The City that Enth­ralls the World


Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas - - Lugar Con Encanto / Charming Places -

Next to the Vi­ña del Mar whe­re the world goes to sing, li­ves the one that sings to the world, ins­pi­ring mu­ses sub­ju­ga­ted by the gla­mor and beauty of the so-ca­lled Gar­den City. The city enth­ralls both the na­ti­ves and fo­reig­ners, as if to achie­ve the mi­ra­cle that its pe­cu­liar city li­fe, the na­tu­ral, pa­tri­mo­nial and cul­tu­ral fea­tu­res, the ones that ma­kes many pop the ques­tion the­re.

This is what Chi­le's Cristian Jo­va­ni de­fi­ned as its “war spell­bound” in a poem which he ad­mits to ha­ve been con­que­red by this sandy land, the pa­ra­di­se city... The same sen­sa­tion seems to ha­ve en­ligh­te­ned Spa­nish sin­ger Ma­no­lo Gal­ván, one of the voi­ces that has ho­no­red this in­ter­na­tio­nal song fes­ti­val, when he wro­te: “Oh, Vi­ña del Mar / dif­fe­rent co­lors / mi­xed in you / they in­to­xi­ca­ted my mind”. The pos­ses­sion is so hu­ge that the ar­tist winds up con­fes­sing how he re­fu­ses to sleep in this pla­ce be­cau­se “that would be a sin.”

Foun­ded in 1874 on Jo­sé Francisco Ver­ga­ra's dream to build a city near Val­pa­raí­so –alt­hough with a com­ple­tely dif­fe­rent iden­tity- now that ini­tial year­ning of his has go­ne way too far. Vi­ña del Mar be­ca­me the precious pearl of all Chilean charms, even in its tou­rist ca­pi­tal.

The com­bi­na­tion of city and na­tu­re be­gan to sketch out its pa­ra­di­sia­cal ima­ge in 1906. By that da­te, an earth­qua­ke had left a hun­dred vic­tims and do­zens of buil­dings des­tro­yed in lar­ge sec­tors of the nearby Val­pa­ra­iso. It would be this ca­tas­trop­he that de­fi­ni­tely mar­ked the fa­te of that city of so­me 300,000 in­ha­bi­tants.

This is how a won­der­ful com­bi­na­tion was crea­ted: the ty­pi­cal beach buil­dings, beau­ti­fully cor­ne­red by ex­ten­si­ve green areas and gar­dens po­pu­la­ted by a sur­pri­sing diversity of flo­ris­tic spe­cies.

At Vi­ña del Mar, an ama­zing con­cert among the ur­ban or­na­ments –walks, lar­ge pa­la­ces (Ver­ga­ra, Rio­ja, Carrasco, Pre­si­den­tial Ce­rro Cas­ti­llo, the ge­ta­way of the country's pre­si­dents, Wulff, Bru­nett) and man­sions of well-to-do fa­mi­lies now tur­ned in­to mu­seums, coupled with its 13 bea­ches, join a bevy of di­ver­se cul­tu­ral, gas­tro­no­mic and en­ter­tain­ment of­fers. The city pul­sa­tes bet­ween sea­sons of con­certs and mu­si­cal shows, with the ma­jor high­light being the afo­re­men­tio­ned in­ter­na­tio­nal fes­ti­vals.

The mu­sic fes­ti­val is held at the amp­hit­hea­ter of the stun­ning Quin­ta Ver­ga­ra, a beau­ti­ful park built in the la­te 1960s that was com­ple­tely re­fur­bis­hed in early 2000. The­re is al­so the film fes­ti­val, pen­ci­led in as one of the most sig­ni­fi­cant ones of its kind in both Chi­le and the rest of La­tin Ame­ri­ca.

Its most fa­mous mu­seums are El Ar­te­quin, de­di­ca­ted to at­tract chil­dren es­pe­cially on the ba­sis of the vi­sual arts; al Ai­re Li­bre, which ho­nors the poetry of Gon­za­lo Villar and is con­nec­ted to the Ca­sa Ver­de Ga­llery; the Fonk, whe­re an aut­hen­tic moai from Eas­ter Is­land can be seen and trea­su­res ar­ti­facts that be­lon­ged to the Chilean abo­ri­gi­nes.

From the spi­ri­tual point of view, its Ly­ric Sea­son, the In­ter­na­tio­nal Con­test of Mu­si­cal Exe­cu­tion, the pain­ting ex­hi­bi­tions, the Ar­chi­tec­tu­re Bien­nial and the li­te­rary mee­tings stand tall.

Must-see pla­ces for visitors are al­so the Val­pa­ra­iso Spor­ting Club, with its 124 hec­ta­res de­di­ca­ted to eques­trian ac­ti­vi­ties and ho­me to the na­tio­nal hor­se­ra­ce derby; Ave­ni­da Pe­ru, with its well-ten­ded gar­dens that skirt the coast and en­han­ce the ca­sino (an old buil­ding that in­clu­des a fi­ve-star ho­tel) and ends up in the re­now­ned Mue­lle Ver­ga­ra and its uni­que break­wa­ter; the ma­gi­cal Flo­wer Clock, the Na­tio­nal Bo­ta­ni­cal Gar­den with its more than 3,000 plant spe­cies, in ad­di­tion to a la­goon with a pe­des­trian walk­way that ends in a path in­to the fo­rest; and the Re­ña- ca, dis­tin­guis­hed as the most uni­ver­sal of the Chilean bea­ches, hem­med in by py­ra­midal buil­dings.

And if so much beauty and in­ten­sity are not good enough, this vo­ra­cious spi­ri­tual ap­pe­ti­te can be quen­ched with the po­wer­ful ly­ri­cal im­ma­nen­ce of Pablo Ne­ru­da, by jum­ping in­to the uni­ver­sal charm of his poetry and per­so­na­lity in Is­la Ne­gra –about 73 km-, or the Se­bas­tia­na –the clo­sest bet­ween this city and Val­pa­ra­iso, and wit­hin reach by means of pu­blic trans­port- two of its hou­ses in Chi­le.

Out of eit­her of the­se pla­ces, you will su­rely come out with a sigh of deep ful­fill­ment, and with one of Gal­ván's songs prod­ding in­to your heart: “Vi­ña del Mar / you'll be my last me­mory / you'll be my pi­llow if I'm far away...

El re­nom­bra­do Mue­lle Ver­ga­ra. / The re­now­ned Mue­lle Ver­ga­ra.

El Val­pa­raí­so Spor­ting Club. / The Val­pa­ra­iso Spor­ting Club.

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