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Published: February 7th 2015
Well one thing I have learned so far travelling in the south of Brazil is that my preconceived ideas about this country were absolutely wrong. Brazil is not only about Samba, football and Rio’s famous beaches; Brazil is a country that has many surprises like all these cities and towns tucked away all over the place where European cultures survive and thrive in a way I would have never thought possible. And to show me more of this Carla wanted to show me the state of Santa Catarina….. Carla really dragged me from one Germanic settlement to another. But Blumenau, and especially Pomerode, was something special. It is not every day that you are in areas so far from Germany where people speak Portuguese and German dialects. But let’s start where I finished the last update.
After driving back from Nova Petropolis, Carla and I spend a night at Carla’s mother which was fun. Carla’s mother cooked some awesome food and I was happy as a pig in mud. The next day we spent packing out stuff, as we had an 8 day trip planned with two stops, Blumenau and Florianopolis. In true backpacker style we took the overnight bus
from Porto Alegre to Blumenau. Overnight bus trips are great as there is something special riding a bus by night through a foreign country; there is just something about it. And you also save on a night’s accommodation as well. Carla, who is not used to this kind of travel, was becoming well versed in this arrangement at this and slept as soon as we entered the bus and woke up on arrival in Blumenau.
Blumenau was founded in 1850 by a dude called Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau, born in Hasselfelde, Herzogtum Braunschweig and he was a philosopher and pharmaceutical chemist. After establishing the Blumenau settlement he then moved back to Braunschweig and died in 1899. It always amazes me how these earlier settlers build a place from scratch and how hard it must have been for them to do so. Nowadays the city promotes a number of festivals like the Oktoberfest, Osterfest, Fruelingsfest and the Stammtisch, a traditional get together of local associations. And of course all these festivals involve drinking huge amount of beer. Blumenau is also well known here in Brazil for for their local industries like informatics, crystals, ceramics, textile, metallurgical, mechanical and electrical equipment.
The international known clothing label Hering, for example, has their world headquarters here and they have a pretty good museum that explains the history of the company. Hell I always thought that Hering was an American company and not Brazilian. But enough of history lessons for now….
After we checked into our hostel we did what we always do, hit the road running. There was no rest for the wicked and we went straight into the town centre, equipped with tourist information and street maps. And how German was the old town center, complete with a museum about….. Beer. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not an alcoholic, but I love a good beer and Blumenau has a large number of artisan breweries, such as Einsenbahn. The beer museum was pretty good, including a tour guide that was happy to chat away with me in German. He gave us some awesome tips about the town and what to see. Winning….
Blumenau is famous in Brazil for having the second biggest Oktoberfest’s (third biggest)in the world, outside of Munich. I was told that it was massive and for that occasion they have built a mini Munich on the
outskirts of Blumenau. OK, it’s pretty much a tourist trap, but the Brazilians like it. The food was pretty good, but the Bavarian music blaring out was a bit too much for me and I had to escape….. I found out later that Blumenau had their own local radio station that plays all day German folk songs…
About an hour’s drive from Blumenau was the town of Pomerode, officially known as the most German city in Brazil. Carla explained to me that this town was founded by people from Pomerania a mix of Slavs and Germanic peoples, in the 19th
century and after researching it on the net I was rather intrigued by the place. So we hired a car, with GPS, to get us there. But what a nightmare that was. Because there is so much going on with improving the road infrastructure, and the GPS was out of date, we were just running around in circles. What supposed to be a one hour trip turned out to be a 3 hour ordeal.
When we arrived in Pomerode it was like driving into a small German town. Absolutely amazing. The kind of buildings and the whole feel
was just like in the country side of Germany. The shops had German signage and everybody chatted away in Pomeranian. Brazil is the only country in the world where is still possible to find people who still speak that dialect. We sat down to have a lunch and at the other tables they all spoke German. I was like what the fuck…… I have never experienced something like this before….. After we took a stroll through the town we the car off road to see a bit of the amazing country side that looked like places in Switzerland. And when we got a bit lost we stopped and asked some locals for directions. Carla approached them as she speaks Portuguese and English and what a surprise it was for her when she realised that the people, an old couple, didn’t speak the language at all. All what they spoke was German. Freaky
The city has some great little museums that showcase the history of the town and the local traditions like the Hochzeitskiste (roughly translated marriage box). ) On the day of a wedding when it was midnight, bouquets and other garments were taken from the couple and placed
inside this box. And at the bottom there was a hidden compartment were the bride and groom placed some items and messages. Only when one of them died the surviving partner was allowed to open that compartment and see what was in it. Nice one…..
One of the places we wanted to see was a town called Treze Tilias or "Dreizehn Linden". Treze Tilias was founded in the 1920s by unemployed people from Austria. They came after WWI encouraged by the Austrian government of the time, which looked for the place in South America that looked most similar to Austria. Included in the group of settlers was also the former minister of Agriculture of Austria, Andreas Thaler, who has now its own monument at the centre of the city. Again it is amazing on how well preserved the Tyrolean and Austrian traditions are. The symbol of the city is the Edelweiss flower and they are also known for its wood craft. One of the many festivities is the Tirolerfest that is held once every year.
Well, Carla wanted to see it pretty badly as she always wanted to go there. And the host at the hostel told us
that it is only a 4 hour drive to get there. So off we went and I can tell you that if a Brazilian tells you that it is only 4 hours, well don’t believe them. It took us 6 hours to get there, six hours back and we stayed a staggering 30 minutes in the town as we had to get the car back to the hire place. All in all a trip that can be described as a little bit of a disaster and the only saving grace was the beautiful landscape of the countryside. But shit happens as we say in Germany.
After spending 4 nights in Blumenau we took a bus to our next location, Florianopolis, the capital of Santa Catarina State. The bus trip wasn’t very long, only a short 6 hours. Now Florianopolis is like the Gold Coast in Australia or the beaches in Florida in the USA. It is a real tourist place with wonderful beaches and comes with all the traps that places like this come with; hordes of people, overpriced restaurants and taxi drivers that think fleecing you is OK. And nothing pissed me more off than being ripped off.
One of the taxi drivers we used took us for the longest way around when in reality the place was just a couple of blocks away….. Damn.
But we had a good time in Florianopolis and pretty well just visited the beaches and relaxed. It was a welcoming activity after all the rushing and going from place to place in the weeks before. The beaches were absolutely stunning. Florianopolis itself is an island and just a few neighbourhoods are at the mainland. Now Florianopolis has over 50 beaches and each one attracts a specific cliental, like surfers, Argentinians and Uruguayans on holidays, the gay community, etc. It was pretty funny to go to the different beaches and do some people watching.
Florianopolis also has a great number of fortresses, like Praia do Forte, that were built in the 18th
century to defend the area against Spain and England. Most of the fortresses have some really nice little museums that are rather interesting.
The moto of Florianopolis is “Island of Magic” and refers to a large number of myths in the area involving ghosts, sorcerers and werewolves. Also witches play an important role and it is said that
this goes back to the colonial times when Azorean women came to Florianopolis after being banished from Europe. The centre of Florianopolis is worth a visit as well as it is full of amazing houses, churches, streets and monuments. For example there are houses dating back from 1834, in Lusitanian-Brazilian architectural style, and the Cruz e Souza Palace, an amazing building by a Uruguayan architect. Worth seeing…….
On the last day we visited a beach in the south of the island called Naufragados and it has a strong Azorean influence, with typical art crafts and houses in the Portuguese style, and the only way to get there was by a boat. Beautiful……. The typical food there is seafood and the area is also known for being the largest producer of oysters in Brazil. And since it was our last day in Florianopolis we visited a great seafood restaurant that was famous for its oysters….. A great feast we had……
So after 3 days in this little piece of paradise it was time to go back to Porto Alegre. Carla had to catch a flight back to Brasilia because she had things to do. And I wanted to continue
my trip and organised an overnight bus trip to Montevideo in Uruguay. Only a 12 hour trip, but let this be told in my next update.
Hope you enjoyed the update and all is well in your world. Nearly up to date with everything so I am happy. Take care and if you are planning a trip this year, consider the south of Brazil. It is a great place, full of history and great people. You will love it………
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