Chile: Valdivia: the beginning of the deep south

Valdivia Travel Guide:

General information: It has 150,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the largest cities in southern Chile and the capital of Los Lagos Region. It was one of the first cities founded in Chile, in the sixteenth century, by the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, which in the end also gave the name to the city. It’s quite easy to locate in the city because it’s not big. The city, like the whole region, has a strong German influence, because of the immigrants who start arriving in the 19th century. You can see it in the architecture, but also in the fact that Valdivia is the beer capital of Chile, with many famous types of beers. (both craft and industrial)

Tourist attractions:

1) botanical garden: I think it’s the biggest and the most beautiful botanical garden I’ve ever seen. Actually, it looks like a giant and indomitable forest, which sometimes allows people the luxury of exploring it. From the city center you have to cross a bridge to go there, it’s a kind of island, called Isla Teja, which the river separates from the rest of the city on both sides. It’s really beautiful and quiet, I felt the need to explore it alone, so I escaped to my companion and I went alone, it was a unique experience.

2) street art: There was not so much graffiti in the streets, but I loved those that were there because they were so different from their surroundings that it all made a beautiful contrast. I loved that several of them had as a topic something about the culture of indigenous peoples.

3) Architecture: The center of Valdivia reminded me of Europe. There I see a mixture of Spain and Central Europe and then suddenly there are things that don’t fit and that’s why you realize that you are in South America. Perfection is boring and believe me this is much better than perfection in the Western sense. There is a bit of everything and a touch of originality.

4) the rivers: the Valdivia River and the Calle-Calle river converge in the city and because of that the city has beautiful path next to the rivers. You can simply sit on the bench and enjoy the day (I had a day without rain)

5) the market: You have to go to the Valdivia market, not only to buy fresh food, or homemade jams, or crafts at the fair next to the market. No, the peculiarity and attraction of the Valdivia market are the animals that come there, either to rest or for the vendors to give them food. And they seem to be used to attention of the people, they don’t get upset when someone approaches them and takes a picture of them.(or a selfie) There is everything: birds that I don’t even know what species they are, but the main attraction are the sea lions, flopping in the sun. I saw something similar in Coquimbo, in the north of Chile, but there they are not as included in the “life of the city” as in Valdivia, where they are practically living with the people. I think it’s great, and from those experiences I can see why Chileans are so friendly with animals. In Europe we don’t have that, this kind of animals we can see just in the zoo and that is something very exotic. And here they are in the street, so used to human presence. Sincerely, a friend told me a long time ago that in Chile it’s like that, but I didn’t trust him, I thought that he was just trying to show off or something like that and I didn’t listen to him. The same reaction I receive from my European friends when I send them photos: “What? So close? But didn’t you find it dangerous?” First, I have to confess that by seeing these giant animals I wasn’t indifferent, but like everyone else behaved as if this was the most normal situation in the world, then I relaxed too. I recommend the same. Relax and let yourself be carried away by the magic of a different world but no less beautiful than ours.

Personal observation:

Valdivia is a really beautiful city and I think it would be really nice to live there, despite the constant rain. It’s so beautiful that I think I could take it all and that I would still consider a reward to live in such a beautiful city. One day in Croatia I met a Chilean from Valdivia, and at that time still not knowing how beautiful the south was, I asked her why she had left her country and why she considers Croatia a better choice. She began to list so many things and in a very aggressive and energetic way that I thought that she came from hell. When I first met Chile, I realized that her reasons were actually simply different perspectives and expectations. Something that bothers one person, another loves it and vice versa. But already arriving to the south seriously I couldn’t understand her. If I had the privilege of being born in the south of Chile, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. It’s a very special part of the world, and Valdivia is the city that, in my opinion, marks the beginning of the deep south. This is where the landscape becomes truly magical and you don’t know if you are dreaming or what is happening. At one point I just felt like I was in another world and I didn’t expect it. I just wanted to go on a day trip and that was it. Never in my life did I think I was going to see landscapes like that. It reminded me of the US national parks I had seen in the movies. (yes, that kind of unknown it was for me) But the road to Valdivia (I went by car from Temuco) was better than any movie. Also, I had never imagined such landscapes in South America. It will be due to prejudice or ignorance, but I just didn’t imagine anything similar. I spent incredible moments there. My admiration was total when every 20 km I saw houses where cheese and homemade jams were sold. On the side of the road, to fill the sensation of being in a pastoral novel, there were sheep and cows eating the grass calmly. I know that obviously living there is not so idyllic always, that there are problems and that the Chilean state and the system aren’t perfect, but nothing is perfect in this life, no system and country. However, there are few places with nature as wonderful as in the south of Chile. Therefore, I still think that living there is a privilege, despite everything.

Bosnia, the heart of the Balkans part 2 : Sarajevo

 Sarajevo Travel Guide

General information: It is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 300 000 inhabitants. It is pronounced like “Saraievo”. I write it because I know you can be confused with the “j” The official language is actually three of them: Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. If you ask me, it’s the same thing, because I know very well that among the three nationalities living in Bosnia, everyone understands each other perfectly. I wrote a bit more about that in my Banja Luka article. In Sarajevo the vast majority is Bosniak (Bosnian muslims). Young people usually speak English, and much better than in some Western European countries. The official currency is BAM – the convertible marka. Bosnia is not part of the European Union so you must necessarily take your passport, even if you are EU citizen. And you have to be patient at border crossings where usually they ask a lot and review things. Sometimes is really annoying because they ask stupid things and I had the impression they ask just because they are bored on their job. So, patience. Or simply go by plane. The standard of living is not that high, so if you come from the “west”, you will enjoy it. For me it was very cheap, and I am from Croatia, always complaining that everything is expensive. The city is very safe, you can take a walk at two in the morning without worrying. Regarding the weather, during the winter it’s usually very cold, with snow, so you have to be appropriately dressed, if not you will freeze. Not recommended. Also, it’s important to know that sometimes during the night there are water restrictions so just a little bit of water can be used, if any. But during the day everything is normal.

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