Lessons in Brazilian Architecture – Brasilia/Perinopolis


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South America » Brazil » Distrito Federal » Brasília
October 27th 2012
Published: October 28th 2012
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Bonito to Brasilia


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Congresso Nacional
Day 375 Saturday 20th October

Woke up with filthy hangovers at 5.45 and had to somehow get our minds into gear and start packing. Had our breakfast and said farewell to the good staff at the Bonito HI before getting a taxi down to the bus terminal. Ordinarily we may have walked the ten downhill blocks to the bus but it was already hot when we left and carrying backpacks in the sun with hangovers is not fun. Got down to the terminal at 7.30 and we got underway at 8. My only major grievance with our hostel was that they were always trying to push there organised transport to other cities. We had got their minivan from Campo Grande because they said it was faster, but we ended up getting stuffed around badly and having to pay an extra 22 Reals ($11) for the annoyance. The Hostel had given us wrong information also on when the buses left so it came as a nice surprise that when we caught the public bus back it was cheaper and took almost the same time, 4 hours.

Got to Campo Grande and discovered that the 3.30 bus (Sao Luis) to Brasilia
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Igreja NS do Bonfim
was booked out and that we now had to wait till 7.00pm…..oh joy.

Other than a dentist’s drill I don’t think there is anything more annoying than having to sit around waiting for connections. Luckily the Campo Grande terminal is clean and has some eateries and seats, but Disneyland it ain’t. Did lots of reading and just staring into space and long walks around the terminal which took a whole 2 minutes. By 6.45pm we were ready to jump on the bus and get going as fast as we could to Brasilia and then onto Pirenopolis, but the bus driver had other ideas. The LP says the trip takes 16 hours but we stopped every hour either at other terminals, petrol stations or shops it was agony and each stop added another 10 to 30 minutes. The bus company we were using was “Motta” but I thought it should have been Lotta as in “lotta stops”.



Day 376 Sunday 21st October

By 16 hours we were nowhere near Brasilia and we were mind numbingly bored and getting slightly hysterical, I even tried to read but the motion sickness kicked in so I had to
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Santuario Dom Bosco Interior
stop. After 23 hours we pulled into Brasilia at 8.00pm because we had changed time zones and daylight savings had occurred while we were on the bus, (the journey was that long), possibly we had missed other events while stuck on this bus. We had missed the last bus to Pirenopolis so had to stay in Brasilia so decided to stay for two nights and see the city now rather than after Pirenopolis. We took a taxi to a hotel in the Lonely Planet knowing it would be expensive and not too good as this city does not have good budget hotels. The Econotel Hotel is basic and the reception said they only had a room for one night, damn our plans need to change again. The first priority was to get dinner and the nearest choice was an expensive food court across the road at Patio Brasil a large modern shopping mall. After a look around and one attempt at ordering food off a menu only to be told 90 percent of the menu was not available we decided against food and went back to our room to a stationary bed. Having just endured 2 days and one night
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Santuario Dom Bosco Interior with chandelier
on buses we both could feel our beds swaying as if we were still stuck on one.



Day 377 Monday 22nd October

Woke up today in the 1950’s but more about that later, after breakfast we checked with the day staff at reception if the room was available for another night and were told “yes”. This is not the first time in South America that on arrival we have been told there is only one night available and then end up staying for two or more nights, we are still not sure what the reasoning is but we knew not to make any rash plans till we double checked. We booked a City tour for 2.00pm as the hop on/off tourist bus does not run on Mondays and we want to see as much of Brasilia before we leave tomorrow. We filled in the morning by going to the shopping mall in the light of the day with clear heads and after an hour were bored and knew we would have to find a restaurant somewhere else for dinner if possible.

We were picked up at 2.00pm and were transported back to the
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Santuario Dom Bosco Exterior
1950’s, Brasilia was built in 3 years and officially became the capital in 1960. The main city is in the shape of a plane or bird with the centre body and two wings, but from a bus you can’t tell and a helicopter ride is to expensive so I will just have to believe them. Most of the buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer who is still alive at the ripe age of 105 and is a keen smoker of cigars not that I think I will take that habit up. The architecture is simple using water elements and curves, many of the buildings are smaller than you would expect for a capital.



The first stop was the JK Museum which contains the tomb of Juscelino Kubitschek, President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961 and who ordered the constructed of Brasilia. It is a well laid out museum but probably more interesting for the people of Brazil. Onto Santurario Dom Bosco which is an amazing church from the outside it looks like a concrete box supported by 80 columns of 16 metres but once inside you are surrounded by small squares of stained glass that fill
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Santuario Dom Bosco Exterior
the church with 12 shades of blue light. In the centre is a huge chandelier made of 7,400 pieces of Murano glass which weighs about 3.0 tonnes. The building reminded me of the great mosques of Istanbul where the Ottoman architect Sinan built these vast open light filled spaces and are such a contrast to the dark musty churches of the same era. Walking into the Dom Bosco church was such a breath of fresh air the church design it was truly amazing. This church is dedicated to Dom Bosco an Italian priest (saint) who dreamed of a utopian city in 1883 that inspired the building of Brasilia although it did take a few years before it eventuated in the 1950’s due to the driving force of the then president of Brazil Kubitschek.

Then it was onto the Military area to see an unusual building with a huge curved structure at the front not sure what the building was used for so you just have to look at the attached pictures. Next was the Catedral Metropolitana which was designed by Niemeyer which is ironic considering I have read that he is an atheist. It was completed in 1970
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Military Area
and is a hyperboloid structure, basically made up of 16 curved columns weighing 90 tons each. Unfortunately time has not been kind and it is now undergoing restoration for what looks like concrete cancer. Once inside it is a huge space with stained glass in between the columns and angels hanging from the ceiling. The layout inside looks like an afterthought and does not do the building justice. Maybe Niemeyer deliberately threw the church a bit of a j curve by giving them a round church, and the church just couldn’t get away from the traditional seating arrangement. With such a fabulous building to work with we sort expected a circular seating arrangement around a centre altar, but I guess old habits die hard. With a round building I guess it would make it hard to hide in the corner when the collection plate comes around.



We then travelled down the road to the government buildings to see more of Niemeyer’s work in the Congresso Nacional, the Justice, Supreme Court etc. All these buildings use a lot of concrete which when you look closely does not have the best finish but from a distance and with
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JK Memorial
the water surrounding them it is pleasant and simple. The last stop was the JK Bridge completed in 2002 and spans across Lake Paranoa and then back through the city to our hotel. The tour was a bit of a whirlwind but it gave us a good overview of the city and its architecture. The city is a lot like Canberra filled with imposing Government buildings, well laid out road networks and not very vibrant. This is of course because both cities were designed and built in the 20th century and seem to lack a real vibrancy that could also be because they are filled with politicians.



Now it time to go in search of food and as we walked at out a man from our hotel was a across the road standing near a large tree with some sweet raisin rolls and he was surrounded by tiny monkeys all getting their afternoon treat. The monkeys seemed used to him and we guess he probably has been doing it for years, it is amazing what you see when you look around. Wished we had been that lucky with finding food we walked and walked before finally
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Cathedral Metropolitana Exterior
stopping at a restaurant with a BBQ out front cooking beef and chicken skewers it was served with salad and filled the hole.





Day 378 Tuesday 23rd October

Today we are moving onto Pirenopolis a small town 3 hours from Brasilia, at the bus station we discovered that there are only 4 buses a day 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. We had missed the 10am so we had to wait till 2.30pm, damn more sitting at a terminal. The bus trip was Ok and only took 3 hours so we arrived at 5.30pm and had a short walk to our hotel which involved a bridge crossing and a dirt road then back onto a tough cobbled road. The welcome at the hotel Pousada Villa Bia was not the best with the ladies laughing at our attempt to communicate with them and not in a friendly way. The hotel is nice and the room big with a view over the garden and swimming pool but the staff are not helpful bordering on rude making no attempt to communicate. Thankfully we soon discovered that the rest of the town is friendly and
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Cathedral Metropolitana Interior
very quaint, the population is about 21,000 and is full of hippie type shops. One shop we saw was making bags from recycled material and it had some great stuff, there is also lots of clothing shops with the dresses being made here plus lots of clothes that probably comes from India.

For dinner we stopped at Seo Rosa Cachacaria which has about 300 different types of cachacas, I was boring and just had a classic Caipirinha which is made with cachaca liquor and lemon juice. The staff here are very friendly with our waiter teaching me a few words of Portuguese which I don’t think I will ever pronounce correctly. We started by sitting outside but the rain came and we had to move inside with the waiter grabbing drinks and helping all 6 of us.





Day 379 Wednesday 24th October

In was a slow start to the day as this town is very laid back and the opening hours of everything is very random during the week days as most tourists come on weekends. Scott had seen in a magazine that there is a Motorcycle Museum in town so we
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Cathedral Metropolitana Ceiling
walked that way hoping it would be open and were optimistic when we saw about 20 motorbikes roar passed. The lady running the museum was lovely and gave us a guided tour. There was a large range of early pushbikes, scooters and motorbikes including 3 Indians, one being a very rare 1935 Chief. The real odd bike in the collection was a Brazilian police bike with a VW motor in it. Who knows who dreamt that one up or why they built them, could only imagine how hot they would have been to ride and how cumbersome, and as Shelley noted, if you were to drop it you probably needed a crane to put it back on its wheels. If you are in town and like motorbikes we recommend Rodas do Tempo Museum and it only costs 5 Reals each. It is a very hot day and by 2.00pm we were getting a little tired so stopped at Deli Deli Café and had the special of the day which turned out to be one of the best meals I have had in South America.

As our hotel has a nice looking pool we decided to go for a
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Museu Nacional or the George Jetson House
swim and cool down. We got ready and as we neared the pool the lady from reception came running down shaking her head and finger at us. After a confused conversation and a sour look we assumed that we were not allowed to swim in the pool something to do with chemicals not good we think all maybe she just doesn’t like Gringos floating in her pool. Considering we choose this hotel because the pool looked nice in the photos we were both pretty angry…..damn not knowing any Portuguese swear words.



About 8.00pm we went back across the bridge to town for dinner and discovered the restaurant street was closed off, full of tables and crowded. Where did all these people come from as walking around today it was so quiet. There is a music festival in town so everyone must be here to see that maybe we will try to check out some of it tomorrow night.





Day 380 Thursday 25th October

I am not sure where everyone goes during the day but if they have cars then it is probably to one of the 73 waterfalls in the
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Palacio da Justica
area. We have no car so we are restricted to the town which is even quieter today with hardly anything opened although I did manage to buy a dress while Scott looked bored hanging around outside. We walked the whole town looking at the old colonial buildings in between the Art Deco ones, all the buildings in town are small and simple. Pirenopolis was an old Colonial town that was built and prospered due to gold being found in the area. For some reason the town sort of got a bit of a makeover in the 1930’s and there is a small sample of Art Deco architecture in some of the buildings. A lot of the homes are old colonial style but with pastel art deco colour schemes. Wouldn’t say that it is the prettiest town we have been but it does have a lot of character.

A storm came through in the afternoon so we retreated to our room. Thankfully it sort of blew over by 6 so we could go out for a drink at our favourite bar and get a bite to eat. Pirenopolis is a great little town but is very much geared for local
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Supreme Court
tourists who arrive in their cars. We didn’t hear or see another foreign tourist in town and this may be because it is simply in the middle of nowhere. The only foreign tourists who would come here would be ones who have ventured to Brasilia and there ain’t too many there.


Additional photos below
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The Peg where the pigeon roost
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Congresso Nacional from the other side
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JK Bridge
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Shelley near JK Bridge
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Palacio do Planalto (Presidential Palace)
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Monkey Business outside our hotel
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Igreja NS do Rosario Matriz


31st October 2012

LOVE THE ARCHITECTURE
Your pics convey a vibrant, modern city with a cracking name Brazillia...bring on the Olympics! Hope you are marking a map of South America of the roads you are travelling...would be quite a veinous collectable!
16th November 2012

I'm catching up!
Arrgh! That bus ride sounds like the flight home from India, without the hangover though. AWFUL! The Dom Bosco interior looks amazing. I quite like the style of all the modern looking concrete buildings too. So what was the best feed yet??? Usually we get a description. Looking good Shelly, nice and relaxed. xx

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