Personally I think that the poet Pablo Nevruda who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 is Chile’s Salvador Dali for his love of art and eccentricity. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.
Pablo lived a very interesting life always traveling around and when in Chile he wasn’t content to live in a “normal” house. He would add on to and decorate his houses in such a way as to turn them into pieces of art. Pablo had a couple of houses throughout Chile which they have turned into museums that you can explore on guided tours. I was quite excited to visit the Museum House “La Chascona” one of Pablo Neruda’s residences located in the very heart of the bohemian Bellavista district of Santiago. The house is hidden away on a little quiet side street leading off Constitución.
You can only explore the house on a guided tour but it is definitely worth paying for.
Pablo named the house La Chascona meaning “Woman with the Tousled Hair” in honour of Matilde Urrutia, his secret love with abundant red hair whom he gave this nickname. . The two met while strolling in nearby Parque Forestal, and for years the house served as a romantic hideaway before they married and she became Nevruda’s third wife.
The tours allowed me to step into the extraordinary mind of the poet whose eclectic designs earned him the label “organic architect.” The house has a nautical theme throughout which is quite interesting seeing as it is situated quite far from the ocean.
We were led along winding garden paths, up countless stairs, and even crossed a bridge at to enter various parts of the house. The house is filled with countless objects scattered throughout. There are collections of butterflies, seashells, wineglasses, and other odd objects that inspired Neruda’s tumultuous life and romantic poetry. For some weird reason he had an obsession with watermelons and there are countless paintings of watermelons dotted all over the house.
When we first entered the house we were greeted by a lovely bar rescued from an old French ship and countless objects given to Pablo by famous artists, such as from the Mexican Diego Rivera. The library is over stuffed with books and there is even a secret passageway that leads you to a bedroom in a tower.
Pablo had a separate social area build in the garden opposite the house and it is in here that we got to see his Nobel Prize medal and other awards that he received in his lifetime.
It’s a magnificent place, full of alluring visual details which help you understand the artist’s personal world. A visit to La Chascona will definitely set your imagination dancing.