Jump aside into Brazil: Belém, just below the equator    Click for the chartlet

           

Many sailors who cross the Atlantic, first sail to Brazil and French-Guyana. But at the time we longed so much to see the homeland of JW's mother, that we skipped those steps and sailed to Surinam without stopping elsewhere.

We visited our neighbouring country French-Guyana already several times, so now it was time for the biggest country in South-America: Brazil. With a surface of 8.5 million km2 and a population of 190 mio, it is almost as big as the U.S., so we realized that we could not see the whole country in a four weeks holiday. That is the reason why we concentrated on the northern part (the Amazon) and the northeast (Salvador). Still an area of 1.5 million km2, so we really saw a lot of the differences in climate, nature and culture. With as a striking aspect that Brazilians are much more mixed (almost everyone has some indigenous blood) than the Surinamese, with their still more  defined etnical origins.

Visiting Brazil was also one of Viviane's desires and she convinced her Dutch friend Henny to come along. Henny caused some consternation two days before we left, as it appeared that he had lost his vaccination passport, and without a yellow fever vaccination one is not allowed to enter Brazil. But thanks to Viviane's flair (connections) the problem was solved and we flew to the nearest airport in Brazil: Belém, in the Amazon area, just below the equator.

We were warned that criminality in Brazil is quite big and we got the first bad impression immediately on the airport in Surinam. Old acquaintances from Immigration Police greeted us enthousiastically while busy accompanying/deporting some unwanted Brasileiros. So this was the context in which we started our holiday.

In Belém police-officers wear bulletproof vests, but fortunately one can also nap peacyfully in the main street. Or enjoy a beer in the park.. In a café you share a bottle, just as in Surinam but in Brazil the bottles contain 600 ml instead of 1 litre. In our opinion a much better size and you can always order an other one.

A first quick scan of the city: vendors all around and foodstalls for a quick bite; and a staggering amount of beauty parlours, a drugstore by the size of a supermarket in every streetcorner and numerous cheap lingerie shops where at the entrance a man with a microphone tries to lure the customers with  promotions and interesting bargains. Such as the ladies slip with foam bottom. Looks are everything in Brazil. But JW was soon deeply disappointed as he had expected Miss Brazils all around. But unfortunately they are all extremely fat and: short legs. This is compensated with platform soles of 5 tot 8 cm, whaddayamean bad taste?

What caugt the eye at once in Belém was the large number of umbrella’s. Everybody carries one and every vendor has stock. Under the influence of the Amazon River, it rains every day in Belém.
Belém (1616) is beautiful and ugly at the same time. Horrendous 30 storey apartment buildings, dirty housefrontss, broken pavements. But many majestical old buildings as well, whether or not renovated façades, streets hooded with mango trees, traditional mozaic pavements, many neatly kept parks and the old docks transformed into entertainment district. Splendid.
Touristical? Hardly any European, most tourists are Brazilians.
An important meeting point is the Ver-O-Peso market (Check-The-Weight), crammed with small shops selling nuts
, herb medicins, many street vendors to support the messy character and where you also drink a beer on the waterfront. Contacts are many as Brasileiros love to express their appreciation of tourists from Europe, and they often come over and shake hands.
On Friday before Eastern, streetlife comes to a halt and people dedicate themselves devotedly to Maria en Jesus. Processions all over town with swinging music, singing and an open-air mass. Apparently very emotional as we saw tear-stained faces surrounding us.
The cathedral was closed due to renovation but this does not discourage the true believers, and they kneel and pray on the doorstep. The catholic missonaries did a good job here.

         

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