There is a lot I could say about Valparaiso.
It became the largest port in South America during the California Gold Rush, but collapsed just as quickly after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Colorful houses and ornate buildings were vandalized and left to crumble. 100 years later, thanks to Chile's growth as an agricultural exporter, and an influx of tourists after Unesco named Valparaiso a World Heritage Site in 2003, there's been a renaissance. The city was given a facelift. But when old walls were covered with fresh paint, they were quickly tagged anew. So property owners allowed street artists to paint murals on their walls, because they aren’t usually vandalized. This unofficial embrace of graffiti art fostered a very creative culture. Now, world-famous muralists flock to Valpo, and students sit on winding stairways, furiously filling sketchbooks with drawings of the city.
Valparaiso's grit is matched by its charm. It is a patchwork of brightly colored corrugated houses, thanks to some construction techniques that relied heavily on shipyard scraps. It's also (allegedly) the only city in the world that still uses funiculars as part of its public transportation system. It plays host to an unusual mix of dock workers, businessmen, casinos, artists, students, tourists, prostitutes, and stray dogs.
I'm sorry for rambling, but the point is that it's a unique place that is especially alluring to designers and artists. I also met a trio of Germans whose company I really enjoyed, so it was inevitable that "one or two days" would turn into a full week.
The highlights: Wandering around the city, A vegan dinner at a “restaurant” that was really just some guy’s house, a day at the beach, shopping at the farmer’s market, and the usual dose of good times getting to know good people. The lowlights: Stepping in dog shit. That time I dumped a whole beer in Lene’s lap. Learning that sometimes the same qualities that make hostels great places to meet people also make them terrible places to avoid people you’d rather not have in tow.