By Jamie Schlegel
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[3.5 minute read]
The coastline of Chile is composed of many turns and rocky edges. My fellow travelers and I kept ourselves entertained watching them as our van turned those corners for several hours on the drive from Santiago to Valparaiso. Gradually, the tell-tale signs of a city began to make themselves apparent: less ocean and more buildings. Finally, the van came to a stop. As we unpacked our bags and headed into the hostel, we already felt the chilly weather of the southern hemisphere.
The place we were going to stay at turned out to be on the top floor of the building. Fairly early in the morning, we were woken up by the sunlight streaming in through the skylights. As we crawled sheepishly out of bed, the realization that we were in a new city truly woke us up. After a quick breakfast of bread, cheese, and jam, we rushed out into the winter air. The neighborhoods in Valparaiso are called Cerros, and our Cerro was one of the most colorful places I had ever seen. The streets were made of cobblestone and were reminiscent of Europe. The buildings were lined with small shops, each one different from the last. The apartments that sprawled above them were colored in magnificent yellows, pinks and blues.
The buildings of Valparaiso were beautiful, but I would say the most magnificent sight in the city was the murals. Every inch of the city, from the steps to the lampposts to the 50-foot-long walls, were covered with art more amazing than those found in any museum I had ever visited. There were renditions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night with 20-foot sunflowers, a powerful indigenous woman, and many more that I couldn’t even begin to understand. The city encouraged art, and the people there seemed to look at life differently because of that.
On my last day in Valparaiso, I felt desperate to see any murals that I hadn’t yet (an impossible feat considering there are hundreds of thousands). My friend and I woke up before the rest of our group while most of the city was also still asleep. The air was crisp and cool and we were wearing colorful sweaters and jackets, a symptom of being in Valparaiso. We sat on the steps of one of the more famous murals in the city, which read “We not hippies, we happies.” Some stray dogs, all of which are well-cared for and very friendly, came and joined us on the steps. In that moment, I felt so happy to have experienced a place as beautiful as Valparaiso. It is said that some cities chew you up and spit you out, but Valparaiso just embraces you with open arms.
Jamie is a recent graduate who studied International Relations and Journalism. Although she is originally from a very small town in Wyoming, she has grown up traveling, including a six week trip to South America last summer. Besides her passion of traveling, she also loves music, playing the cello, drawing, painting, reading, and meeting new people! Additionally, she has taken five years of Spanish while in high school and is now studying Arabic here at USC.