Brasilia / Brazil

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December 17th 2014
Published: December 17th 2014
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Talk about a relaxing and lazy time I had in Brasilia. After nearly 2 ½ month of nothing but traveling, trekking, climbing mountains and exploring Antarctica I had 3 weeks of doing not much at all. The backpack wasn’t packed and slept around for all this time and life was pretty normal for a change. And one needs that after a full-on travel schedule….. But let’s start from where I finished off on the last blog entry.

So after Antarctica I took the plane to Brasilia to escape the cold for a while. After all that time in cold areas I was more than ready to get into some warmer climate. What also helped was that I had an invite from Carla, who I knew for over a year via Facebook, and she was eager to show me her town. For months we were communicating and she was sending me all the tips and tricks on what to see in Brazil and the surrounding areas. She also knew that I was German and since she had some German heritage herself she send me all the information about German immigration to Brazil. And not only the one after 1945…..

So when l arrived at 2.45 in the morning on Friday the 20th of November Carla picked me up from the airport. Pretty nice of her considering the time. Since nothing was open Carla insisted on a little Brasilia sightseeing tour by night. Not that I minded as I wasn’t really tiered. It became soon very clear that Brasilia is not your typical city having been constructed in the 1960’s and 70’s as the capital of Brazil. But more to that later. After arrving in her apartment, and what a nice place it was, we had a long breakfast, and I can tell you that Carla must have bought a whole German supermarket and stuffed it into her fridge, including my favourite beer. First I thought it was because of me but pretty soon I became aware that Carla likes German food and this was her diet anyway. So much for feeling special.

The next few days were pretty much surreal and it took some adjusting to get used to ‘normal’ life. After staying in dorms in backpackers for such a long time where everything is shared, traveling every 3 or 4 days to a new destination, eating in café’s and being woken up by drunken backpackers at 4 am, Carla’s apartment was all too quiet for the first couple of days. And having breakfast, lunch and dinner without paying a cent wasn’t too bad either. And there was a fully functional kitchen, laundry and a bathroom that was clean. Nice.

The other odd thing I had to get used to is that Carla had a maid that came twice a week to do all the household work. Now before you come to conclusions, having a maid is nothing unusual in Brazil; most people have them. And Carla’s maid had a maid as well. Figure that one out………

The only annoying thing at the beginning was the dog Carla had; a small white poodle that was not very happy that I showed up and even dared to stay around. That little prick bit me more than once and had a great delight following me around, barking and snapping at me. More than once I felt like kicking the little shit out of the window from the 3rd floor. But we both settled in after a while and made peace; she knew I wouldn’t be chased away by her and I knew that I was in her territory. We even became friends after a couple of days; maybe it helped that I fed her some of the food at the table without Carla noticing…….

I have to say that Carla was a great host, tour guide and it became pretty clear that we liked each other a lot. During the 3 weeks I stayed in Brasilia she showed me everything there was to see in the town and the surrounding areas. From museums, monuments, markets, shopping centres to parks, botanical gardens, interesting suburbs, embassies, etc. nothing was save from my eager tour guide Carla. On top I had to eat all sorts of foods that I didn’t even know that they existed or were eaten by humans; fruits, nuts, roots, drinks, you name it and I had to try it. Most of them were pretty nice but others where just not me. But I tried everything and for most of the time I enjoyed it. The only thing I really will never ever try again is the chicken heart; Carla my dear, I rather starve to death than eat them again……

Now what makes Brasilia so interesting is the fact that it is a purposely build city. Before the 1960’s the capital of Brazil was Rio de Janeiro, but in the 19th century they have decided to move the capital into the interior of Brazil. The reason was to be not so close to the coast in the fear of being invaded and also to make the capital more central in the country.

Brasilia is shaped like an airplane and originally was designed for 500 000 people. Of course all of them supposed to be public servants and politicians. Nowadays there are over 4 million people living in the metropolitan area so it is pretty crowded at times. The whole town was built in 4 years from 1956 to 1960 and its chief architects were Oscar Niemeyer, Lucio Costa and Roberto Burle Marx, all strong supporters of communism. So you can imagine on how the whole town looks like; concrete boxes, uniformity, big plazas, everything looking the same. The parks are pretty impressive, but walking around in this concrete jungle and getting the orientation right is pretty hard. Normally buildings and different landscapes are an orientation, but not in this city. Even the churches and all the city’s main attraction are built in the modernist style of the 1960’s and it was strange and at the same time fascinating to see these places.

All the government buildings were made out of concrete and the grey of them are rather depressing. Niemeyer tried to make the most bizarre shapes and forms, which sometimes works and sometimes not. And his utopia vision went out of the window with the arrival of capitalism and corruption. If you drive to the new suburbs on the outskirts of the city you can see the most amazing mansions and even castles. Just another proof that social engineering doesn’t win over human greed….

Anyway, I had a great time in Brasilia. I even managed to go to a BMW dealer and tried to have a look at 1200GS Adventure. I needed that bike fix. Guess what? Sold out and waiting period to get one is to 2015. So no test ride for me. The other thing I participated in was a Hash House Harrier run. Poor Carla didn’t know what to expect and I am afraid she still doesn’t know what fun they are as the run was a total disaster. It was held in a public park and it rained so the trial was none existent. But we had fun anyway…

So after nearly 3 weeks of sightseeing, eating, sleeping and having a great time it was time to move on. I must have impressed Carla with my oh so jolly personality as she decided to come with me. Well, I was also invited by her family to spent Christmas and New Year with her family in Porto Alegre so it made sense that she we travel together.

And that was my time in Brasilia. I am currently sitting in a fabulous backpacker in Rio de Janeiro, overlooking part of the city. I am now here since 6 days and had a more than fantastic time. But more to that in my next blog update.

So all what I can say to you who send me messages and ask how I am; I am having a great time, see some fantastic places and thanks to Carla I am getting a great insight into Brazilian culture and everyday life. It really helps to have local knowledge and it is a bonus that we are getting on like a house on fire. Winning…………

So greetings from here to all the ones that have read it up to this point. Have fun wherever you are and remember life is too short to waste it. So make the best out of it.

Additional photos below
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18th December 2014

If this is Tuesday it must be Brasilia
What a voyage of discovery. Think globally, act locally and live in the moment!!
18th December 2014
Beer bar in Brasilia

Beer bar
Now that looks interesting.
19th December 2014
Beer bar in Brasilia

They got some awesome beer bars here in Brazil. Beer from all over the world and real classy joints too. But the Brazilian beer is very good as well....
19th December 2014

So glad you are having such a great time
Hi Welf, Thanks for the update. What an interesting place - but I have to say, what HIDEOUS buildings. It always amazes me what weird minds can produce such things. I need uplifting surroundings, these are designed to bring you down. Your new friend seems really nice, I'm very happy for you both. Frohe weihnachten und ein glückliches neues jahr Nicole
20th December 2014

Thanks Nicole. Well I agree with you somehow but it was interesting. And the people are happy there anyway, don't know why but they are. Yes Carla is great and we are happy. Have a great Christmas a well and greetings to your fily. Stay in touch. Welf
22nd December 2014

brasília has a good life quality
You know Nicole, I am not at all a fan of Modernist architecture (and Brasília has the largest collection of that kind of architecture in the world) - on the contrary I am a fan of Art Noveau, Neoclassical, Barroque and Gothic architecture. But I lived in Brasília from 1978 until 1998 (from 2 to 22 years old) and again since 2013. I say its architecture don't bring people who live there down (people are happy) and that's because the city has a good quality of life for those who live in Plano Piloto (the central neighborhoods of the city) and have a car. I always had a good life (not rich, but comfortable, with access to all): my father was associated to 5 clubs with sports, windsurf, pools, places for barbecues etc (a common distraction for those who live in Brasilia), took me to zoos, parks and stuff like that when I was little. I always went to embassies in events and parties and had the chance to talk to people from all over the world, the areas are very open (a city full of green, trees and great parks), restaurants and cultural options for all tastes and the most important: life more or less as in the countryside, since it is not crowded and with a horrible traffic as other cities as São Paulo and Rio. It is a city with a high cost for living, but also with the best salaries, cause public service here is what offers the best benefits, work rights and salaries in Brazil. I was public servant for several years and don't regret myself, except for some stress and disappointments I had, which I could find, in truth, in any other work at private companies (the secret is just know how to live with others, something we can learn over the years). My father was not a politician, but a public servant, very known and respected, since in his position he needed to deal with very sensitive issues, like IMF, laws regarding banks and private companies in Brazil and so on.... He was never rich, but thanks to his work he left me, my mother and my mother in a very good and comfortable condition - something most wish deep inside. I have the basic to a good life: I can travel, I have my apartment in a good place, my car, resources to buy the books I enjoy etc. but the most important: my father passed to me the real meaning of the word honesty, honor - and this is priceless. Not every public servant is corrupt here (and this I proudly testify entirely based on the educational background I had). As for Niemeyer, Lucio Costa and Burle Marx (this one whose family was related to the real Karl Marx by the way), they don't do the kind of architecture I admire, but I must admit life in a "Communist" residential block in Brasília is pretty good, with local commerce for each block and so on. The bad there is the public transportation, cause it is a city designed to have a car. They are respected, admired abroad (Niemeyer is the responsible for the headquarters of the French Communist Party, the Russian embassy in USA, several buildings in former USSR, the UN headquarters in NY and so on...). Not my cup of tea, but they definitely were good in which they proposed themselves to project as architects and engineers. I always defined Niemayer as "The Communist and Brasília version of Albert Speer", without exaggerations.

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