Sunday, November 06, 2005

Olinda and Salvador

Our next stop was Olinda. Yet another charming little town. This one more charming by far than most others. With galleries and art sprinkled liberally throughout the city, it was easy to note the importance that the arts carry in this area. We walked through the town for a few days, admiring the churches and architecture. On one of these days our walk took us to some higher grownd that gave us a vast and stretching view of the town laid out below us.

From this vantage point one could see the churches below and, then in the distance, the blue ocean. People gathered to watch the view change colors with the setting of the sun. The locals began their nightly celebrations early, with a few drinks from the drink carts lining the streets.

As the dusk faded into night, the sound of music in the streets mixed with the laughing of children and the noises spilling from bars. A wondering group of street musicians passed in front of our small hotel and we were happy to be swept up in the following crowds. The band chose a winding route up into the alleyways and thin streets of the town´s neighborhood. The crowds followed in tow, clapping and singing along in growing numbers. We were joined by two girls from England, Rachael and Nina, who we had met in Praia de Pipa and took the Bus to Olinda with us. They joined us in our late night trollop through the city streets as we followed the music and danced in the streets wherever they led.

After a few days of wandering the winding streets and visiting churches we moved on to the next city in line, Salvador. Also encrusted with art and saturated with churches, Salvador battles Olinda for the title of most cultural city in Brazil. Its old city streets have a faded peeling charm that I have grown to love in our past months of travel. The ancient walls in this town have stories to tell and all the time in the world in which to tell them. You can see paint chipped, and below it is another color of chipped paint and so on below that. Speaking of vast amounts of time, these crumbling walls are steeped in rich history.

Our first day there, we enjoyed the view from our room on the seventh floor, convienently overloooking one of the towns many center squares. While we were enjoying the view we heard and then in turn saw, a religious procession parading through the streets. We made quick to grab our cameras and were out the door. Soon we were submerged in the middle of crowds of people in the streets. Yet again. This country does seem to have a way with crowds celebrating in the streets! The procession consited of people in various religious garb carrying two statues of saints through the city. A truck carrying large speakers in turn blasted religious songs and the chanting of a preist who wandered ahead, microphone in hand. They carried the two statues through the city and the crowds sang along and slowly grew in number. The saints were marched through the main squares, one after another until, in time, they were brought one at a time to the churches where they reside.

They were then placed back in the churches and the crowd would flow into the awaiting church and the people would sing and dance and raise their hands up to the gilded rafters above. The crowd would press close and reach out a hand to touch the hem of the raised saint for good fortune.

Our days in Salvador were spent, like in Olinda, wandering the town and admiring the churches and the charm of the city. Around every corner was another type of music being played in the street. On every block there were paintings and music for sale. Crafts and art were on display everywhere you laid eyes to rest. Salvador had more churches than any other town I have seen so far. From the birds eye vantage point of our hotel room, I counted no less than 9 churches. Tall impressive luxurious affairs with high bell towers complete with gold encrusted interious. Each one packed full of boroque paintings and sculpted cherubs. Quite a sight to behold.

The days being filled with such wonderful sights were followd by nights of equal splendor. Music owns the night in Salvador. Drum groups marched through the streets, cafes sport musicians playing guitar for drinking and chatting groups of people. Once again Amie and I would pick a wandering band of musicians and follow them through the city as their pounding drums bounced off the city walls around us.

Once the nights´ festivities wound down, we would stumble back home to the waiting comfort of the hotel. There, perched on the seventh floor, we would look out at the city below as the sounds of the party began to fade.

One of our daytime forrays led us to a familliar sight. Once again, I was standing before a scene I knew well from one of Amie's photographs - another of her images from her Tropicalia series. And, this was one of my favorites. Taken right at ``Amie Time`` (the ten minute span of time just after sunset, when the sun has sunk below the horizon yet a rich dark blue light still covers the sky), the image is of a tower adorned with flags that spread out from it. We stopped there and did a little self portrait, as we are want to do, to remember the moment.

So far our time in Brazil has been very varied and productive. Desert and tropics, sand and water, cobble stone and dirt streets, we are enjoying every bit. But there seems to be a light at the end of this amazing tunnel. And it approaches faster than we think. Already, as I sit and type this, it is Novemeber. We leave in only a handfull of days. Rio grows closer and so does the time of our departure.

Still we have much distance to travel. To recap lets take a look at this map.

The dotted line, marking our flight from Panama, goes first to Sao Paulo and then bounces up to Fortaleza. Then we went, via land, a short ways up to Jericoacoara where we enjoyed a week of amazing sunsets with a backdrop of windswept sand dunes. Then once again moving leftward on the map, we went to Sao Louis where we enjoyed the festivities of Marafolia. Then the line breaks and goes back to the south and east. This marks a grueling 29 hour bus ride. The longest of our trip. This was were we stopped in Praia de Pipa. Then we go south again a ways to Olinda. Then again a short (by short we mean relatively, as these bus rides average about 9 hours) ride to the last dot on the map that marks Salvador.

Rio, our end destination is far south, near where our first flight landed in Sao Paulo before we connected and flew back up to Fortalaza. You can barely see a penciled in dot that marks Rio.

Check the blog again in a week or so. We are in a loveley beach town (imagine that!) that I will tell you about. But you will have to wait.

Ciao for now.....


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