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Brazil

Go to Rio, man!

Fairytales from Brazil


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Our plans for the carnival kept changing all the time because people kept telling us different things about where the carnival should be spent. We had already decided to spend it in Porto Seguro when someone told us that "spend it anywhere but in Porto Seguro", and he had really good arguments, too. Finally we decided to try the Ouro Preto thing but that wasn't such a good idea either, as we described earlier. When we arrived in Rio de Janeiro, we realized that the guy in Trancoso had been right. He told us "Go to Rio, man! That's the only real place for carnival". And he was right. We wouldn't have wanted to spend it anywhere but here.

It's hard to explain, but carnaval is something like vappu in Finland times 10 days, and then you throw in lots of parades (bandas or blocos), concerts, balls, street parties, endless variaties of costumes and of course the sambadrome with its magnificent samba parades. And then of course you have an uncountable amount of street stalls selling caipirinhas, caipiroskas, caipifrutas, all kinds of other spirits, cerveja bem gelado (very cold), cheese sticks, popcorn, boiled corn, meat sticks, you name it...

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Party party!

We tried to see everything that we could, but of course it was impossible to see everything. We joined a few bandas, which are long parades of people that are lead by some sort of band that play drums and other instruments depending on the banda. And then there is a big truck that plays music and there are people on top of it singing along with the music. People gather several hours before the banda starts to build up the vibes and then at some point the band starts playing and getting the people in an even better party mood. Finally the band starts moving and people start dancing behind them. The banda goes on for several hours, so you can drop out for a while to get something to drink or to eat and then join again. But you don't need to leave the parade if you need a drink; there are guys walking along the parades with tequila bottles +small glasses +salt + lime, guys selling long plastic tubes filled with frozen caipirinhas and all kinds of other stuff. It's crazy.

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Bloco das Carmelitas in Santa Teresa

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At banda de Ipanema

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At banda de Ipanema

We also checked out some of the concerts they organized in different parts of town. Mostly it was samba but they had other domestic variaties as well. But I'm actually starting to get the point of samba anyway, and I can see why many people just can't stop dancing when they hear it. We still really need to work on our samba moves though, although an old guy in the sambadrome teached (tried to) us. He was amazing by the way. He was like 70 years old and he just kept on dancing for many hours!

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Cheese on a stick and caipivodka! A good combination!

We also managed to attend some of the local street parties. Close to were we lived, a part of town called Catete, they organized a few street parties some of which ended with a local "banda de Catete". One night we spent in Ipanema with our new French friends, Letitia and Stan. We started off by checking out the Banda de Ipanema, which is one of the most famous ones with lots of transvetites and gays, and then we spent the rest of the night in Ipanema's streets and beach where they had organized parties of different kinds. Have to tell you that we have never seen that many gay people in one place. We saw more gay couples kissing than straight ones. Interesting.

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On Ipanema beach with Letitia

But the best of all was probably the sambadrome. This is were the samba schools compete against each other. There are judges that give points according to different components including percussion, theme song, song and dance, choreography, costumes, story line, floats and decorations. Many samba schools make their parades during the carnival. When all the schools have paraded, the judges give their points and the winner is announced. But it is a long process. During several nights there are parades starting on friday, sunday and monday containing the 12 best ones from last year. On tuesday the points are read. It's a little bit like the eurovision in Europe. The tv is on in every restaurant, bar and cafe and people on the streets listen to the program on radios. (When the winner was announced we heard some fireworks in Catete.) The next saturday the six best samba shcools parade again in the sambadrome.

We saw the competition in the sambadrome on the first saturday and we also saw the victory parades the next saturday. It was great! Every parade took about 1-1,5 hours and the first night there were 10 schools (and the second time 6 schools). So it is quite a while you spend there. But the time goes by really fast because there is so much going on all the time. The parades start at 9pm and goes on until the morning.

Every parade starts with a few minutes of fireworks. And then the music starts! Each samba school has their own flag and their own theme song, so when a certain samba schools is parading, all the fans of that shcool (and many others as well) wave the school's flag, sing the song and dance like crazy. Each parade has a truck on top of which the song is played and singed and you can hear it in speakers throughout the sambadrome. Each parade also has a part where all the drummers walk, and when that part of the parade is in front of the place where you are standing, the going gets even wilder. The dresses and the floats of the parades are really magnificent and they put a lot of effort into the designs and the theme of the parade. There are feathers, glitter and bare skin everywhere. It was so much fun, I didn't want to leave when the last school's parade was finished.

Anyway, Rio is a very nice town. It's actually much nicer than we had expected. We thought it would be a big dirty town with violence everywhere, but it is actually very cosy in some way. It has lots of different areas with their own unique vibe. We especially enjoy Catete, where we happen to stay thanks to a German guy in Ouro Preto who happened to recommend the hotel we are staying at. It is a nice and cozy part of town with a lot of locals and not only tourists. Another nice part of town is Botafogo close to here. Botafogo is especially nice because there is a really good vegetarian restaurant :). Copacabana and Ipanema are also nice, partly because they have long sandy beaches but they also seem to have a nice vibe about them.

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Of course there is violence here, but we have been lucky enough not to experience any. We met one local guy who told us he prays every morning before he goes out that nothing will happen to him. I guess when you live here for a while you get to hear more stories about what really can happen in this town. And who knows, maybe he lives in one of the many favelas (shanty town) here.

One of our favorite things about this town is the infinite number of small juice shops that you can find in almost every corner of town. They sell fresh juices made of a lot of different fruits and they taste sooooo good! (if you remember to tell them not to spoil them with sugar). We have been drinking at least two big glasses of juices every day, our favorite has become maracuja (passion fruit), did I already tell you that they have passion fruits here that are the size of big oranges?

Rio is the kind of town where you could actually imagine living for a while. It seems to have a lot to offer, and we know we only scraped the surface. Maybe we'll come back some day, but now it is time for some quiet and some relaxing on the beach.

Here's some pictures from the sambadrome:

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Posted by AnnaMickus 12:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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