[cover photo: “Fitas do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia”, or Brazilian wish bracelets, are a fun tradition of Salvador. They are tied three times around the wearer’s wrist and a wish is made with each knot. Once the bracelet falls off on its own (mine took over a year), the wishes are said to come true.]
Brazil, where I spent the summer of 2009 studying abroad, will always hold the most special of places in my heart. Maybe it is lingering nostalgia (or saudade as the Brazilians call it) for my carefree college days or just general admiration for the laid back and fun loving attitude of Brazilians, I always speak fondly of my too-short time there. Most of my friends know that any mention of the South American country will cause me to glaze over with a dreamy, wistful expression.
I stayed with the kindest Brazilian family who spoke little English, but still patiently taught me essential Portuguese words. They allowed me to join them at the breakfast table every morning to a spread of fresh caju juice (juice made from the cashew fruit, which I learned is not only edible but quite delicious) and tropical fruits. After getting out of class every day, my classmates and I would rush home to change into our bathing suits and trek down to Porto da Barra, the local beach, to enjoy beer and watch the sunset.
For a night out, we headed to Pelourinho, or what the locals dubbed Pelô. By day, it is the charming historic center of Salvador, lined with colorful colonial architecture and paved with narrow cobbled streets. By night, Pelô hosts a bustling night life and is the best place to grab a caipirinha with your friends.
Salvador is very unique in its culture and food, different from its Southern counterparts of Rio de Janiero and São Paolo. Strong influences from both its European and African roots can be seen in the clothing, food, music, etc. The city is also the heart of Brazilian arts, with many of the top Brazilian singers and musicians such as Ivete Sangalo and Gilberto Gil living in the city.
People from Salvador definitely know how to get down and its Carnaval is considered the biggest party in the entire world. While Carnaval in Rio is famous for a huge parade of samba schools that shimmy through their Sambadrome, the city of Salvador takes to the streets for an entire week to celebrate the festival. My Brazilian mom used to scoff at Rio’s Carnaval, saying “Quando desfile acabou, Carnaval acabou”, or “When the parade ends, Carnaval ends.”
On weekends, we explored nearby islands and destinations such as Morro de São Paolo and Praia de Forte. I plan to make separate posts about these places in future. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had the saddest cry in the taxi all the way to the airport on my last day, as I left the place known as the City of Happiness behind.