Published: June 6th 2011May 25th 2011
Our night bus from Recife was comfortable, but 14 hours on a bus is not quite the same as 14 hours in a bed, so we arrived in Salvador on May 20th feeling quite tired. Tourist information were very helpful though, so we managed to find a bus to the historical centre easily enough.
Once we had reached the old centre (Pelourinho) we compared a few pousadas before settling for the most friendly. We dumped our bags and set off to explore Pelourinho and the hidden squares (largos) that can be found in amongst the colourful buildings, soaking up the atmosphere that strikes you as soon as you arrive. We took some great pictures of the Sao Franacisco church and convent, the Cathedral and the Palacio Rio Branco, all of which were very grand and added to the sense of history you feel when in the city.
Similarly to Olinda, Pelourinho is a place of cobbled streets, pastel buildings and hilly terrain, lending itself unselfishly for photos. We had lunch (rice, beans, chicken - all the Brazilian favourites!) in a restaurant on the Terreiro de Jesus square and spent the afternoon strolling around the town, visiting art shops and
An art shop in Pelourinho
Of course we bought some!
a small postcard museum.
Pelourinho is a lively place at night and the best way to find the party is to follow your ears, though we had been recommend by the owner of our pousada to check out a band playing in a nearby square. We went along, and it immediately became clear why Salvador is known as such a great party city. As soon as the music began the dancefloor filled, everyone swapping dance partners between songs and sharing a drink. It seems Brazilians to go out especially to dance, which explains why they were all so good! Of course, we couldn't resist joining in, despite being the only tourists there, and our samba not being quite up to standard! We had a great time, even though it took us a little while to get up to speed!
It had been a long day so we headed back to our pousada relatively early, ready for more exploring the next day. Our first stop was the Mercado Modelo, a huge market selling all kinds of gifts, right at the bottom of the hill by the seafront. To get there from the centre of Pelourinho we took the Lacerda
A normal clothes shop in Pelourinho
With a woman in traditional African dress welcoming customers.
elevator, an 80-year old lift connecting the upper and lower parts of the city. The market was good, though we didn't buy anything.
After this we took a bus to the seafront district of Barra. The sun came out and joined us, so the views over the beach west in to the bay were quite spectacular. We walked up the Morro de Cristo, from which we had a good view of the Barra lighthouse and Santo Antonio Fort, perched on a small southern peninsula. We then climbed the lighthouse (the first one built in South America) to get good views of the city and the bay. We enjoyed the rest of the sun while visiting two smaller forts and walking along the beach, until a small rain shower came. After that had subsided we found the pretty Santo Antonio church at the top of hill, taking a brief look inside before catching a bus back to Pelourinho.
For the evening we had booked a tour to see a traditional religious ceremony taking place in a nearby favela. The Candomble ceremony takes place in many different houses twice a week and involves worshippers chanting and dancing, waiting to be
possessed and changing to traditional clothes once they have been. Originating from African cultures (Salvador has a huge African population, as slaves were brought here on ships years ago), it was completely different from anything we had seen in Brazil, and all the more fascinating for it. We were there only a few hours but it apparently goes on long in to the night!
The following day was a Sunday, which presented us with an unusual problem: it was unsafe to walk anywhere! We had planned to walk to a church just out of Pelourinho and then to a nearby lake, but first our pousada owner and then tourist information told us not to walk anywhere outside Pelourinho as the streets would be deserted and therefore dangerous. By now we had explored pretty much all of Pelourinho, so we were a bit gutted! We did return to the Sao Francisco church and convent, though this time we ventured inside, walking around it and admiring the baroque design while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of our day. It was bizarre being told we couldn't go to tourist attractions on a Sunday - in England everything
would be busy! Still, part of the experience.
Heeding the numerous warnings we took a taxi to the lake, had a chocolate pizza in a restaurant beside it and walked around it. The lake was sitting in a valley between two favelas, so it didn't feel like the safest stroll ever, but it was nice anyway. We then caught a bus to the Mercado Modelo before taking the elevator back up to the top of town.
It was our last night in Salvador so we wanted to try and see some more music. It seemed pretty quiet, but we followed our ears to a little samba bar where a band were just getting started. We had beer and cocktails and enjoyed the fantastic music for a few hours, finding it impossible to stop our feet tapping to the beat. It was a great way to spend an evening in Salvador, a perfect end to our time there.
Like Buenos Aires, Salvador is a city of history, culture and music; unlike Buenos Aires, there is no room for subtlety as the party and constant beat of the drums immediately grabs you, inviting you to join in and share
the care-free attitude. The people were friendly and lively, and the musical atmosphere was infectious. We both loved it - dancing with smiles on our faces surrounded by locals showing us how they enjoy their lives.
Early the following morning we caught a bus to Lencois - 384km inland from Salvador - for another completely different slice of Brazil...
There are more photos below