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Published: January 22nd 2016
Monday January 18th, 2016. Recife & Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil
D went for breakfast while M completed the blogs hoping to get the opportunity to post today and to check emails and talk to her family (alas this was not to be!). We met Pam and Stewart and then boarded the free (but mandatory) shuttle bus to the cruise terminal. Here we were herded up to the top floor where there were a lot of official guides dressed in yellow tunics. There was also a Casa Cambio (Bureau de Change). We changed some money and then after talking to the yellow tunic attired guides' boss, joined a tour of Olinda and Recife. Our guide was called Francesca. There were about a dozen of us on the tour. The trip was a 4 hour tour of Olinda and Recife for 60 Reias which is about 11 quid.
Recife is the capital of Pernambuco and is one of the largest cities on the north-east coast of Brazil. It is on the Atlantic coast. The city was founded by Dutch colonizers. The climate here is tropcal with two main seasons - the dry season from September to March and
the rainy season from April to August. The city is only two metres above sea level and in some parts even below. It is distributed across rivers, canals and islands in a boggy delta system.
We were herded round to the minibus. It was just starting to rain and the sky was very grey - so we were quite glad that we had opted for the tour rather than go it alone in a cab. The guide book had told us that Salvador was the most dangerous city in Brazil - except for Recife - so that was another motive for playing it safe!!
We set off in the direction of Olinda but stopped briefly outside the Fort de Brum. Francesca explained that the fort was built by the Dutch but had been expanded and altered later by the Portugese. We didn't go inside. In 1534 the Portugese settled in the coastal area to the north of Recife. To guarantee possession of the new lands, the Portugese king divided Brazil into several strips and these were known as captaincies. He then donated each one to rich and influential Portugese entrepeneurs. Whoever had a particular
captiancy would be expected to develop the colony with their own resources on behalf of the king. The Captaincy of Pernambuco was assigned to Duarte Coelho Pereira who founded the villages of Igaracu and Olinda in 1534. The captaincy propspered and went on to producing sugar cane. Sugar cane production meant that in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Pernambuco State was the richest in Brazil. Recife itself wasn't founded until the Dutch invasion in 1637. Prince Maurice of Nassau conducted an urbanisation plan, defined a layout for the streets, built bridges and the fort. The Dutch were expelled in 1654 but Recife kept growing due to the port - Recife was then becoming a major trading centre.
We crossed one of the many bridges in Recife which is built on three main islands. We continued onwards towards Olinda which is part of Grand Recife. Grand Recife is used to describe the Metropolitan Region of Recife. It is the 5th largest urgan agglomeration in Brazil and the largest in the North East.
We arrived in Orlinda and went directly up the hill to the Monastery of Sao Francisco. We paid our two Reias
each entrance fee and went inside. The monastery was begun in 1585 and was the first Franciscan establishment in Brazil. the complex is formed by the Our Lady of the Snow Church, the Saint Roque Chapel (the oldest one of the Secular Third Order in the country), the patio (made of Portugese wall tiles with various scenes) and the sacristy. In the church in the sacristy and the chapel there was amazing wood carvings on the ceiling, with boxes containing paintings from the XVIII century. Its main monastery chapel is part of the primitive church that existed before the big fire caused by the Dutch in 1630. The present church has some architectural elements that are rarely used in this region; the keystone and the arcades, which would normally only appear in churches with 3 aisles. In front of the monastery there is a large cross made of stones taken from the reefs. In 1831, the first public library in the state of Pernambuco was launched here. In February 2006, when the building site of the project for the restoration of the plaza and the large cross was being installed, traces of the old Franciscan ground were found: fragments of
carved stone. After some excavation done in the area they confirmed their suspicions about the existence of archeological findings.
Back in the minibus, we continued up the hill to a tourist tat shop owned by a mate of Francesca's. M got the mandatory FM. Then we all walked up the hill to the Cathedral which is called Igreja de Se, located on the square of the same name. It had a rather bland inside but there was a great room at the back with large wooden sculptures and a fab patio with great views over Olinda and to Recife City beyond. Once back in the minibus we made our way down an incredibly steep street passing old pastel coloured stucco buildings with their red-tiled roofs, carved doors and narrow alleys. This pictursque area is set around a tree covered (very steep) hill 6 km north of Recife.
Next was ANOTHER church and monastery - the Monastery of Sao Bento. This one, according to Francesca is the richest in the area. Construction started early XVI century and it took nearly 200 years to complete. It is the second Benedictine monastery in Brazil. It has a
unique front with a simple entrance and an eye window in the middle of the choir windows. It also has a bell tower covered by a dome. There is only one aisle and the ceiling is decorated with flowers. The main altar is Baroque style wiht Neoclassic and Rococo influence and is of carved wood covered in gold leaf. In the main throne of the alter there is an image of the patriarch Saint Benedict The sacristy is one of the richest in Olinda with elaborated golden carvings, crystal mirrors and paintings depicting the life of St Benedict. The choir has the back to the main chapel to allow the slaves to worship from outside the church. This concluded our tour of Olinda and we set off for downtown Recife.
We parked just outside of Republic Square which is surrounded by important buildings. The square itself was once a Botanical Garden and has many interesting flora including a large Baobab tree planted in 1986. There were also many statues in the gardens. Praca Republica is surrounded on 3 sides by the Palacio Governo (main government building for the province of Pernambuco), the Palace of Justice (Law Courts)
and the Teatro Santa Isabel (St Isabel Theatre). All of these buildings were magnificent and built in the colonial style.
We were given a few minutes to wander around and take photos before being whisked off to the Casa da Cultura, which in the 19th century was a prison. Today it is home to artisan's shops located in the former cells. M and Stewart didn't get a chance to have much of a look as they were on a mission to get some local lolly from an ATM (ship and port rates were a rip off). It took the whole half hour to find a Banco de Brazil which would take our English cards. It was only later that we found out the HSBC and the Brazilian Bank are the only organisations (or were when our guide was printed) that would take foreign Visa cards).
Now flush we returned to the mini bus and were taken to the Praia de Boa Viagem beach. The weather was still overcast and the red flags were flying (which the locals were completely ignoring). We had a beer and took some photos before being returned to the cruise
terminal. There was no evidence of any internet access being available anywhere (not even a Mc D's). M and Stewart gave up on it and paid the ridiculous ship's prices. M tried to Skype and Facetime her mother - no answer. Tried on the mobile but was cut off twice so gave up.
After dinner we went to see Steve Terry again - back to the bad jokes, but the singing was good. We went to the Soul and Motown themed disco but didn't stay long.
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