Petropolis - Brazil

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January 8th 2015
Published: January 8th 2015
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An “Imperial City”, which motto is “always seeking higher things”. That is Petropolis, a city about 1 hour distance from Rio and easily reached by bus. And the contrast between Rio and Petropolis is just chalk and cheese. Petropolis is a city that is calm, well design where one thinks that is in a traditional German town. The buildings are just amazing and so well preserved that you think that they were built just a few years ago. Walking through the town was just like a time warp………

So just for you to understand a bit of this history of Brazil here a bit of a background…

The Royal Portuguese family came to live in Brazil in 1808 running away from Napoleon Bonaparte and the headquarters of the Portuguese Empire was transferred to Rio de Janeiro. The son of John VI of Portugal, Pedro I, founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil built a summer palace to live with his wife, Maria Leopoldina, archduchess of Austria, Queen consort of Portugal and Empress of Brazil.

Situated in the mountain range of Rio de Janeiro State, Petropolis dates back the 18th century, when it was an alternative route between the States of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, in the Southeast Region. Pedro I's interest for Petropolis began when he travelled to the region and got amazed by the pleasant climate of that region. He got his summer residence built there, but never saw it finished, since he stepped down from the throne in 1831. The name of the city, where this summer palace is situated, honours Pedro II, Brazil's second monarch and son of Pedro I and Maria Leopoldina of Austria.

The summer palace of Brazilian Emperors and aristocrats in the 19th century now houses the Imperial Museum and is very interesting. It shows the old furniture, documents and photographs of Pedro I and his son, Petro II and their families. There is not much what I can write about this day visit, just that it was amazing to walk through the town and visit the different places. Just thinking how it must have been for the German settlers from the Rhineland to start a new life in this strange, but also so familiar environment, is mind boggling.

The first planned city in Brazil was not Brasilia, but Petropolis. It was set on the land Dom Pedro II had inherited. A complex urbanistic plan was designed by German engineer Julio Frederico Koeler. The German colonization was determining for the future of the new city. The settlers, from different parts of Germany, but mostly from Rhineland, built their houses and planted their vegetable gardens in the style they knew from their home country. In 1859 there were only 3,300 German inhabitants in the city, which today is home of the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing.

Pedro I and specially Leopoldina were instrumental in organizing European immigration to Brazil since 1824: first in order to populate empty areas, defending borders in South Brazil, and later in an attempt to substitute slave labour. Petropolis was the stage of several moments of Brazilian history, like the Crystal Palace, stage of slavery's abolishment at the end of the 19th century - signed by Pedro II’s daughter, Princess Isabel - as well as the cradle of brewery tradition. I went to the museum of a brewery called Bohemia, one of the first founded in the country and I can tell you it is pretty impressive. Just a shame they didn’t give you unlimited beer tasting……….

Another interesting attraction is the house of Alberto Santos Dumont (1873-1932), a Brazilian aviation pioneer who dedicated himself to aeronautical study and experimentation in Paris. Santos-Dumont designed, built and flew the first practical dirigible, demonstrating that routine, controlled flight was possible. This “conquest of the air”, in particular his winning the Dutsch de la Meurthe prize in 1901 on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower, made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early 20th century. Following his pioneering work in airships, Santos-Dumont constructed a heavier-than-air aircraft, the 14 BIS. In Brazil, Santos-Dumont is a “national hero”, credited as the father of aviation – among several other inventions he was responsible for, as the hot shower and the popularization of the wrist watch. If you ask me he was an odd ball and eccentric for his time who thought outside the square….. Just like me.

Enjoy the pictures and if you have the time and the chance to ever visit Rio, please do not forget to visit this amazing town. The food I tried there, by the way, was the best – for now – in South America, a steak with passion fruit dressing at a restaurant called Imperatriz Leopoldina.

That is it for this update. A big thank you to Carla for her journalistic input and research to make this one of the most factual updates I ever did. I could have never done it as informative without your input.

Anyway, many updates to come as I am way behind. Just too much to see and do…….. So stay tuned…….

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8th January 2015

Thanks from your readers for your efforts to blog your trip...
and the interesting history. I never knew that Portugal moved its government to Brazil.
9th January 2015

Actually... sounds amazing.
10th January 2015

History lessons
Knowing a bit of the history always enhances the trip and a better understanding of the people. As always, great following your adventure.

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