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Published: February 15th 2015
Salvador De Bahia, Brazil
On our way down to Salvador we crossed the equator at 3:45pm Atlantic-Canada on the 10th
of February. We are approximately 12,000 miles from the north and south pole. On this day, King Neptune joined us aboard the Ruby Princess for a “Crossing the Equator” Ceremony. Meaning total craziness and nonsense around the Neptune Pool on deck 15. ;-)
Passengers were dressed in togas (bed sheets) and crazy get ups with blond wigs on some of the guys and others dressed as doctors who were going to do brain transplants right on the deck ;-) King Neptune decreed horrible things be done to the passengers who were having just too much fun. They used red jello and cooked spaghetti to throw around as though they were taking the insides out of people and throwing them on unsuspecting nearby passengers. I think we were all getting a little stir crazy, LOL. Time for land and shore leave ;-)
Finally, after 5 days at sea we have reached Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. We touched the South American continent for the first time at 8am on February 13th
, and what a welcome! Carnival is in full swing
here! The Carnival “season” started for us in Trinidad 5 days ago and continues here in Salvador.
Today we’re going to take a 4 hour tour, 2 hours of which will be walking. It is hot here. We are only 12 degrees south of the Equator and it feels just like Southeast Asia ;-) 85 degrees with 87% humidity.
As we get off the Ruby Princess and head to the terminal we are greeted by a lovely woman in native African dress with thousands of ribbons on her skirt. She is giving each of us 2-4 ribbons. Turns out these are for our first stop, the Church of our Lord of Bonfim. Renowned for its “Wish Ribbons”. The ribbons are tied around wrists or fence posts around the church. When it eventually falls off your wish will come true. We have seen this type of religious “wish” or “prayer” all over the world in different forms. We make our wishes and tie the ribbons to the fence posts at the church. There are literally hundreds of thousands of ribbons blowing in the wind here. And… there are thousands of visitors. There will be over 700 just from our
ship alone. The church is in a very poor section of Salvador. There are many stray dogs. Some with their puppies on the sidewalk others just lying around. None are scary or harming anyone. They are just trying to survive, like many of the people in these poor neighborhoods.
Life in Salvador is difficult for many. 48% of the population lives below the poverty line. There is a fixed pay scale-6 scales to be exact-and the lowest scale is about $250-$300 per month, so not too hard to see how many would struggle, and that is evident wherever we went. There is 19% unemployment in this city of 3 million people and the evidence of poverty is everywhere, but the people are very friendly and gracious. Clearly, many of the buildings were in need of repair and many were abandoned, but there were city workers cleaning the streets and parks.
The population of Salvador is 85% African or of mixed heritage so much of life here is based on African religion and life style. Many symbols and statues around the city reflect the heritage from the slaves brought over from Africa. Even the religion, which professes to be
mostly Catholic, gets mixed in the African cultures as many attend the 357 Catholic churches in the city. There are separate religions based on life in Africa where the slaves come from, but even those seem to reflect Catholicism in some way, at least based on what our tour guide tells us.
We ride back into Old Town Salvador for a walking tour up the hillsides on narrow cobble streets taking off in many directions with large squares with benches along the way.
Since this is Carnival, there are huge bright decorations everywhere hanging from lines across the streets. Even at noon, bands are playing and people are flocking to the squares to party and celebrate. Crowds are building, people are dressed up to party, and we could tell this was going to be quite a hot spot as the day continues into evening. The Carnival celebration in Salvador is the largest in Brazil, even surpassing Rio De Janiero. Many parts of the city were cordoned off from traffic for the parades and parties so we could not visit many sections of the city.
The first place we stop in Old Town is the Church of St.
Francis. We find out later that this church was boarded up for Carnival as it is on the parade route but because the ship is in today they have taken down the boards and are letting everyone, including us, visit. This church has a nunnery attached to it in the back. We do not visit the nunnery but we do get o go in the courtyard with it’s blue hand painted tiles from Portugal. Each large “painting” made up of hundreds of painted tiles is about 12 feet long by 6 feet high. We exit the courtyard and enter a church that knocked our socks off. We have seen many ornate, gold plated churches, temples, shrines and places of various types of worship, but this was just so outrageously beautiful. We just sat in a pew for while, with visitors milling all around us, and tried to take it all in. After the poverty we had seen in the morning and then to see this in contrast… what can we say. There are no words.
We head out into the heat and sunshine. If you take a look at a map of Brazil you can see why Salvador was
a major port for the slave trade from Africa to Brazil. The original area in Old Town where the slaves were traded is now a shopping area with over 200 vendor booths, cafes, shops, money changers and amazingly beautiful and colorful artwork. This area got its start as a market where widows would go to sell their deceased husbands belongings. Can’t even imagine how many widows it takes to make up a “market”. Clearly times were hard. Salvador does not try to hide its past as a major slave port but revels in the history and how far they have come, embracing the wonderful parts of both cultures including food, dress and history. I have my picture taken with a local woman named Lila she was so much fun and loved having her picture taken. She hoped of course that you would check out her store, which we did.
We stop at a tiny coffee shop run by some young women and pick up an ice cold (yes) Coke Zero and take a rest while other people in our group shop. After while I leave Cope and head down the street to a shirt shop and pick up a
Brazilian Soccer Team shirt ;-) Back to the coffee shop to pick up Cope and to meet up with the rest of the gang, finding our way to an 8 story elevator overlooking the harbor which was built to transport people from the Old Town on the cliffs to the port below where our ship awaits us. There are 2 elevators and they take 30 seconds to transport about 20 or so people up or down. It costs 5 cents to ride. It is only 1:30 but we are whipped from the high heat and humidity. Abrigado, Adios Salvador ;-) (Thank you and good bye). Next Port: Santos, Brazil
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