A Travellerspoint blog

Little Israel

ARRAIAL D'AJUDA, BAHIA

A short entry! Brazil never seizes to amaze me. This morning, I arrived in what can only be described as 'Little Israel'. Brazil has a fairly large Jewish population of its own, but the beach resort of Arraial d'Ajuda is full of Israeli soldiers on holidays, taking a break from the conflict in the Middle East in a sunblessed country that has nothing whatsoever to do with the trouble there. Signs in Arraial d'Ajuda are in Portuguese and Hebrew, and the internet cafés have computers available with Hebrew keyboards.

Posted by Alex-H 07:12 Comments (0)

Dust

SÃO MATEUS, ESPIRITO SANTO

semi-overcast 29 °C

Well, once again I managed to get completely covered in (red) dust again today. My travel days work like this: first I put on sunscreen, then I sweat, then I end up sitting near an open window in a train or bus, and I get covered in red dust.

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After the 13,5 hour train journey from Belo Horizonte to Vitória I was also covered in glitter, from all the metal carried on this railway from the mines of Minas Gerais to the coast.

I like getting covered in dust, though. It reminds me of the fact that this time I am really seeing the country, not just hopping on and off sterile airplanes from one end of the country to the next. You also get to talk to loads of people.

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On the same train journey, I met a lady who asked me to write my name in the cover of a little black book. I thought, oh, here we go. When I looked closer, I saw it was the Bible. I have no idea why she wanted me to write her name in it, but I put a smiley face underneath it.

But today I got covered in dust just a little bit too much, and I have to wait in the bus station for another bus that won't leave for another three hours (I arrived here three hours ago.) Thankfully, Brazil's bus stations have showers! (Which reminds me, stay tuned for a special report on Brazil's showers.)

Posted by Alex-H 15:10 Archived in Brazil Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Just Like Home

VILA VELHA, ESPIRITO SANTO

semi-overcast 28 °C

I feel like I'm home! (In Heemskerk, not Galway.) Vila Velha (which is intertwined with its sister city Vitória just like Heemskerk is with Beverwijk) is not a city you will find in many guide books. But often the best travelling experiences are had in places no other travellers or tourists go (this is why I left the guidebook at home.)

The beach has waves, and the sea is full of big tankers and freight ships waiting to dock at the steel works at Vitória, which makes the beach here look eerily like the beach in Heemskerk or Wijk aan Zee (except for the palm trees, of course, and the guys doing summersaults and other acrobatics, jumping from the rubbish bins.)

I am staying with Pedro, who I met on www.couchsurfing.com (I can't praise this site enough!) Yesterday, he and two friends picked me up at the hotel where I was staying and three minutes later we were on our way to a samba school rehearsal somewhere on the outskirts of Vila Velha.

Samba school rehearsals happen all over Brazil on Sunday nights from around this time of year until Carnaval; it is a way of getting the money together they need for the Carnaval parade.
Samba school rehearsals are great fun. You can go to rehearsals of famous samba schools like Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro, but somehow these things are more fun when you go to one somewhere off the beaten track. I went to one already a couple of years ago in Bagé, in Rio Grande do Sul, where my friend Raul's neighbourhood's band was practising. The rehearsal last night in Vila Velha was much the same, everybody, young, old, fat, thin, straight, gay, transvestite, everybody dances until they drop (and until they now the lyrics of this year's samba song by heart!)

The community spirit at samba school rehearsals is something else that has to be seen to be believed - and the same goes for the samba dancers themselves (and the musicians of course.) Unfortunately, the battery in my camera was empty - so no picture!

Posted by Alex-H 15:11 Archived in Brazil Tagged postcards Comments (0)

A New Shopping Mall, A New Level of Kitsch!

VILA VELHA (VITÓRIA), ESPIRITO SANTO

sunny 28 °C

A short entry about my latest discovery... a whole new level of kitsch!!! I was impressed with the Savassi shopping centre in Belo Horizonte, but yesterday I arrived in Vila Velha (which also appears on the map as Vitória) in the little state of Espirito Santo (yes, that does mean 'Holy Ghost') and here they have an even better shopping mall!

The Praia da Costa Shopping Centre has... wait for it... an indoor ICE SKATING RING! And if that wasn't enough, SANTA CLAUSE IS ON IT! ON SKATES! AND YOU CAN GET YOUR PICTURE TAKEN WITH HIM!

(Yes, Brazil is getting into a Christmas frenzy. I will do a special report on that closer to Christmas, but in the meantime, imagine fake snow on palm trees.)

As I am writing this, a full size symphony orchestra has started playing waltzes, which the people on the ice rink are now figure-skating to!

This is why I love Brazil - it is the only country on earth (that I know) that is completely insane all the time!

Stay tuned also for a story about an amazing train journey which I made yesterday...

Posted by Alex-H 11:21 Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Black Gold

OURO PRETO, MINAS GERAIS

sunny 28 °C

Hm, looks like the Portuguese were running low on imaginative ideas when they were trying to come up with place-names for the lands behind the Serra do Mar, the mountain range that lines the coastline of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The state I am in at the moment is called Minas Gerais ('General Mines') and cities carry names like Ouro Preto ('Black Gold'), Ouro Branco ('White Gold') and Diamantina (guess.) Well, at least, unlike the Danes who named Greenland Greenland, the Portuguese can't be accused of false advertising. These mountains really are full of gold, silver, iron ore, coal, and anything else you might need.

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A church for the pious, and a strange rock

Indeed, there was a gold rush here in the 18th century, and a whole lot of churches (resplendent with gold of course) were built to make sure the adventurers who came to Minas Gerais didn't stray off the straight and narrow.

Today gold fever still rules in the narrow, cobbled streets of Ouro Preto: I think there must be one jeweller's shop for every inhabitant.

The most beautiful thing about Ouro Preto, though, in my humble opinion, are the mountains that surround it. Check out the bizarre rock formation on top of the mountain behind the church in the picture!

Posted by Alex-H 15:58 Archived in Brazil Tagged postcards Comments (0)

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