If the word "life" needed an urban symbol it would be Valparaiso. This fascinating place at the Pacific Ocean is full of energy, colors, movement and creativeness, and has been declared as UNESCO world cultural heritage. Right behind the major streets at the bottom of this harbor town, hills are building up with their colored houses that spread in all directions. The names of the hills reveal a lot about the local spirit. They are called Cerro Bellavista, Alegre, Los Placeres, Mariposas. Day after day the inhabitants climb up these hills on narrow stairs, in jumpy microbuses or via fascinating escalators. The higher you get, the more exciting turn out the views and the more precarious do the living conditions appear.
Valparaíso is located about 90 minutes by car from Santiago. 270.000 people live in that special harbor town. Counting the whole area it is almost a million. Everyday life takes place somewhere between the typical rush of an economic center and student-flair, financial poverty and creative prosperity, the suction of art and the visit of an open outdoor exhibition in one of the metropoles of graffiti. Craziness, criticism of the system and acted out utopia dominate the atmosphere.
Some say, Valparaiso is the prettiest city of Chile. Others consider it to be even the nicest place in South America. Gille, the French owner of a hostel probably describes the spirit of the city most adequately: He did not emigrate to Chile, but to the independent republic Valparaiso. This is how unique, how special this place is.