Chileans seem to have a “thing” for the Virgin Mary. We ran across her in many places during our trip; in churches, in parks and in paddocks in the middle of no-where. The largest one we saw was 14m (45′) tall sitting on an 8.3m (27′) pedestal and weighing a hefty 36,610kg (80711 lbs) !! This Blessed lady sits on top of Cerro San Cristobal – an 880m (2,887′) hill where she can be seen blessing the city from just about every corner of Santiago. She was made in Paris but I do not know how she was transported to Chile or how & when she was installed at the top of the hill.
Cerro San Cristobal was named after the San Cristobal family which had a quarry on one side of the hill but its original name was “Tupahue” (Mapudungun for “place of gods”). The largest green space in Santiago is on Cerro San Cristobal – the 722h (1,784 acres) Parque Metropolitano. Within the Parque is also a Japanese-style garden (Jardin Japones) and two municipal pools – the Piscina Tupahue and Piscina AntilenPiscina Antilén (where you have panoramic views of the city while you swim).
To get to the top of the hill one can either walk (this apparently takes about 90 mins), cycle, or take the Funicular train which I heard described as being like a very slow roller-coaster. The funicular started operating on April 25, 1925. There are two, and one goes up as the other comes down. The entrance to the station is much fancier than my DC metro!
I hate rides so I ventured onto this with some trepidation. The “cars” reminded me of coal cars and you just stand in them and hold on: The funicular climbs 485m (1,591′) at an incline of 45 degrees at 110m per minute (360′ per minute). Half way up is the Chilean National Zoo but our funicular did not stop there and actually it looked closed so I’m not sure if that’s an “attraction” or not – reviews I read of the zoo were rather harsh though one said it might be the only place you’ll see Chile’s national mascot, the tiny pudú deer.
You “land” at the summit station which is not really the summit as you have to then climb further to get to the top. There are great views of Santiago smog at this level and you can just make out the Andes in the background. ..
There is another “level” with Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción del Cerro San Cristóbal (the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)
and various other religious things: .
Then you climb a bit further towards Mary: And a bit further still ….. Inside the pedestal section there is a small chapel where John Paul II prayed & blessed Santiago on 1st April 1987 and the open air amphitheatre is used for Masses and ceremonies..
On the way back down I noticed a sign on the funicular car which says (according to Google translator): “In the car, on April 1, 1987, rose to the feet of the Virgin Mary Mother of God and Our Sea, His Holiness John Paul II, to give, from the sanctuary, his apostolic blessing to Santiago and throughout Chile, in his pastoral visit by the country ” It had been a long day for us starting with the Cementerio General de Santiago so once we left the Virgin we felt we deserved a late afternoon drink – a Chilean white wine for me and pisco sour for the manservant:
After the cemetery we headed downtown to the Palacio de la Moneda. The neoclassical style building was designed by Italian architect Joaquin Toesca and originally built to house the mint (moneda = currency/coin). Construction began in 1784 and the mint opened in 1805. In 1846 the building became the national headquarters of the government and residence of the president.
We weren’t aware of it but you can tour the building. You have to book it at least 10 days in advance and if I ever make it back to Santiago I’ll definitely do that.
The north facade of the palace was badly damaged on September 11, 1973 when the Chilean Air Force dropped missiles on it at the request of the army during the military coup, when President Salvador Allende refused to leave. The palace was restored between 1973-1980 and completed by March 1981 – though it is said that some bullet marks have been preserved! It is also said that a “bunker” was built under the front square to provide an escape for then-President General Pinochet.
To celebrate the bicentenary of Chile’s independence, a new public square called the Plaza de la Ciudadania was constructed on the south side of the palace. The plaza was inaugurated in December 2005. It was designed by Undurraga Deves Arquitectos and paths lead down from the plaza to the underground Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Center which opened in 2006 in the Palace’s basement. This is a huge art space with exhibition halls, a media library and a cinema as well as some shops & a cafe. We saw an exhibit of African figures and masks. The program was written in Spanish but most of the curator notes beside the exhibits had an English translation. The exhibition was split into 2 sections; one showing art as power and the other showing artistic representations of the human figure as it reflects society and behaviour. There were 180 pieces covering 4 centuries on display but no photos were allowed. It was a bit strange to go to Chile & see an African exhibition but it was a great venue and we both thought the exhibition was really good.
I wanted to see the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y el Ejecutado Politico (Memorial of the Disappeared and Executed for Political Reasons) which is in the Cementerio General de Santiago close to the Cementerios metro station. I’d have liked to have seen Patio 29 also but it is on the other side of the cemetery and a combination of sore feet, heat and a little run-in with the cemetery police put me off……
The Cementerio General was founded, on land that was a Dominican estate, by Bernardo O’Higgins on 9th December 1821, and he was buried there until removed by General Pinochet in 1979. O’Higgins is considered to be one of Chile’s founding fathers – he was Supreme Director of the independent Chile 1817-1823, The cemetery covers 86 hectares (212 acres) and around 2 million people’s bodies or ashes are here. In the 1870’s Santiago’s Intendente (Mayor), Benjamin Mackenna began a public works program which included beautifying the cemetery with boulevards and trees.
Every President of Republican Chile is buried in the cemetery except O’Higgins, Gozalex Videl (President 1946-52, and later, a supporter of Pinochet) and Pinochet.
We went off straight after breakfast. Not sure why the manservant didn’t tell me to move a bit to the left! The sign means enter only for funerals:
While the Mass was being conducted we were lunching in a restaurant in the Mercado Central de Santiago.
I decided on calamari – mostly because I could identify it on the menu – calamares. I asked if it was “frito” in one of the 4 sauce options listed. The waiter said a lot and I heard “frito” a few times so what I imagined I was going to get was crumbed/battered, deep fried calamari drizzled with a tasty tomato-based sauce. What I apparently asked for was plain grey-blanched calamari sans crumbs or batter and not a skerrick of sauce!
Not only was it not attractive, it did not taste good. At all! So I did what any loving wife does; I offered to swap meals with the manservant! He had ordered Ceviche which he was *really* looking forward to and which he declared to be “delicious” after his first mouthful. But as most husbands know a happy wife is a happy life …….
I must say he chose very well – the Ceviche was really very good! You might start to notice that often, when I’m not the photographer, I’m photographed holding something alcoholic! When traveling in Chile one really must sample their great wines and also Pisco Sours. I think we had alcohol at every meal except breakfast and that was probably only because we weren’t offered any…..
It’s primarily a fish market with restaurants.
but it also has stalls of bits & pieces
We enjoyed the market so much we went back later in the week. If we’d lingered this day we would’ve missed the Lord of Miracles procession that we didn’t know was about to happen…….