Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bahia: The land of happiness

Still BD here. Today was officially the first day of summer, and we sure noticed the hot sun and humidity. We did some touristy things today including the Mercado Modelo, Pelourinho, and Bonfim. We took advantage of being inside museums and churches when possible where it was at least shady. When the Portuguese settled in Brazil, they landed just a bit south of Salvador and then quickly started building up Salvador into the bustling city that it is today. At the time, their biggest threat besides the occasional pirate (see below) was the Dutch. So they built all kinds of fortresses to guard the city. For protection, the "Forte de São Marcelo" is right out in the bay below the Governor's Palace.
Forte de São Marcelo (no pirates here)
Because a good portion of the city is down right at sea level and the Governor's mansion was up on top of a steep hill, they needed a way to easily get up and down. So, like any ingenious people would do, they decided to build a huge elevator - Wonka-style.
Elevator Lacerda
In the historic Pelourinho neighborhood we visited a few of the churches that weren't closed for renovation. They say there are 365 churches in Salvador so that you can go to a different one every day of the year. The most famous ones are each of the three orders of São Francisco. The priests still live on the second floor but instead of the really cool 10 inch long keys that they used to use, they apparently now use magnetic key cards. They even have a satellite dish.
Façade of the 3rd order São Francisco church
Convent plaza of the 1st order São Francisco church
The inside of the 1st order church has more gold than I've ever seen in my life. When looking at this picture, notice that whatever resembles gold actually is. Gina commented that it's like "baroque threw up rococo everywhere." Anything that doesn't resemble gold is simply dirty gold that needs to be shined. Churches like these are in a perpetual state of renovation because of the intricate adornment.

Ahh, the Pelourinho, beautiful colonial Portuguese architecture, colorful houses, and Afro-Brazilian drum beats seem to be emanating from the buildings on every street. Apparently, the Bahian sunshine brings out the pirate in Gina.
Most of the Catholic churches here have a strong African influence. At the famous Senhor do Bomfim church people bring molded body parts to give thanks to God for curing health problems. It's bizarre.

Now for my highlight of the day - Açaí. I've been craving the taste of real Açaí ever since I left. This purple fruit from the Amazon and Northern Brazil has quite the odd flavor but is somehow addicting. Gina's first taste was a success! Although she had to take the edge off of the flavor with a little bit of banana blended in. And don't forget the granola on top.

I have to make mention of a few of Gina's observations:
  • When driving, you can get away with anything as long as you honk your horn. (the lines in the road are only there for looks)
  • When walking, you can get away with all sorts of jaywalking with a quick thumbs-up, magically stopping oncoming cars.
  • Brazilians give the best hugs.
  • The local practice of 2-3 showers a day is not only necessary but mandatory.
  • Humidity makes her puffy. She claims.


C*K*J said...

It looks like you guys are having so much fun! We're super jealous!! The molded body parts kinda creep me out though. Strange, to say the least.
Be safe on all your adventures, we miss you!! Merry Christmas!!

marce said...

Loved Gina's observations! Also, just last night, Alicia was so excited to show us pictures of the Açaí bowls that she loved in Hawaii. They looked just like the ones you are eating, with bananas & honey too.