Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cerro San Cristobal

During our trip in Santiago, we decided to head up to the top of Cerro San Cristbal (Saint Cristobal Hill). This is one of the tallest hills within the city and a huge tourist attraction. Somehow we missed out on this one last time. Last time around we only managed to go to the zoo near the bottom (enter through Barrio Bellavista). There is also a Japanese garden but we still haven't managed to make it there yet. That we'll just have to save for the next trip.

This time two of our friends took us up the Teleferico (Gondola) to the top to see the Virgin. The ride up the Teleferico was fun (as long as you don't mind heights) and it gave a great view of the city... although the view probably would have been much better had it not been for the smog. luckily when we went up it had rained a few days earlier so the smog was not too bad. Had we tried to go up on the day we left, when there hadn't been any rain for almost two weeks, we would not have been able to see a thing. I bet the view is spectacular in the summer when there isn't so much smog.

Once you reach the top of the gondola, you can go up a little path that takes you to the stairs that lead up to the statue of the Virgin Mary. Before we climbed up though, we first stopped to play with the police dogs that the Carabineros (Chilean Police) had for show up on the hill. The dogs were very friendly and Sarah sort of befriended one of them. I on the other hand, chose to keep my distance. I'm not a dog person I guess.

Then we saw a sign for mote con huesillos. This is a typical Chilean treat that consists of husked wheat with peaches in a peach juice (or maybe its more of a peach syrup). Evidently it is generally made from dried peaches that have been rehydrated for several hours, but what we ate was probably made from canned peaches. Well, it was probably the wrong season for mote anyway. It was still quite yummy, if not a little too sweet. I was only able to eat/drink half of mine before I had to give the rest away. But, it's still worth a try.

After our mote, we decided it was time to conquer the stairway up to the Virgin. On our way up we had an encounter with Jesus. Albeit it was only his head....

At the top though we found many worshipers crowding around the base of the Virgin to pray and to see inside where there was something to see, although I never quite figured out what it was. Praying at the feet of a 22 m Virgin is not really my style, but the view was great, and the sunset was amazing. Thanks to the pollution, the sunsets in Santiago are truly spectacular with many bright colors.

We then headed back down the stairs and over to a small chapel to the side of the Virgin. The chapel is definitely worth visiting. It was all stone with carvings (or maybe they were paintings) in the walls. It had a very medieval feel to it.

After that it was getting dark and we headed back down the Teleferico back to the bottom of the hill. We then decided to grab some Korean food for dinner in Patronato, but... I'll save that for another post.

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