I arrived early this morning in Valdivia, a beautiful historic city in southern Chile. The area is known as the Region de Los Rios. Valdivia’s culture is influenced by a mixture of Mapuche, Spanish, and German heritage.
Mapuche, Folklore, Culture
The Mapuche are fascinating, from their music to folklore and legends. Strong German influence is apparent in the local beer brewing industry and Valdivian architecture and cuisine. Many compare Chile’s Calle-Calle River to Germany’s Rhine.
Surprisingly, the bus from Valparaiso arrived ahead of schedule. While my B&B lodging was being prepared, I explored central Valdivia. Sunday mornings are quiet, but things picked up with the opening of the Mercado Fluvial along the river bank. The lively market has a variety of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and crafts made by local artists.
Sea lions began invading Valdivia’s fish market some time ago, when they discovered it was a great place for a free lunch. The HUGE animals – some weighing up to 2,000 pounds – became an amusement and tourist attraction. In the past, they caused havoc by taking waddling tours of downtown Valdivia. Locals had to build a barrier to keep them off the streets.
Earthquakes, Rivers, Nature Reserves
A series of earthquakes and tsunamis destroyed Valdivia in the 1960s. Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, the tremors occurred in May 1960, lasted about 10 minutes, and rated 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. The most powerful quake ever recorded, approximately 6,000 people died and the tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands!
Valdivia is known for Austral University, one of Chile’s top schools. The outstanding science program at Austral attracts students from Santiago Universities. Another local attraction is a large marshland nature reserve on the outskirts of the city at the confluence of several rivers flowing from the Andes.
Food in Valdivia is a mix of Spanish, German, and other European influences together with cuisine found only in Southern Chile. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ll stay for a week or so before moving further south toward Patagonia.
Hiking and river tours are on my agenda. I saw several rowers on the river today. There are three rowing clubs in Valdivia with world and Pan American titles and representation in the Olympics.
While waiting for the bus in Valparaiso, I met German tourists who were on their way to Pucon near the active Villarrica Volcano. Located about 500 miles south of Santiago, Villarrica began erupting about two weeks ago spewing fiery plumes of lava and forcing evacuation of people from nearby towns. Pucon is on my list of places to visit in Chile. The area has great hiking. The eruption calmed and with no more signs of activity, the area was cleared for travel.