago's oldest Catholic church|
and the oldest standing building in the city.
|The Unibersidad de Chile is the country's oldest and largest school of higher learning.|
A convenient Metro subway station (indicated by diamond signs) is nearby.
|Subway station at Baquedano adorned with artwork by local artists.|