Frutillar, Chile: A Little Slice of Germany in the Chilean Lake District
The clues to Fruitillar’s heritage are scattered throughout the lovely lakeside town. Bavarian-looking architecture. A clock that seems like it belongs in an alpine village. A restaurant door carved with names of German cities. And one of the town’s main attractions: Museo Colonial Alemán, the German Colonial Museum.
Nestled on the shores of Lago Llanquihue, Frutillar is part of Chile’s Lake District, an area north of Patagonia that lies in the foothills of the Andes. To the south is Puerto Montt, the Lake District’s capital and port. To the east is Osorno Volcano, an 8,700-foot-tall active conical snow-capped wonder that towers over the Frutillar landscape.
It’s about a 40-minute drive to Frutillar from the Port of Puerto Montt. Herb and I joined a tour that included a brief stop in Puerto Varas before arriving at the Museo Colonial Alemán. Sitting on seven tree-and-flower-filled acres, the museum is an open-air re-creation of 1856 colonial life when German settlers founded Frutillar. A watermill, farmhouse, machine warehouse and blacksmith forge are filled with period furnishings and historical information. The main attraction, however, is the serene setting, with views of the lake and volcano and the beautifully designed gardens.
After exploring the museum, we headed into town for a German snack at Club Alemán – the German Club. The friendly staff put out an impressive and tasty spread of cheeses, breads, appetizers, wine and German kuchen, turning a snack break into more of a lunch.
Herb and I spent the rest of our day in Frutillar walking along Lago Llanquihue. We passed the Teatro del Lago, a spectacular-looking theater and concert hall built in 2010 and home to an annual two-week music festival.
Frutillar is a summery sort of town, the kind of place that slows you down a little, where you could spend an afternoon sitting on the black-sand beach watching the clouds float over Osorno. And then as soon as you head across the road into town, you’re in a German-looking world, an interesting combination that somehow makes perfect sense in southern South America.