Sunday, February 9, 2014

#715 Cerro Santa Lucia Park, Santiago, Chile

One of my favorite things when I had a brief transit stop in Santiago, Chile, was the park that I found in the middle of the city (seen from nearby Cerro San Cristobal in the picture to the left). Encircling the small mound of Cerro Santa Lucia, it was completely surrounded by apartment blocks and high rises.
629m at its highest point allows for modest views of the surrounding city and the larger metropolitan park of San Cristobal, and its proximity to town means that many people (cannodling couples, snoozing workmen, friends having picnics, etc) ventured up there for a brief nature respite. There's even a small lift taking visitors half way up (or back down to the street level and work after a quick lunch).

Called Huelen by the Mapucha, which means 'pain, melancholy or sadness'; first it was a lookout, then at one point it was a hermitage (and the brick gate remains), and a convent (these buildings are closed to the public), and a cemetery for dissidents (non-catholics) a military base (two forts/castles were built after 1816 with 8 cannons each). It has been a public park since 1875. The southwest corner has the Terraza Neptuna (built by Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna), facing onto the large boulevard of Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins (the Alameda) with fountains and curving staircases that lead to a platform (part of Fort Hidalgo) below the summit. The adjourning road up was built in 1872 and its construction included a sophisticated irrigation system.
It was first climbed by conquistador Pedro de Valdivia on December 13, 1541, the day for Santa Lucia, and a statue stands for him (and the founders of the city of Santiago) in a square named for him half way up the hill.
Some may wonder why I chose this park as amazing rather than the larger, funicular accessed, botanical garden, art museum, zoo-laden San Cristobal next door. Well, I found this one first, and it was charming, and I had a lovely snooze on it's green grass beneath it's pretty trees, whereas San Cristobal was browner, dirtier, more touristy, etc. I just liked it, that's why.  
Source: Lonely Planet South America 9th Edition 2004

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