Earthquakes have been a regular feature of my blog over the last 2 years or so, thanks to the fact that I now live in one of the most geologically active countries in the world. Despite feeling a few slight tremors in the months after the devastating earthquake of 27 February 2010 (which I am very glad I missed by a few weeks), it is only recently that I had a true earthquake experience. And yet, by Chilean standards both events I experienced recently (6.7 and 6.2) were considered tremors and not “real” earthquakes. At the end of March, lying on the bed in our apartment on the 21st floor one evening, the bed suddenly starting shaking, the glass started rattling and I had the horrible sensation that the building was moving. A few seconds later I saw the building opposite us appear in a gap in the blinds and then disappear… both buildings were swaying. Rodrigo, having experienced many many tremors and two of the biggest quakes in world history, was more preoccupied with the TV falling than anything else. All I could say was “the building is swaying…is it supposed to be swaying!!!” The answer to that question is yes, the fact that the building sways means that it is not going to collapse. Good to know! I have to point out that with every additional floor of a building, the strength of an earthquake increases or at the least the sensation of the movement…let`s just say that in our apartment hunt at the moment I am looking at apartments alot closer to ground level than the 21st floor. The second experience only a few weeks later, was similar in strength, but totally different in that the building didn´t sway as much as it vibrated. I now know that no two earthquakes feel the same! This time I was a lot calmer and we just lay in bed waiting for it to stop. Not much else you can do really so high up in a building. A final point is that the earthquake in Italy yesterday was a 5.5 which caused extensive damage and destroyed many buildings and homes…a 5.5 here in Chile doesn`t even make the 9 o`clock news.
But the reason I am talking about earthquakes now, is that I have just spent a long weekend in Valdivia – a city 700km to the south of Santiago – famous for two main reasons – 1) it is the home of one of the best breweries in Chile and 2) the fact that it is the location of the biggest earthquake recorded in living memory – a 10 minute quake in 1960 that was 9.5 on the richter scale!!!
Valdivia basically has two histories – before and after the 1960 quake – approximately 5000 people died in the quake and tsunami, the city was almost totally destroyed and most impressive for me – the geography of the area noticeably changed. Valdivia is in an area where at least 3 major (and various smaller) rivers converge a few kilometers before the ocean. The quake caused vast areas of land to sink between 1 and 5m and these submerged areas enlarged the rivers and changed their courses.
The River Cau Cau which is wider today thanks to the quake
This photo shows what remains of farm land that sank in the quake – the family who owned the land lost their most fertile and productive fields
The impact on the infrastructure is also still obvious – the middle of this concrete bridge joining the city with Isla Tejla survived, but the ends were destroyed and were rebuilt using metal rather than concrete.
But besides being an interesting place to visit from a geographical perspective, Valdivia has a lot to offer its visitors – mainly from a gastronomic point of view:
A visit to the daily fish market alongside the river is interesting even if you don`t plan on buying any fish.
The sea lions wait patiently with hundreds of birds for scraps from the markets
Beer tasting at the Kuntsmann Brewery!
Thanks to the very strong German influence in Valdivia and the south of Chile in general, I had the pleasure of enjoying two German dishes which I have not eaten in many many years – spatzle and kassler! Yum Yum!!!
Besides, German food and seafood, we also enjoyed a typical lunch of empanadas and the hugest sopaipilla I have ever seen
Valdivia is also famous for being the rainiest place in Chile (over 3000mm annually). We were lucky enough with the weather for this time of the year – rain and brilliant sun within minutes of eachother! I think I could happily live in Valdivia, but the rain would probably get to me after a while, just like in Ireland. However, for a few days, it`s OK and makes for some interesting photos…
Morning mist while walking through the botanical gardens in the University grounds on Isla Tejla
The mist on the river
Chile, as a country with an extremely long coastline, has an equally long history with its navy. The very reason 21 May is a holiday is in remembrance of the Battle of Iquique during the Pacific War against Peru and Bolivia. Valdivia itself is not a major centre for the navy, but it is home to one of only three submarine museums in South America.
Entering the O`Brien Submarine Museum (named after a British soldier who helped Chile in the fight for independence from Spain).
In the front of the submarine where they would launch the torpedoes
But over and above the food, colours and beautiful landscapes of Valdivia, the city has a small town, relaxed and incredibly friendly feeling about it. A well needed break from the craziness of work and life in Santiago and just what I needed!