Friday, August 30, 2013

Salvador, Brazil - the Center of Bahian Culture

~~~~~ Some Facts about Brazil~~~~~

- It covers half of South America;
- Brazil is the world's fifth most populous country in the world;
- Brazilian economy is counted among the world's ten largest;
- It is the birthplace of writers Jorge Amado and Paulo Coelho;
- It is where the Bossa Nova and Zamba originated;
- Brazil has produced soccer greats: Leonidas da Silva, Garrincha, Pele, Socrates, Romario, and Ronaldo;
- It has produced the tiniest bikini and has lent it's name to Brazilian "bikini cut" waxing.

~~ We are now in Salvador, the third largest city in Brazil, with a population of around 3 million. It was founded by the Portuguese in 1549 on the protective Bay of All Saints (Baia de Todos os Santos). We got in late last night and checked into the very charming Villa Bahai, a hotel built on two buildings dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is in the heart of historic Salvador, and from our window I can see the St. Francis church to the left and the Cathedral to the right.

~~It's been raining off and on, and because of this we arranged to have our tour in the afternoon, hoping the weather would improve. Our guide, Daniella, showed up at 2 p.m. and informed us that aside from bad weather there is an ongoing transportation strike in Salvador. Some schools were closed, buses not running, and traffic pattern abnormal.

~~We went ahead and walked about the compact charming old town of Salvador. We started with the St. Francis Church and convent with its blue and white tiled walls and gold-gilt altar -- very luxurious.  Next door was another St. Francis church but for the tertiary order; this one displayed a baroque exterior which was uncovered after being covered up with white plaster for over 100 years. There are many other churches in the old district, and we didn't see all of them. One interesting one is a blue Catholic church built by the slaves, and which integrates some African-Brazilian elements in the Mass, apparently; I will try to go there this Sunday.

~~We saw lovely restaurants and shops in buildings that are being renovated, thanks apparently to the UNESCO  heritage site designation that the historic district has. I was happy to see the writer Jorge Amado Museum, and a house where he had lived. We saw huge handsome buildings -- hospitals, a medical school, government buildings, more churches -- as we made our way to the Elevador Lacerda.  The elevator brought us to the lower part of town, and we went to a lively market with baskets, clothes, toys, hammocks, and other stuff.

~~As we exited the market, our driver picked us up and took us on a driving tour so we could see the forts, beaches, Atlantic Ocean, some nice residential districts of Salvador.  All this time, Daniella is bewailing the fact that no one is at the beaches, and the weather so bad that we couldn't go down to visit the fort. Neither could I take decent pictures. 
~~ This is all this Friday, and perhaps tomorrow or Sunday will bring beautiful sunshine for wonderful pictures.
~~~~ Cecilia

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tags: travel, Brazil, Salvador, Bahia, tourism

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