We had arrived long after dark. The guesthouse was hidden behind many a curve somewhere on a black hill, of which Valparaíso boasts dozens. Upon arrival the owner ushered us into a small rustic room, where a vintage TV set sat on a wooden table to remind me of my childhood or to entertain whoever passed through this establishment.
As a child I was astonished that my much older cousin had deliberately chosen to not let a TV infiltrate her household. I couldn’t really grasp how one lives without TV, so engrained an institution it is where I’m from. Yet, the older I’ve gotten, the more this favorite distraction has lost its spell. Time has changed perspective. If anything, watching the occasional movie or show has shifted into realms of internet choice, while the rigid TV program is an extinct creature in my world. Looking back on 5 years of travel by now, a spontaneous estimate of 5h sweetened by good old fashioned TV seems realistic. It’s not like I demonize the telly, but either there was TV where I lived or life had other forms of entertainment in store.
"It’s all ups and downs with the hills and a matter of perspective and timing isn’t it?"
Still, there was no denying that this little TV set now beamed some baffling information at us: an 8.2 earthquake off the Chilean Pacific coast was sending a Tsunami right our way and suddenly we appreciated every meter our journey had led us up the raven hill. Valparaíso was spared for the most part that night, but only ten days later another catastrophe hit the city badly and foremost the lush hills that had provided shelter from the Tsunami: what has become known as the Great Fire of Valparaíso left some 11.000 inhabitants homeless. Water flooding the foothills and fire consuming the peaks are elemental opposites that haunted the city within a matter of days.
It’s all ups and downs with the hills and a matter of perspective and timing isn’t it? Quite literally so in this case, but metaphorically speaking we're all beating our path through the ups and downs of a life time. In fact, I think it's a good thing that easy ups are followed by difficult downs and vice versa. Both shape us in their respective ways and in-between the polar extremes thrives a healthy balance. Life always goes on, as belittling as that can sound in moments of despair, just like no high comes with a guarantee to last. And I can’t imagine a simpler or more beautiful way to phrase the quintessence of timing as this quote by grand poet Neruda himself: “Hoy es hoy y ayer se fue, no hay duda” (Today is today and yesterday is gone, there is no doubt).
Probably guided by emotion but not without reason chose
poet Neruda Valparaíso as his home and inspiration.
"And so the historic quarter of Valparaíso keeps sitting there, enthroned in these very hills, to merge sheet metal with hue, the ocean with a view and paint with poetry."
Life went on in the seaport too. And so the historic quarter of Valparaíso keeps sitting there, enthroned in these very hills, to merge sheet metal with hue, the ocean with a view and paint with poetry. Once brought from Europe to secure freight in the ship's hold, the sheet metal was soon reused in the construction of houses and what was cheap and handy back then, looks artsy and unique now. No wonder that Valparaíso was Neruda's home of choice and has birthed a multitude of other artists. Ascending from the harbor into the cluster of hills, one passes by the whole spectrum of colors dressing the facades. Offbeat galleries take turns with Pacific-view parks, quaint bars, breweries and restaurants along these cobbled streets lined by flamboyant murals.