A journey in Brazil – part 7

We headed to Belo Horizonte in the county of Minas Gerais which means “general mines” which is a poor county. There were mines once. Don’t remember much of this town except that we’ve slept two nights in the same hotel which had a night club just in front which had loud music playing all night. The region was first settled in the early 18th century, but the city as it is known today was planned and constructed in the 1890s, to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais. The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings, and is home to several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. In planning the city, Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho sought inspiration in the urban planning of Washington, D.C.
The city is built on several hills and is completely surrounded by mountains. There are several large parks in the immediate surroundings of Belo Horizonte.
The metropolis was once a small village, founded by João Leite da Silva Ortiz, a bandeirante explorer from São Paulo. The explorer settled in the region in 1701, leaving a gold rush expedition. He then established a farm called “Curral d’el Rey”which means “King’s Corral”. The farm’s wealth and success encouraged people from surrounding places to move into the region, and Curral del Rey became a village surrounded by farms.
Another important factor contributing to the growth of the village was the migrants from the São Francisco River region, who had to pass through Curral d’el Rey to reach southern parts of Brazil. Travelers usually visited a small wooden chapel, where they prayed for a safe trip. Due to this fact, the chapel was named Capela da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, which means “Chapel of Our Lady of the Good Journey.” After the construction of Belo Horizonte, the old baroque chapel was replaced by a neo-gothic church that became the city’s cathedral.

Then came the last part of our journey, we headed toward Rio but stopped in Petropolis.
Wow! this town was so different from all the others. It was a wealthy gorgeous town full of trees and plants. The town’s name (“city of Peter”) honors Pedro II, the last Emperor of Brazil, who is entombed there at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. It is also known as The Imperial City, located 68 kilometres (42 mi) northeast of Rio de Janeiro. The city was the summer residence of the Brazilian Emperors and aristocrats in the 19th century, and was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro during the First Brazilian Republic, between 1894 and 1902.

Until the 18th century, the region was inhabited by the crowned indians, which earned it the Portuguese name of “Sertão dos Índios Coroados”. It was only with the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais and the consequent opening of the new way of the mines that passed through Petrópolis in that century that the region began to be occupied by non-indians.
Not far from there, there was another town called Teresopolis. This one was completely the opposite. This town was poor but surrounded by natural beauties. Before the arrival of the Portuguese to the area where Teresópolis lies today, in the 16th century, it was inhabited by Indians. In the following centuries, Portuguese started buying land there. The region was also occupied by a quilombo, formed by runaway slaves coming from sugar cane plantations near Rio de Janeiro.
In 1821, an English citizen George March (born and raised in Portugal) established a farm there, which later became the most important settlement along the way between the court, in Rio de Janeiro, and the territory of Minas Gerais, which led to the great improvement of agriculture and cattle raising.
The Brazilian imperial family was much impressed by the natural beauty and the climate of the region, which developed slowly so that in 1855 the settlement became a village that was named Freguesia de Santo Antonio de Paquequer.
The further development of the village was due to the traders that came from Minas Gerais in the way to Rio de Janeiro, and used the region as a resting stop. Finally, on July 6, 1891, the village became a municipality that was named Teresópolis (“city of Teresa”), after Empress Teresa Cristina, wife of Emperor Pedro II.

In this pic, we were running out of gas. Like fools we took our chance to get to the next town.

A journey in Brazil – part 6

We arrived there one or two days later in the afternoon. Brazilia is the capital. It is a new town very widely spread. Brasília was planned and developed by Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer and Joaquim Cardozo in 1956 to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to a more central location. The landscape architect was Roberto Burle Marx. The city’s design divides it into numbered blocks as well as sectors for specified activities, such as the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector and the Embassy Sector. Brasília was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its modernist architecture and uniquely artistic urban planning. It has also been named “City of Design” by UNESCO in October 2017 and has been part of the Creative Cities Network since then.
We left at sun down. And drove at night again. In this country, trucks didn’t have speed limits like here, they can drive at whatever speed they want, hence it wasn’t rare to see overturned trucks on the roadside. That night, as we were driving, there was this truck following us who was driving at the same speed we were driving! It was so scary. We have seen accidents occasionally and once a deadly one.
Finally some hundred kilomètres south east from Brazilia we arrived at a small hotel with a lovely room in a small town.
There were two kinds of lodging that we used.
The hotels which were clean and comfortable, but they costed about 40-60 bucks.
And the motels which were cheap, and often more luxurious than the hotels. The only issue is that the motels in Brazil aren’t the family ones we find in Us. No “they’re for other purposes”. That’s why they’re clean, modern and have private parking spaces. But I hated those places, not only because i knew what they were for, but also because often we could hear “the business” the neighbours were doing. That was disgusting and hateful. I wasn’t to chose where we spent the night. If I was asked i would have prefered to pay 10-20 more and sleep in a hotel!
In most of them, you can rent the room for the night. But in some you can’t, you must stay only a few hours.

Some pics:

A journey in Brazil – part 3

What can I say about food? I must say that this country has good cuisine. They eat a lot and the choice is available for everyone. We used to take what they called “Marmitex” it is their version of “all you can eat” buffet in Us. Most of the time the restaurant is a self service, you can fill an aluminum plate with whatever you want ; Picanha (grilled meat), bean rice, potatoes and Magnoca. It is very filling!
Or you can eat fried chicken, there are lots of chicken shops, or shops selling a kind of pie called “empanadas” Filled with meat or veg.
Their cakes are very sweet like in America, you can find coffee pots in any waiting area but BEWARE! It is tooooooo sugary. It should have been called a cup of sugar tasting coffee. Taste a little first before adding more sweetners.
Something else I have to mention, I don’t know if they’ve changed their ways or not, but when we were there they had an issue with their disposable plastic cups. When they put a coffee or water machine for the customers, they used to put plastic cups for everyone’s use. But after using them, they didn’t throw them as we do here. They putted them back for the next person! So everyone used the same cups that were used by others! That’s disgusting! In some places even the real cups weren’t hygienically clean either. Their smell could be smelled from the table where they were.

Then we went west toward Paraguay. There was this town called Bella Union in Uruguay Being situated on a piece of land protruding between Argentina and Brazil. A touristic town because its river touches all of them.

We continued toward Foz of Iguacu. A renowned destination for its multiple water falls. It was the most beautiful thing we saw in Brazil. So much water, so much moist! And so much green!

Haha! These cuties were there too!

Not far from there there was Cidade del est, Paraguay known for its shops and malls and its reputation that there were large quantities of marijuana, cocaine, and various pharmaceuticals easy to buy! . The Friendship Bridge connects the town to Brazil and offers city views. We went there for an hour because we’ve heard that there was a market of counterfeit products such as Gucci or Ray Bans but we were disappointed to see that it had nothing to do with the Asian Markets that sold the same thing. Here they were more expensive and with less choice.
We headed on to Campo Grande. This town was part of the county of Matto Grosso which means “big bushes”, a semi desertic part of the country that looks like some parts of Mexico. The region where the city is located was in the past a waypoint for travellers who wanted to go from São Paulo or Minas Gerais to northern Mato Grosso by land. In the early 1900s a railway was completed connecting Campo Grande to Corumbá, on the Bolivian border, and to Bauru, São Paulo. Also in the beginning of the 20th century, the Western Brazilian Army Headquarters was established in Campo Grande, making it an important military center. Today, the city has its own culture, which is a mixture of several ethnic groups, most notably immigrants from the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, Middle Easterners, Armenians, Portuguese people, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and Paraguayans, finally mixed with Asian and White Brazilians from the Brazilian Southern and Southeast regions, its native Amerindian peoples and Afro-Brazilians.
We arrived there at night. As usual we didn’t have any hotel reservation, it was a big town and not many hotels showed up. Finally after a long while we found one not too expensive. It sooooo relieving to find a room and a bed after a long day.
Sometime the next day we hit the road again toward Brazilia.

Some pics:

A journey in Brazil – part 2

When we left Sao Paulo we headed south to Curitiba and Florianopolis. I don’t remember much about Curitiba except that it was said to be the cleanest town in the country. At the end of the 17th century, Curitiba’s agriculture was only for subsistence and its main economic activities were mineral extraction. Waves of European immigrants arrived after 1850, mainly Poles, Italians, Germans and Ukrainians.
But Florianopolis was a very beautiful town by the sea. Seemed to be a European town rather than a Brezilian one. Carijós Indians, a Tupi people, were the first inhabitants of Florianópolis area. The traces of its presence are verified through archaeological sites and sambaquis dating up to 4000 years ago. The Indians called the place Meiembipe or “mountain along the channel”.
Around 1514 the Portuguese landed and gave the area the name Ilha dos Patos, but in 1526 it was renamed Ilha de Santa Catarina (Saint Catherine Island).
The official settlement of the island began in 1673 with the arrival of bandeirante Francisco Dias Velho’s agricultural company and it continued in 1678 with the construction of a chapel consecrated to Nossa Senhora do Desterro. At this time a villa began to take form, slowly becoming a colonial settlement.
To guarantee its domain the Portuguese Crown elevated Santa Catarina Island to the category of village in 1714 with the name of Nossa Senhora do Desterro and already in 1726 they promoted it again, now to the category of town.
From this date on Vila do Desterro and mainly the port began to have a strategic function because it was situated halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, possibly two of the largest seaside cities of South America at that time. For this reason in 1739 the Capitania da Ilha de Santa Catarina was created and Desterro became its capital. Soon the most expressive seaside defensive ring of Southern Brazil started to be built.
With the coming of the Captaincy the population began to grow, but the great population growth happened between 1747 and 1756 with the arrival of about 6,000 settlers coming from the Archipelago of Azores and from Madeira Island. The development of the agriculture, the cotton and linen industry and the commerce followed the Azorean occupation. In 1823, during the monarchy which ended in 1889, Desterro became the Capital of Santa Catarina Province opening a period of prosperity with many urban works and also intense political organization.

We continued to Porto Alegre, the last big town before Uruguay.
The official date of the foundation of the city of Porto Alegre is 26 March 1772 by Manuel Sepúlveda. The village started in 1752, when 60 Azorean couples were brought over by the Treaty of Madrid in order to set up Missions at the Northeast Region of Rio Grande do Sul that was handed over to the Portuguese Crown in exchange for the Sacramento Colony located on the margin of the Plata River.
On 24 July 1773, Porto Alegre became the capital city of the province, when the administration of Manuel Sepúlveda officially started. In 1824, immigrants from all over the world started arriving, especially German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Jewish, and Lebanese. This mosaic of diversity in appearance, ethnic origin, religions and languages is what makes Porto Alegre, nowadays with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants, a cosmopolitan and multicultural city. The city is an example of diversity and plurality.

Some pics along the way :

A journey in Brazil – part 1

I’ve been there about 4 or 5 years ago. Way before the current difficult situation in which the Brazil is.
Unfortunately I can’t say that it was the best trimestre of my life. I haven’t kept many good memories but I won’t be speaking about them here. I’ll just speak about what we’ve seen and experienced .

We landed in Recife, a big town in the north. It is the fourth-largest urban agglomeration in Brazil with 4,031,485 inhabitants. Recife was founded in 1537, during the early Portuguese colonization of Brazil, as the main harbor of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, known for its large scale production of sugar cane. It is a major port on the Atlantic. Its name is an allusion to the stone reefs that are present by the city’s shores. The many rivers, small islands and over 50 bridges found in Recife city centre characterise its geography and led to the city being called the “Brazilian Venice”.

We stayed at a nice hotel not far from fast food restaurants. I remember as mom and I went out in the evening to buy supper. For me it was a big change, we just came from the Uk and finding ourselves in such a different part of the world where some roads were with holes, sandy and not as attractive as in Europe, made the first impact on my mind. But…. We just landed, “i would get used to it” I said to myself.
So mom and I went to a fast food that looked more like Taco Bell rather than McDonald’s. They made hamburgers, grilled meats, burritos…. We bought whatever they had and got back to the hotel.
In the morning, we drove through Recife, it had rained during the night. There were very nice apartments by the sea, very luxurious! Some wealthy people were jogging on the beach. It was as in any town in US or Europe. But as we left the sea shore things began to change in some neighbourhoods. It was as in any developing country. As we drove on the outskirts of town, we found ourselves in a small village . Where the rain’s effect was very visible! The roads were flooded. It was funny to drive on flooded roads though.

We didn’t need a lot time to notice that the Brazilians had a different culture. For example women wore mostly shorts. Very rarely you can see skirts or pants, just shorts. Weird!
For example they were always happy and they cared a lot about their smiles as everyone had very white teeth. Dentists were everywhere. And there was no reason for them not to fix anything that needed to be fixed. So their teeth were perfect.
Women cared a lot of their nails too. Nail shops were busy all the time.
We stayed there a few days and then we flew south to Sao Paulo the biggest city of Brazil.
It is considerated as an alpha global city in the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, besides being the largest Portuguese-speaking city in the world. The city is the capital of the surrounding state of São Paulo, the most populous and wealthiest state in Brazil. The city’s metropolitan area, the Greater São Paulo, ranks as the most populous in Brazil and the 12th most populous on Earth. It is a megalopolis with more than 30 million inhabitants, one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world.
The Portuguese village of São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga was marked by the founding of the Colégio de São Paulo de Piratininga on January 25, 1554. The Jesuit college of twelve priests included Manuel da Nóbrega and Spanish priest José de Anchieta. They built a mission on top of a steep hill between the Anhangabaú and Tamanduateí rivers. For the next two centuries, São Paulo developed as a poor and isolated village that survived largely through the cultivation of subsistence crops by the labor of natives. For a long time, São Paulo was the only village in Brazil’s interior, as travel was too difficult for many to reach the area.
On March 22, 1681, the Marquis de Cascais, moved the capital to the village of St. Paul, designating it the “Head of the captaincy”. The new capital was established on April 23, 1683, with public celebrations.
The airport is way out of town. We rented a car (which had a defective Air conditioning) a drove to the city center. There was too much traffic on the highway that linked the airport to the city. And it was really the biggest city we’ve been at the time! It had nothing to do with Recife. It looked like Madrid or Buenos Aires. A cosmopolitan city with its good and bad. We had a reservation at a small hotel. As we always reserve in advance when we get to a location by plain or bus.
Two days later we changed to an appart hotel which was more convenient for us. We had a big room, a kitchen, the parking space and the wifi. The only issue for me was that I slept in the kitchen (which was the living room too) and at night small insects came in the dark. I hated to sleep there but there wasn’t any other place.
We stayed there almost a week. There was good food, good climate as it was early spring. Yet, there is a memorable event that happened. Before flying to Brazil we were aware that there were a lot of criminality. We knew that thieves and crooks were easily found. But mom found herself in the most unconceivable situation because she didn’t believe that “that” could happen to her. Never think that something can happen only to others.
She almost got kidnapped! To cut a long story short, two people played their comedy that seemed so real that she almost followed them. If she did, they would probably have asked for a ransom to free her or who knows what. Thankfully mom noticed that something sounded wrong with them and left in a hurry.
If you ever go to Brazil, be-very-careful, don’t trust easily.

The subway was very nice and quick but it is not rare to find oneself squeezed by the number of people taking it.

What about…. #14

The sense in Traveling

I spent my childhood traveling in a variety of places which led me to a lack of sense of belonging anywhere in the world. I’ve seen plenty of vacationers along the way, who by their way of expressing themselves and their behavior it could easily be understood that they traveled for a mere vacation. They weren’t accustomed to travel more than a few weeks per year.
Vacationers are people who look for something different from what they’re used to do for a few days , such as those who go for a few days to town, or to the countryside, or to the beach… they usually follow other vacationers either thinking that the other tourists are smarter than them or just to put up with the Jones.

I think that it’s not fun at all to go along with what the travel agency suggests (even though it’s good for the economy of whatever country it is; without tourism some countries will fall into crisis). In my opinion if someone wants to go in a holiday somewhere, even for a few days, it must be in a place that is very very different from his own, otherwise why bothering?

I remember that we used to have a month vacation every year when I was a child. Well we spent it at home. It was a very very different place from our daily life. The Holiday is for the one who has enough of what he is doing, If someone loves his job why taking a vacation, which is not always instructive by the way ?

Traveling is not a holiday. To Travel is a life, even a job. Such as truck drivers or reporters for example. To travel we need knowledge, experience, courage, will and audacity. Those who spend their lives on the roads, need to know how to find an accommodation when it’s a maniac holiday, they need to know what to do when they run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, they need the knowledge of how to cross a border without too much fuss, they need to have tips on how to get a hotel room paying half the price, it’s to notice when the car behind you is in a hurry, and by courtesy you let him pass… It’s not about visiting a foreign place and to make a lot pictures and bringing souvenirs home. I know what it is to travel. There aren’t always good memories, some dreadful moments remain printed in the mind.

There was a time, a very long time ago, we rented a car from a rental company, but this car was defective and we needed to change it in the nearest location which was over a mountain. So we took the road, we didn’t know how the road was at first, but getting closer to the mountain top, the road changed completely.

And there, was where the story took place. It was a winter morning, we were driving up the mountain when we noticed that the car wasn’t following the wheel. There was a high ravine on our left and the mountain wall on our right, as the car was defective and the road was snowy and icy, the car was sliding between the right; where the mountain wall was, and the left; where the ravine was, and then to the right and back to the left all over and over again. We could have fallen and died that day, if it wasn’t for my dad’s experience. There was no one else on the road with that weather except us. And that’s not all, we didn’t have winter tires as the car was rented, we had all season tires! When we crossed over we arrived in Salt Lake City, we were so relieved that we went to Mcdonald’s.

There were countries that left me with lots of dreadful memories (and that wasn’t so long ago), that I wish to forget. Going in a holiday and traveling are two very different things. I’ve seen travelers along the way, there was once an Italian and an Argentinian woman traveling together from Brazil to Argentina by bus, arriving at the boarder, every passenger had to step down with their luggages to be checked. But there was a lot of “confusion” among the customs, they didn’t seem to know what they were doing. Well that Italian found the situation very amusing, he didn’t stop laughing and smiling at the way the customs were working. The lack of pictures he took, the number of stamps in his passport, the small quantity of luggage he had, his behavior meant that he was an experienced traveler.

Putting the finances to the side, it is important to travel for the sake of knowledge and for the love of what God has created. It will never be the same being in Chichen Itza and seeing it on TV. You’ll never see the long forestal road from Cancun which leads there, the small local shops, the small villages. It’s not the same being at the Iguatzu Falls, hearing the tremendous sound of the water, being wet by the steam and seeing it on TV. The experience leaves a mark, a memory while seeing what others show you leaves a memory of what has been seen, period.

To travel is not meant to find its true self, unless you’re in a spiritual journey to whatever holy place, it is meant to see the world, the world is so wide, so diverse, that it will be unjust to ignore all of it for the mere love of a home. Home is not the same for everyone, for some it might have a claustrophobic sense, or a place of trouble with the neighbors, or a place of quiet and peace. I know the value of home, it is a peaceful, joyful, loving place where wonderful moments take place, but for someone like me, home becomes a boredom after some time. Where are the new people, cultures, languages, towns, mountains, lacs, forests, birds, trucks, roads, etc….? We can find anything online nowadays, but it’s very very different from living it .

No way I’m going to tell you folks to go traveling abroad just because the others did so, it has to be from your own will. But I can tell you to take a vacation overseas, because it’s good for you and for the economy of the country you’ll be visiting. You’ll learn many things if you do.

Don’t prepare your journey, don’t get a package from your travel agency, make your own ticket online, book your first hotel and that’s it. Leave the rest when you get there, take a map and chose your own route, your own towns, what you really want to see, don’t follow what other tourists follow. Make your own trip a memorable one. Eat the local food, you might love their cuisine and do it at home when you get back. Make local friends which might enhance your holiday.

See the world because you live only once.