By bus to Bahia, Salvador    Click for the chartlet

          

We travelled by bus to 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 helpful and 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 funicul
ár. 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 kind.

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 missing.
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 century churches.
Africa took possession of Bahia and the Pelourinho is the heart of the Afro-Brazilian character of 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 www.balefolcloricodabahia.com.br
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.

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