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At the museum

Music concert – German influence – Ruth – When the US is good. (Map this!)

The guitar quintet is playing against the deep blue of Lake Llanquihue. And as notes from Vivaldi envelop us, the almost perfect, snow-covered cone of Volcán Osorno can be seen majestically framed by Volcán Puntiagudo to the left and Tronador to the right. A sailboat glides serenely by.

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Volcán Osorno

Outside, on the black sand beaches of Frutillar, people are probably relaxing under frilly beach umbrellas, children playing with their baby floats, others swimming within limits imposed by the string of yellow buoys across the lake. The closing notes of the guitar concert snap me back to the present.

Frutillar, as most of Southern Chile, shows a strong German influence. The Chilean government actively courted the Germans in the 19th century to help colonize this part of the country. Frutillar is special, though, since the residents have made it a priority to preserve the German architecture and lifestyle as much as they can. Hotels, restaurants and kuchen shops line the lovely Avenida Phillippi in “Frutillar Bajo” right on the lakeshore, while all the ugly necessities of daily living like supermarkets, bars, barber shops are delegated to “Frutillar Alto”, a few kilometers away.

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Lakeside Theater

The sleepy town comes alive during the annual music festival that has been held here for forty-one years, but it doesn’t get contentious and crowded. Most of the year, this area has bad weather. Our hotel, a lovely old German house, is only open only for three months in the summer. But in those three months, the same guests have been coming year after year, captivated by the tranquility and old worldliness of Frutillar. But there’s another reason they come back. That is Ruth.

Ruth is the hotel manager-cum-cook-cum-maid of the hotel. In the morning you find one of her freshly baked goodies for breakfast. She will do your laundry, turn down your bed, offer advice on restaurants.

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She is an all-in-one wonder. Ruth’s home is the hotel all year round. But soon, she will bow to the pressures of family. Her kids, now adolescents, want a place of their own to invite their friends over. Next year, Casona del 32 may wear a new face.

Back at the concert the US was represented by Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio and Jeffrey Sykes (the latter from San Francisco!), a violin and piano recital funded by the US embassy in Chile. After a great performance on a near-perfect day, glasses of red and white wine were distributed around in a small meet-the-artists (and the ambassador) reception. “We could do so much more but do not have the budget” the US ambassador, Paul Simons, said.

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Flute recital

So often while traveling we excite the ire of others. The US, both consciously and unconsciously, affects the lives of people worldwide, and not everybody appreciates this. After getting earfuls on the Iraq war, the faulty federal monetary policies and political meddling, it is heartening to see these small but nice gestures that the US also makes, which rarely get reported.

5 Responses to “A classical interlude in Frutillar”

  1. Jerzy says:

    Considering that you may be beyond Chaiten already, it may be too late to advise you taking a boat trip on Laguna de Todos los Santos, in the shadow of the almighty Osorno. Or, you may have done it anyway.
    There was no Vivaldi in Puerto Varas when Tom and I stayed there in November, but equally pleasant hostel owners.

  2. Fred says:

    What about the volcano!

  3. Lakshmi says:

    I love that picture of the Volcán Osorno! It’s so beautiful! Knowing it’s a volcano makes it more interesting. Is it an active one?

  4. Neena says:

    That volcano is one of the most picture perfect in the region, and yes, it is active!

  5. Neena says:

    Hello Jerzy,
    No, we did not get a chance to Todos los Santos, since we stayed so many days in Frutillar. Puerto Varas has a very different feel fro Frutillar. We had a very nice dinner there. Frutillar is sadly lacking in good restaurants, but makes up for it in ambience as it isn’t very touristy at all; they have really tried to preserve the olde-world feel.

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