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Published: February 25th 2016
Sunday 14th February, 2016. Salvador da Bahia, Bahia, Brazil
Salvador da Bahia is the largest city on the north-eastern coast of Brazil with a population of about 3 million. It is the capital of the state of Bahia, located on a small peninsula that separates All Saints Bay from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The bay forms a natural harbour. All Saints Bay is the largest bay in Brazil. It was first encountered by the Portuguese, in 1501 after the arrival of Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet in Porto Seguro. Later, Gaspar de Lemos arrived at the bay, and it was named by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci in 1502. In 1549 a fleet of Portuguese settlers established the town of Salvador. The settlers were headed by the first Governor-General of Brazil, named Thomé de Souza. Salvador was built on a high cliff overlooking All Saints Bay and was the first colonial capital of colonial Brazil. It grew quickly to become the main sea port and centre for the sugar industry and the slave trade in Brazil.
It was Brazil's first capital and remained so until 1763, when it was succeeded by Rio de Janeiro. Over
the next 150 years the city went into decline but by 1948 the population exploded and it became, what was then, Brazil's largest city. Salvador is a major export port and is located in the Recôncavo Baiano which is a rich agricultural and industrial region in Bahia. The city is noted for its cuisine, music and architecture.
We didn't rush to disembark. When we did we strolled along the seafront past the ferry terminal to the Mercado Modelo which is in Praca Cayru. The market is in what was the original Customs House. It was converted into a market when the building was partly destroyed in 1986. There was live dancing going on as we entered. We wandered around the building which is on two levels. M purchased a FM.
We exited the market and made our way to the elevator. Salvador is a city of two parts - the High City (Cidade Alta) and the Low City/Commercial City (Comércio). These are linked by an elevator called the Lacerda. This beautifully restored art deco building contains 4 elevators that travel 72 metres (236 feet) in 30 seconds. The Jesuits installed the first manual rope-and-pulley
elevator around 1610. They were used to transport goods and passengers from the port to the settlement above. The electiric system was put in place in 1928. We paid our 15 cents each and took one of the two elevators that were open to the high city which is where the historic centre is located. On exiting the elevator we found the splendid Palacio do Rio Branco which dates from the 16th century. In front of it was the Memorial to the Governors. We walked to the edge and took a photo of the fantastic view across All Saints Bay and down to the low city. We turned left and walked past some market stalls. Then M spotted a lady with a map! She asked where the lady got it and she told us from her hotel. She let us have a look though so we clocked where the tourist office was and made off in that direction.
We came to the Praca Municipal which is the main square. It is here that the Cathedral Basilica is located. This dates from the 18th century. This stands next to the Antiga Faculdade de Medicina (the Old Faculty of
Medecine) which dates from the 19th century. We walked diagonally across the square to the tourist office where we secured a map. Now we were in business! We crossed the square back towards the Cathedral and turned right with the Afro-Brazilian Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnicity on our left and the Church of St Pedro of the Clergy on the right. This church dates from the 19th century. We found ourselves travelling down hill towards Reggae Square. We could hear fantastic music coming from a stunning blue building. This turned out to be the Church of Our Lady of Rosário dos Pretos. We went inside and sat and listened to the rocky/reggae/religious music for a few minutes. We walked across Reggae Square and continued up the street where we found a local bar where we had a beer. D thought the area looked a bit dodgy so when we had finished our drinks we turned back to Reggae Square and then branched off up a different street to the one we had originally come down.
This turned out to be a great move as it was here we found the Bahia Cultural Centre. This
was a fantastic series of free museums - all located in an amazing building over 4 levels. There were thousands of exhibits of masks, musical instruments, religious items, art and more. We spent a long time in here. The museum celebrates the cultural mix of the state, and the origins of the people that live there. From the museum we could see a huge imposing building. M asked what it was and it turns out it is a monastery. However it is now completely derelict.
We continued up the same street to the Church of St Francis and the Convent of Salvador. The Convent and Church are very important colonial monuments in Brazil. The friars of he Franciscan Order arrived in Salvador in 1587 and built a convent and church. These were destroyed during the Dutch invasions of Bahia in the early 17th century. The current church was built between 1708 and 1723. We didn't go inside but understand that it is also known as the "Golden Church" because the interior is covered in gold leaf. In front of the church is the Cross of St Francis.
We walked back across the Main Square
and back to the elevator and returned to the ship for lunch. After lunch we hired a taxi and drove out towards the Monte Serrat area of the city, passing the impressive Church of St Joaquim on the way. Our driver (who spoke French) then stopped at the Basilica do Senhor do Bonfirm so that we could take some pictures. The fence outside was covered in brightly coloured ribbons. D asked in French what these "strings" were (didn't know the word for ribbon!) and our driver told us that they were there for some kind of Catholic ritual.
We continued on to a fort and lighthouse in Monte Serrat. Our driver parked the taxi and we went off to explore. We took some photos of the Our Lady of Monte Serrat fort, some cannons and over to the lighthouse and convent beyond. The beach was absolutely packed with locals enjoying the weekend sunshine. We rejoined the taxi and he drove us back through the suburb of Monte Serrat and along the main highway past the modern Liberdade Shopping Centre which we could see from the road.
Back on board we went for dinner (without
Pam who had gone to watch a movie) and then later to the cabaret which was called "All you need is Love" where the show team vocalists performed some well known love songs to celebrate Valentines Day.
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