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March 24, 2009

Valparaiso: Prat and the German Pirate

Filed under: Chile 2009, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage — anotherheader @ 6:54 pm

Prat Monument in Valparaiso

Arturo Prat Monument in Valparaiso

Back on the shore at the end of our cruise of Valparaiso’s harbor, we continued on to Prat.  Prat is Valpo’s Wall Street and is its historic financial center.  At the end of the workday, the street was a bustle of pedestrians moving along on the dark channel formed

Rowboat shuttle for Muelle Prat, the harbor in Valparaiso

Rowboat shuttle for Muelle Prat, the harbor in Valparaiso

by grand five or six story buildings.  The narrow two-lane road clogged with vehicle traffic kept those on foot to the sidewalk.  Our route along Prat continued as suggested by our host at Hotel Zero.  Not too far along our way, a man starting speaking to us in English, with a German accent.

After a bit, he asked, “Where are you from?”

“The San Francisco area,” we answered, a tad wary having seen perfectly reasonable conversations on the street quickly turn uncomfortable.

“Keep hold of your camera,” the German stranger continued.

He then introduced himself, “I’m Michael.”  He then started telling us about the history of Valparaiso, the growth before the Panama Canal was finished, the importance of nitrate mining later, the history of the buildings on Prat, and the 1906 8.5 magnitude earthquake (another similarity to San Francisco).  He shared all of this with rapid-fire enthusiasm.

Sea Lion on a buoy

Sea Lion on a buoy

We were obviously interested but wondered why he knew so much.

“I’m a tour guide, coming back from a tour.  I’m heading in your direction to the German Social Club.  Would you like to see it?”

“Sure,” we replied, and off we went.

A couple buildings down, Michael said, “This is the old stock exchange, would you like to see inside?”

An OK from us and we were up the steps and past the guard with a nod from Michael.  The small old-style, oval trading floor opened two tall stories, with a mezzanine viewing a floor up and chalkboards on the walls for the stock prices.  No significant trading is done at this exchange anymore, but there are a couple of electronic monitors installed where prices can be viewed.

The trading floor of the stock exchange in Valparaiso (pano)

The trading floor of the stock exchange in Valparaiso (panorama)

On down the street, the pattern repeated with Michael taking us past the guards into a bank, a hotel, a firehouse, a bar, and ultimately the German Social Club.  All the time he shared the buildings’ histories, stories of Valparaiso development and the earthquake of 1906.  It was a good idea to take this tour.  Too bad we didn’t think of it beforehand.  We’ve long figured that if we travel to the edge of the known universe, we will find a German tourist there already.  Now we think there might also be an excellent German tour guide lurking around, also.

House colors in Valparaiso

House colors in Valparaiso

We finished and thanked Michael at the German Social Club.

“Goodbye and don’t forget about the camera,” he finished.

Michael goes as the “German Pirate” and can be located on his website along with additional Valparaiso information:

http://www.myvalparaiso.cl/

At the end of our tour of Prat, we headed up Ascensor Concepcion to Cerro Alegre.  A steep hike up the hill and were back in our room in time for dinner with a panoramic view at Café Turri.

More pictures:

http://picasaweb.google.com/AnotherHeader/Valparaiso#

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