My friendly “buenos días” was greeted with a guttural but joyous “guten morgen”. Despite being in the heart of Chile, Frutillar was as German as leather shorts, sauerkraut and Oktoberfest. While well assimilated now, German immigrants settled around 150 years ago on good volcanic farming soils, building and developing a new area from deep forests. The heavy influence of the early settlers on the architecture of the buildings, the techniques of farming and the functioning of the town remains apparent today.
Highlight of the small town is the impressive German Colonial Museum. With a grain house, blacksmith workshop and country family home, the museum offers an insight into the struggles and challenges that the early European settlers confronted in developing this new area. The wooden buildings are richly showcased with original furniture revealing the immense success of the settlement and showing the beautiful tile work used in constructing the interiors. The elegant wooden water mill shows how grain was ground into flour, extending the value of the farm beyond the production of raw crops and diary. Century old trees and resplendent colourful gardens with oversized flowers complete a relaxing verdant setting.
Idyllically located on the black sandy shores of sparkling and serene Lake Llanquihue (pronounced yan-kee-way), the view is dominantly by the shimmering pyramid of snow-capped Osorno Volcano, some 70 kilometres away. Though slightly shrouded in cloud, Osorno is a mesmerising figure appearing to climb straight from the lake, its perfect pyramid shape cutting an imposing figure over the Frutillar landscape.
An original settler, Bernhard Philippi describes Frutillar in 1842:
"The water of this lake is as clear as that of Geneva in Switzerland, its surface is about seven leagues long and one league wide, so I could not distinguish the opposite bank. On one hand, it has the snowy Alps, the Andes mountain that rises from its eastern banks of a volcano covered with snow up to half of its height and goes into its waters."
Small cafes announcing “kuchen” sit near the lake. On a sunny day, it is truly relaxing enjoying the Fuji-like Osorno and the aquamarine lake while munching down a fine German pastry and digesting Philippi’s fine words.