02 August 2011

Villa Alemana

It was only six o'clock, and I was still perfectly sober, albeit on my way to a local watering hole to meet a German co-worker. But when that big noisy fire engine zoomed past me on a busy Santiago street, I could barely believe my eyes. Across the front of the fire truck, big block letters proclaimed FEUERWEHR. Was I hallucinating?

I was not, confirmed my colleague when I reached the bar. I had merely witnessed another rescue mission of Santiago's own Deutsche Feuerwehrkompanie, It was just another example of the skills, sense of duty and cultural heritage the countless Germanic immigrants had brought to Chile. After all, as we talked, we extinguished our thirst drinking Kunstmann cerveza, which is brewed in the southern Lakes District.
According to Condor, the German language weekly, this region with its vales and dales and trails closely resembles Bavaria. That was enough to make me plan my excursions to any other place.

This weekend, it was the turn of the pittoresque seaside twins of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, where I was seeking some respite from the city's smog. Fortunately, they are only a 90 minute bus ride from Santiago, so I only needed one sandwich and one Laugenstange from my local bakery, Pasteleria Alemana Roggendorf, for the ride.

As the bus made its way west towards the Pacific, just past the exit to Villa Alemana, the last inevitable sign of German immigration appeared on the horizon: car salesmen. The large and shiny Mercedes dealership along the autobahn autopista was owned by a Sr. Kaufmann, and even the distinctively more proletarian motorbike merchant down the road proudly labelled his shop MOTORRAD. However, I think that this particular entrepreneur is a teutonic impostor, for he had benefited of Chile's economic boom to build a larger, more upscale used car showroom next to the bike shop. And the big sign on its roof proudy proclaimed: AUTORAD.

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