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Published: December 30th 2014
Rio de Janeiro, known for Samba, the Rio Carnival, Copacabana beach and of course the infamous slums, also known as Favelas… And what a place it is. A city with over 12 million people, chaotic in most parts, touristic in others but absolutely charming and worth the days I have spent there……. But let’s start at the beginning…..
After flying from Brasilia to Rio I had my first, and so far only, run in with the law. I am normally a pretty environmentally minded person, but since I am in South America it is pretty hard to find a ashtray or any other devise to put in your smoked cigarettes. So you normally only have the option to throw them on the streets. And I just did that at the airport only to be confronted by a Portuguese speaking guy babbling about whatever and giving me a ticket for littering. Not a word of English was spoken and while I had an idea what it was all about I had no idea exactly what was said. Carla wasn’t there at the beginning and she explained me later what it was all about. Not a sign in sight, rubbish everywhere and
they fine you for a butt. Figure that. Welcome to Rio…..
The backpacker we checked in was in a really nice location overlooking parts of the old Rio. What a sight it was during the night. The staff gave us a talk about Rio and its safety. Now we all heard about the crime in Rio and how people get robbed daily. They even have a special police force for tourist crimes. So one can get a bit paranoid and it is a strange feeling to always look over the shoulder. The most annoying part is that you do not trust anybody and the friendliness of the people is all getting a bit lost. A rather sad situation but such is life.
Having Carla travelling with me is a very good thing as she really knows the places well and I get to see everything a tourist gets to see and in addition the places the tourist don’t get to see. The downside of Carla being the efficient tour guide is that your day is pretty much fully planed and there is no downtime. So the days where spend to get from one location to the other, only
to be interrupted to eat at some fantastic places, some more famous than others, but the food always being outstanding and tasty.
Now Rio is not short of places to visit. Not only are the landscapes pretty impressive, but the museums are full of interesting information and historical stuff. And one really gets a good feeling and understanding about the history of not only Rio, but Brazil as a whole. I know my history pretty well but I learned a lot of new things about the history of the South American countries as you cannot separate them completely. You see they always fought each other for some piece of land and changed their alliances like some people change their underwear. And then there was the attempt from the Dutch, English and French to establish colonies here as well, much to the dislike of the Portuguese and Spanish…
The other amazing thing about Rio is the location of the city. It is spread over a vast area and a lot of it is hilly as. So walking around is like climbing mountains and in a way it reminded me on San Francisco, just a bit more hilly. And since
I like walking we were most of the time totally exhausted at the end of the day. But it was charming to walk through the different areas of the city. Most of the walls are covered with graffiti and there is a lot of rubbish around, but that’s just how it is.
Of course I visited the statue of Christ on top of a hill, the symbol of Rio. One has to take a cable car to the foot of the statue and then walk the rest. I was pretty happy to be able to tick that symbol, one of the seven modern wonders of the world, of my bucket list, but to be honest the experience was a bit underwhelming. The hordes of people that where at the statue was just, to be real honest here, bullshit. There was hardly any room to move and one felt like a sardine in a can. Not my style…..
One of the lucky breaks we had was visiting the Freemason HQ in the middle of Rio. One cannot enter these places without permission and connections. The place was pretty impressive and housed over 50 different lodges. But what was most
impressive was the historical events that happened at that place like the signing of the Brazilian independence of Portugal, the proclamation of the Brazilian republic and the end of slavery in Brazil. That shows you how much influence Freemasonry has in this part of the world.
Carla has a good friend in Rio so one night we were invited out to a popular night spot where a lot of the locals go. What an experience. I can tell you that these Brazilians know how to party. The interesting thing was that they don’t just sit in restaurants and bars and get tanked; no they just spill on the street, close it for traffic and party under the stars. Kind of cool and much better that sitting in a bar. And the beers are not much more expensive than in a normal street place so one doesn't get ripped off like in other cities when you go to popular places.
Now Rio is famous for its beaches and several time we visited them. And what great beaches they have. I know that the Australians are proud of their beaches but to be honest they are nothing on what Rio
has to offer. Not only are they several kilometers long but they are wide as….. The sunset we experienced one night was without doubt one of the nicest I have seen in my life and are not to be missed.
Now let’s talk about my experience in the slums, also known as the Favelas. They are pretty famous around the world for their violence and that even the cops don’t enter them unless utterly necessary. The Favelas are built without any regulations and permissions on the hills around the city and everybody warns you to get into them by your own. The Brazilian government tried to clean them up before the world cup and succeeded to a point, but they are still run by different gangs that like to show the other gangs who is the boss in town. So shootings and violence is a common event in these places.
I wanted to go to a Favela on my own as I think that if one is careful it can be done. And I have been in my travels in some very dangerous places and never ever had anything happened to me. But Carla screamed and kicked like
a mule on the way to the slaughter house and threatened to leave me if I do this so I caved in and went on an organised Favela tour. What a way to see the place, paying money to a company that pays money to criminals so they leave us alone and don’t harm us. It was like going to a human zoo seeing people living in misery and in conditions that are just awful. During the “tour” it started to rain and we literally had to walk through human waste that was washed down the alley ways….. Having said that it was interesting on how people live and what they have to do to survive. Makes you realise on just how good we have it and that we should appreciate the things we have a bit more and don’t take them for granted.
So that was my adventures in Rio. It maybe doesn’t sound like an adventure but it was due to the fact that Rio is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and changes the whole care free experience of traveling. As I mentioned before, it is not nice to always look over ones
shoulder and distrust people. But I have to say that it was worth it and I can only recommend going to Rio.
That’s it. I will soon update the blog with a story about a trip to Petropolis. It was only a one day trip, but it is worth a story on its own. So I hope you enjoyed this blog update and please leave a comment.
Stay save wherever you are and also remember to appreciate the things you have; there are a lot of people out there that have far less than you………. Until next time……
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