From nature bliss to metropolis feelings, from no crowds to the biggest annual party event: after five days on paradise island Fernando de Noronha we switched drastically our scenery and landed in the colorful capital of Bahia, just in time for carnival.
Salvador has an extraordinary energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match. Once the magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, today Salvador is the pulsating heart of the Afro-Brazilian community. You can feel it immediately as you enter the city driving from the airport to your hotel. You see people in the streets, families and friends sitting in front of their houses, giggling, drinking, dancing.
The city’s brilliantly hued center is a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture and gold-laden churches. Elsewhere in town, a different spirit flows as crowds of religious adherents celebrate and reconnect with African gods at Candomblé ceremonies. In fact, there is no other place in the world where the culture of those brought as slaves from Africa has been preserved as it has been in Salvador – from music to religion to food, dance and martial arts traditions. Aside from the many attractions within Salvador, a gorgeous coastline lies right outside the city – a suitable introduction to the tropical splendor of Bahia.
Our home for the next two days was a charming little guesthouse (= pousada) located just in the heart of the historic city centre. Pousada de Arts, as the name already recalls, is a successful fusion of traditional Brazilian artists’ works and unique interior design making you feel at home immediately. The traditional building has been renovated and equipped with comfortable amenities such as hammocks in the sea view suites and vast comfortable lounge areas with the two house turtles visiting you regularly. The Santo Antônio Além do Carmo neighborhood is a great choice for travelers interested in architecture, live music and history.
From our base we conquered the historic city centre by foot. In walking distance we found all major sights, such as
the ELEVADOR LACERDA
PRACA DA SÈ
TERREIRO DE JESUS
IGREJA SAO FRANCISCO, IGREJA ROSARIO DOS PRETOS
Pelourinho is also packed with delicious restaurants, some feel uncomfortably touristy, others are wonderfully charming. All serve traditional Bahian cuisine with heavy African influence, featuring ingredients like coconut cream, tomato, seafood, bell pepper and spices of ginger, hot peppers and coriander. Our favorite was Cadé O’Chama? Comida Caseira.
Carnival in Salvador is known as the “world’s largest party” as it occupies more physical space than it’s rival Rio de Janeiro (several kilometers at a time). It’s indeed, as we experienced it live, a huge party, attracting two million visitors for six straight days or revelry before Ash Wednesday. Each day the festivities kick off around 5 pm every afternoon and wind down around 5 am. If you are planning to spend Carnival in Salvador, the best thing to do is to plan ahead. Many hostels and pousadas offer packages but they tend to fill up quickly (unfortunately also the prices double during this crazy party period). I advise to look closely at a city map before committing to anything as some areas can be so noisy during Carnival that you would not be able to sleep if you wanted to.
Apropos sleep: read in BRAZIL VOL. 3 about sleeping in Bahia’s national park Chapada Diamantina, our third destination, soon.
My travel companion “Happy Holi Mirror Clutch” available in my online-shop: www.silviagattin.com