Saturday, January 26, 2008

Puerto Varas, Chile (January 23-25, 2008)

Puerto Varas is a lakeside town in Chile, close to two active volcanos: Osorno and Calbuco. Since the mid-19th century, the town has been heavily populated by Germans, and the German influence still remains in the architecture and the cuisine (primarily the cakes). Apparently many of the private schools are German, and many of the residents still speak German.

Although it's a relatively small city (approx. 30,000 people), it's a prime tourist destination for Chile. Visitors come to enjoy water sports or spend time in the nearby national parks. There are plenty of nice restaurants and craft shops, and there's a long (but rocky) beach that was almost as crowded as the ones in Rio! OK, not quite...

Seafood is the cuisine of choice here, and I tried salmon, hake (a mild white fish), crab, abalone and oysters during my stay. The oysters - fresh from Chiloe island and fried in butter - were the best I've ever had! Also of note are the fabulous kuchen (cakes), which seem to be served at all times of day, from breakfast ´til after dinner. There were cakes of peach and custard, lemon meringue, and my favorite: raspberry crumble. Puerto Varas even has an official "Dia del Kuchen" (Cake day!) on Feb. 2. How can you not like a town that celebrates cake?!

Relaxing in the small town was a nice change of pace from the constant travel of the past few weeks. It was lovely to simply sit by the lake with my journal and my raspberry crumble kuchen, and enjoy the sun.
Volcan Osorno, on the shore of Lake Llanquihue
Puerto Varas´historic chuch, modeled after the Marienkirche in Germany´s Black Forest
Puerto Varas´small but crowded beach, with Volcan Calbuco in the distance
Live jazz at Puerto Varas' main square. We happened to be visiting during a music festival, and there were free shows every evening we were in town. Now if only the cake festival had been happening at the same time...

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