A peek into the life of Brazil’s most famous city
Being from an Indo-Brazilian origin and as a resident of Mumbai, I was absolutely thrilled when the Editor of ‘Opinion express’ told me to write an article on delectable country Brazil from my own perception as I lived there for a considerable time in Rio and hence to guide the readers of the absolute ’Virginal Brazil’ to the Indians and the world
The journey beginning with rio–De –Janeiro ….
A background brief on Rio – The site of Rio de Janeiro was founded by Portuguese explorers as they entered Guanabara Bay on the first of January, 1502. Since the bay was considered the mouth of a river, the city was named in honour of the day, Rio de Janeiro, or River of January. French traders also settled in the Guanabara Bay area, in an attempt to gain an economic and strategic foot hold in Brazil. After two years of battles (1565-67), the French were expelled and the site of Rio was moved up onto a hill, later known as Castle Hill, for protection from further invasions. Rio grew on the exporting of sugar cane, grown on the surrounding plains. eventually gold and diamonds were found in the Mines Gerais area. Many Europeans moved here after this discovery and in 1763 the capital was moved from Salvador to Rio, further increasing its prominence.
The present day city of Rio sits within the long shadow of one of the world’s newest seven wonders. My soul will always remain attached to ‘MtCorcovado’. As suddenly you will feel that you have all the air in the world around you and all for yourself, but… you can’t breathe it! The Corcovado and the statue of Christ the Redeemer (in Portuguese Christo Redentor) that sits on top of it, is certainly the most important monument. The statue is a magnificent example of Art Deco sculpture. It was completed in 1931, 9 years late as it was supposed to be built in 1922 in honor of Brazil’s 100th year of independence. The statue stands 38 meters high and looks out eastward towards Sugar Loaf Mountain. It was designed by Heitor da Silva Costa, a Rio engineer and sculpted by Paul Landowski, a Polish-French sculptor out of reinforced concrete with soapstone layers covering it.
With his unblinking eyes and his all-encompassing outstretched arms, Cristo the Redeemer welcomes all to the city he overlooks. In Rio, Cristo is everywhere you look, your eyes will instantly
be drawn to his high dwelling presence above and you will find you are mesmerized by him…even if you happen to be a Jew, Muslim, or Atheist. Because this particular Cristo pays no mind to your religious views…rather he offers majestic, panoramic views of of one of the most magnificent cities in the world for all those who will heed his call. The views from Christ the Redeemer are well…quite frankly there isn’t anything that can be written that can properly describe the deep purple ocean spilling up against the curvaceous coastline with oval shaped mountains rising high into the sky…so why even bother? But I will say this be sure to go on a sunny day…
if you don’t you may end up feeling like your head is in the clouds…quite literally. Cloudy days often mean you views of Rio will be views of a milky white mist. So check the ten day weather be- fore planning your visit. Speaking of which heeding his call consists of many options including tour groups, taxis, or buses all of which end up at the train station. But the reward of ascending up to bask in his presence does have a cost $36 real to be exact, for a round-trip ticket that will take you to the stairway to heaven….220 steps to be exact. And for those who don’t feel like putting in the effort there is an elevator as well. But do yourself a favor (unless you’re in a wheelchair) and take the steps to the top and know this, once you get to the top you will have your reward.
For those who are on a budget take the 584 bus which runs through almost all the tourist areas and deposits you right at the train station for a mere $2 real. It’s the best deal in town! I have visited the Corcovado (means hunchback) many a times coz of its magnetism that also included Sugar Loaf Mountain (and getting stuck in traffic jams so you have been warned!). The tour included the price of going up to the statue at the top of the 710 meter by way of a rack railway that takes you along the edge of Rio’s stunning Tijuca Forest. I visited the monument in the late afternoon, just before sunset. It was very crowded and it was hard to manoeuvre around the base of the statue. Still the views were stunning. you can see all Re De Janiero from here, including the famed Copacabana and Ipenema beaches and the world-famous Maracana football stadium where the World Cup football (WCF) 2014 was held. A Highlight Brazil is the spiritual home of football. The passion for the game here is incredible and so we believe that the 2014 World Cup was the greatest ever.
The mountain is located in a very safe area of Rio, all surrounded by Military Schools and Fortress which reminds a little bit of West Point in the States, right next to the Pão de Açucar you can see the cute Vermelha Beach where the Portuguese first set foot in 1503 and a very green and magnificent trail which provides a great surprise in your day called PISTA CLAUDIO COUTINHO!
The Christ the Redeemer is subject to regular restorations and more minor maintenance work. As you can imagine standing on top of an exposed hill in a polluted city, the statue is subject a great deal of environmental hazards. It must be quite an effort to keep it as white as it is. If you are going on your own, the cost of your visit is R$36.00. It is open daily from 8:30am to 8pm. It is usually very busy here with tourists buying all kinds of souvenirs in the overpriced shops. One can get there via taxi but there is a bus 583 and the subway. Don’t forget to take pictures of the city from this great vantage point. There are many ways of getting up there but i would recommend taking the little train as that takes you through some really nice nature on the way up the mountain and you have some great views from the train too.
Cab ride with tip from Ipanema Beach to Corcovado is $15.50 Reals = $5.82 US dollars ( 1 Dollar is 60 INR ). The cab driver might ask you if you want to be driven up to Christ and then he will wait for you, and then drive you back. This might be a good idea since the lines for the trains are very long. We did not do this only because we didn’t want to make the poor guy wait for us, hoping that we will come back to pay him. We also wanted to take all the time we needed taking pictures for my friends who were touring Rio from across the Globe. Tickets on the train that takes you to Big J is $30 reals a person = $11.26 a person. Tickets are timed, so if there is a big queue you might have to wait a half hour or more before hopping into the train. The clouds might clear like it did for us. It is very crowded up there when you take pictures so be prepared to elbow some grandmothers.
A personal experience I would like to share with my readers ….We were offered a tour to take us here and Sugar Loaf for 210 Real but as it turns out we were pleased we headed here on our own by taxi . It was so easy to do and gave us the time we wanted to explore. We also saved a bundle! We flagged a taxi and it took us 30 minutes in traffic and 28 real to get there. The driver offered to wait (saying he would turn off the meter. There are lots of taxis so this is not necessary .The train was running so we were taken to the top by a shuttle bus .The entrance fee is 17Real.At the stop are 200 steps or an elevator to take you to the top .We opted for the later and it was better !! By the way the cab driver didn’t turn off the meter…see how that unfolded in my Sugar Loaf Tip!
The roads leading to the sculpture are closed according to the Brazilian environment Ministry. Landslides, rock fall, dampened trees obstruct the traffic. A never experienced Rainfall, because of which almost 250 men died, has hit the Brazilian metropolis. One of the leading highlights of Rio are its beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and so many others and Guanabara bay along with Rio of the Samba, the Caipirinhas, the Cariocas ( local boys /beach boys) ,The Carnival, the Bossa nova ( latin rhythm ) , The girl from Ipanema( fa- mous Jazz song ) and many other things that we could see in this fantastic place! even a little walk, you can have a great idea of the Carioca way of life!I’m not a Carioca, I was born in Nteroi (which I like very much) 70 miles away fm Rio connected by world’s spectacular bridge overlooking the Rio coastline, but I have a special passion because Rio is always beautiful and Rio is something that you must see it for yourself!
The Bay Area covers the most populated areas of Rio and the Ocean holds the well off part of the population in a way. Sure that neighborhoods like elite Botafogo ( where we have our resident ) , Flamengo or Laranjeiras (traditional districts of Rio) can be found there but you can also find the city center, the port of Rio and many industrial areas around the Bay, on the other hand the best neighborhoods of Rio and also the most touristy spots can be find around the Ocean like Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon or Gavea and Jardim Botanico, and if you continue following the ocean you can also head to the west part of the city where the famous Barra da Tijuca is located. A day at the Sugar Loaf, here, it is named PÃO De AÇUCAR, will be the best option for you to understand the city, you will also notice that it is the landmark which starts the entrance of Guanabara Bay, and you can see on the other edge the so beautiful Holy Cross Fortress in Niteroi which is another city of the State, and also the second most important city of Rio de Janeiro.
Favela (Indian counterpart of ‘Dharavi’ in Mumbai) reality facts
Favelas are a fact of life here. Many Cariocas realize the difficult conditions that people who live in favelas have to face. Along with that it is understood that the great majority of those people are good people. A favela is a place with drug lords, crime, and chaos but it is also a home to many people. Keep that in mind. When you go on you are’ ‘Fave- la Tour’ keep in mind that these are real people living their day to day life. A favela is not a zoo for people from first world countries to quickly drive through so they can say they’ve been there. you have to actually live or visit consistently a place to really know it and its people. And contrary to popular belief, the people of the favela see no money from these tours. If anyone sees the money it’s the drug lord. Why don’t you guys just hand your purses directly to them? Now I’ll get off my soap box 🙂
SAMBA N CARNIVAl………
Brazil is usually thought of as the country as the most exuberant and exciting carnival celebrations. The celebration originated in the Catholic countries of Europe as a party before the coming of Lent – the forty days Christ spent in the wilderness. It was traditional for the celebrations to end on Ash Wednesday when people then respected the period of abstinence for forty days. The term ‘carnival’ is thought to have originated from the Latin ‘carne levare’, meaning ‘to remove meat’, as eating meat would have been prohibited during Lent. Nowadays carnival is not seen as a religious celebration but more of a street party with lots of music and dancing. The annual carnival celebrations take place between the Saturday and the Tuesday that precede Ash Wednesday. The most famous Brazilian carnivals are held in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. In fact, the Guinness Book of Records maintains that the Salvador carnival is the biggest street party in the world! The most important events of carnival in Rio, and probably of all Brazilian carnivals, are the samba parades. All samba parades have a theme and a story line, performed by a samba school known as Sambadrome’ .The preparations for the samba school competitions begin many months before the event as elaborate costumes are designed and produced over a period of months while decorated floats are constructed to participate in the carnival parade. ( An exact précis which I gathered from Reverend Fr.Savio in our Good Shepherd Church- 4 Bunglows Mumbai when I went for the recently concluded Easter Sunday Mass )
Food Outlet in Copa Cabana (Cup and Saucer) My favorite eatery outlet and always recommended)
All over Brazil the staple food is meat dish oriented, sea food, brown rice, black beans and of course ‘pao’ (bread) But If you want to try a real Brazilian Barbecue (Churrascaria meat dish) then you must try ‘Sol de Marius’ which boast of an admirable spread of delicious sea food, varied meat steaks and culinary and of course the all famous Copa Cabana Salads but not to forget the the lip smacking desserts!. you pay a set price and then the waiters come around with various types of meats on skewers/swords that they serve by cutting it from the skewer. There is also a big salad bar which is nice but don’t fill up on it.
When you are done eating you flip the disk in front of you over to the red side so the waiters know to stop bringing you food.
Sol De Marius is a bit pricier than most restaurants in Rio but it is worth a visit if you want to experience a real ‘Brazilian Churrascaria’! The price; however tends to go a bit on the higher side – R$650 for three people! That’s three seafood flat rates at R$175 per person, one Caipirinha (Brazil’s local brew), two beers, one glass of wine and three aperitifs (starters) ! It’s always preferable to try the innumerable normal ‘steak houses’ in Brazil along the beach strips if the ‘tourist pocket’ wants to remain economical and affordable
WHERE TO SHOP ……
Rio has many recommendable shops in the form of regular street market located under the large high- way overpass, which protects most of the vendors from the hot sun as well as the hard rain.Weekends are alive than the weekdays with lots of vendors and shoppers. There are lots of old antique items, old coins and various collectors’ treasures, clothes, food, etc. There are lots of ‘Cariocas’ so do mind your valuables and watch for pickpockets! (Similar to India). Rio DeJaneiro has considerable rows of tourist shops too. Most of the typical gear you would like to buy for friends and family can be purchased at the beach in Cocacabana or Ipanema. Items include beach towels, swimsuits, soccer jerseys etc. Just about everything you could want can be found on the beaches and for a great price. The best places for paintings or art work can be found across from the surfers at Ipanema on the boardwalk. Great stuff!
On the outskirt of Rio there is ‘Rio Sul’ which is a shopping mall that will take care of your every Brazilian made fashion need. If I had a full day to spend there, I’d come out with a hundred bags, and almost all of them would be full of shoes. The clothes are great too. Foreigners will go wild for the prices, which are about half what you’d pay for comparable goods at home. This is high-quality stuff, for the most part, all Brazilian-made and all fabulous. It is a shopping mall on the outskirts of Rio but easily reachable on subway. Reach the estacio station and change from Line One to Line Two and get off at Del Castilho station. The station has a pedestrian flyover that goes straight into the mall. The mall is big and has many stores, Brazilian and international brands which are cheaper than usual.
Hippie Fair or Flea market ( the kinds you would find in Goa ) is an outdoor flea market every Sunday (during daylight) where tourists can buy all kinds of things where one can buy t-shirts, jewelry, handicrafts, belt, purse, suitcase, local paintings, musical instruments, yes, you can bargain with the vendors to negotiate a lower price. Most of them do not speak English and I derived that there may be a huge ‘problem ‘with tourist not equipped with a bit of Portuguese dialect!.We are in a country with 200 million Portuguese speaking people, you know that when you go to Brazil. So please do a crash course in Portuguese or carry English to Portuguese speaking dictionary. It’s always HANDY and you will not feel handicapped!
So when you are not sure of something, like everywhere in the world, ASK and when necessary ask again, ask for someone who speaks good English,there are always few vendors who will do it! The Rio -Brazilians are fantastic people, always in a good mood and in Rio always in for Samba, they are very kind and want to help where ever they can! Very proud also and for some it’s difficult to confess they don’t understand you! It’s impossible to describe how wonderful life is here and how content I am when I live in Rio, It’s just what I always say, I can live 50 years here, and when I just see the Cristo in Corcovado, I just stop and think that I’m happy to be in Rio and more than that how I feel to be Brazilian with an amazing Indian blood! Because, when we think about Brazil, the first place that comes up in our minds is Rio! Come and visit Rio – The Land of Rhythm ( Ritmo ) and nature !
If JESUS CHRIST is from Rio de Janeiro then GOD is Brazilian!. It is not New york …but I can say that I always leave my heart in Rio de Janeiro!!! 🙂 My heart is here; all the ‘valued energy’ that I have is rooted HeRe!
-By carlyta Mouhini ( Maria )