We travelled by bus
Salvador, the capital of the state Bahia in the northeastern part of
Brazil. You by your tickets two days in advance and book your seats (in
the front as the toilet is in the back) and upon leaving the baggage is
properly checked in. The busses ride on schedule on two-lane roads
andstop every four hours; tv (Portuguese dvd)'s on board and most
important: comfortable seats such as in business class on a plane.
The 2100 km to Salvador were covered in
35 hours. And on the way there is a lot to see. Other traffic,
fazenda's everywhere, flooded land, small villages. All houses are one
storey with red roof tiles that are green and black with mildew. The
landscape a bit dull, although we saw some variation in the flora: pina
palmtrees were changed for different kinds of cactusses.
Our French friends whom we met in Belém, recommended the
pousada La Villa Française (www.lavilafrancaise.com)
and this was an excellent place to stay.
Not in the heart of the city thus less risky, and close to the beach. The pousada (guesthouse)
is run by two French ladies, Stéphanie and Nathalie. Both infinitely
Stéphanie also speaks very good English, although JW started to speak a
few words French!
Salvador reminded us of Las Palmas, especially the part of town (Barra)
where we stayed. The first day we had to come round again because of the
bustrip, so we strolled in the neighbourhood and went to the beach,
where we enjoyed the skills of the waveboarders
and the peace and quiet.
On the second day we ventured into the historical city, which proved
worse than anticipated. May be we had wrong expectations: “a second
Lisbon”, isuggested by the fact that Salvador as well consists of an
upper and a lower town,
with lift and funiculár. But the
funiculár was in revision so we took the lift
to the lower town with its office blocks, docks and the Mercado Modelo.
This building is famous for it's steel construction but the content was
not very elevating: crammed with souvenir shops and not of the best
The historical city in the
upper town comprises of the Pelourinho-quarter,
a tourist spot in optima forma. The squares were rather nice,
but the surrounding streets were actually a row of souvenir shops and no
longer form a residential quarter. Thus charm and couleur locale are
In the Lonely Planet-guide we read that the Igreja de São
Francisco was special because of the excessive displays of wealth and
splendor. And indeed, we never saw anything alike with all those
wood-carvings smothered in gold leaf. Horrendous!
Horrendously distorted are also the faces of the cherubs, made by slaves
who responded in this way to their masters. Actually quite funny.
The Pelourinho was formerly the quarter where the poor lived, where
slaves were traded and mis-treated. Declared by Unesco as world-heritage
because of the colourful colonial buildings and the many 17th and 18th
Africa took possession of Bahia and the Pelourinho is the heart of the Afro-Brazilian
Salvador. Music and dance schools all around but also on the streets
many percussion bands and capoeira’s showing their (battle)dancing.
Many beggars too, which is the negative result of too many tourists.
Skinny children asking for money to buy some food,
while their “pimp” waits just around the corner, an adult who bags their
catch. We hate this kind of nagging as we are well able to determine
people in need from those who try to make easy money. So they get zilch.
It is just crazy: “Amigo, amiga.” As if we are their buddies! “Senhora
you mean,” P snapped at an 8 years old and he was gone immediately.
Other types of beggars are the street vendors who offer you a
ribbon (bracelet) as a present. But is you accept, they accompany you
until you return the favour with something bigger. So we complied with
no one. This makes strolling around less fun, as we most of the time
don't say “no” to street vendors.
In the Pelourinho is a music
and dance theatre where the company of Miguel Santana performs. Check
This dance group is world-famous and is generally considered to be the
best folk dance company in the world. With performances in New York, Boston,
Sydney and in Europe they bring classic, modern, Afro-Brazilian and
Afro-religious music and dance. So we really had to go there.
Beautiful, powerful, an unforgettable experience.
The next unforgettable experience was our first mugging, as coming from the
theatre P’s handbag was ripped. A painful thing and the police-officer who
handled our case, pitied P for the resulting red slashes and blue skin in
her neck as the thief had violently jerked at the bag. But the worst is the
feeling that you are not safe. Of course the city of Salvador is THE place
to get mugged, and we did not carry a lot: a small amount of money and no
valuables, but the idea that one cannot walk around just like that gives a
bad feeling. Of course we ran after the thief and we almost got him, but
then he handed the bag to someone on a bike. So there you stand. P without slippers (lost
in the pursuit) eand with noo money, but JW still had a banknote somewhere
so we could pay a taxi.
You report the theft at the “tourist police”. Special offices in all the big
cities where robberies iare handled. Isn't that something! But
“our” police-officer agreed that the mere fact that something like
tourist-police exists, is embarrassing indeed.