Strolling around Salvador di Bahia, Brazil
In Salvador di Bahia, surrounded by forests of palm trees, dunes of white sand that reach even the airport, people smile and have no stress. Women, the shubby Bahianas, wear lacy white dresses, colourful turbans and many necklaces in gaudy colours. Τhey are so dressed in the shops to attract tourists, but instead of wearing sandals, they wear white canvas shoes.
An exotic world, full of contrasts.
In their songs they sing that the city has 365 churches, one for every day. The truth is that there are 160 to 170 and I noticed that people, when they pass in front of a church, they make their cross, they do it continuously because in every corner there is a baroque church. In Pelourhino, the oldest district in the city is interesting to stroll though the area is in a decayed condition. Cars climb or descend the narrow streets that are dirty, poor and quite dangerous. At the end of an alley you arrive at the monastery of the Carmelitas.
The surprise: In the church there is a cross, made of a slave. The wood is of cedar and painted from the banana stem extract mixed with the blood of cow. The nuns paid the slave with 2,000 rubies imported from India for creating the Christ, with which he could buy his freedom. He instead mounted the rubies on the blood of the Christ.
The thrill: Brazilians love to dance and sing. Living in impoverished conditions seems not to bother them. In addition to Catholicism, they believe in another religion brought from Africa, called macumba or candoblé. In Rio de Janeiro they told me that on New Year's Eve the cariocas go to Copacabana and light candles. They put small objects in boxes and leave them to flow on the ocean in honor of the goddess of the sea.
The mystery: In Salvador it is dangerous to be out at night, one night my friend and I, who were travelling solo in Brazil, had the courage to go by taxi to the Solar do Unhao, an old salt warehouse which has become a restaurant and where you attend the Capoeira dance. When we arrived, the atmosphere seemed mysterious. A stone dark alley led to a small square where there was a small church. Darkness reigned everywhere. Some steps in front of us led us to the entrance of the warehouse.
Then something impressive: A Bahiana lady welcomed us and a maître dressed with a black suit and a bow tie led us through small stone rooms to a table next to a window that looked down to the rocks. The Capoeira dance has its roots in Africa. During the slavery years the hands of the slaves were chained and when they quarreled, they had to fight with their feet. The fight later became a dance. At the fast pace of the drums, they raise their legs with rapid movements trying to hit their opponent. Two dancers were really beaten up and had to withdraw.
After came the terror: When our dinner was over, we were going back to the hotel. When we reached the small square lit with weak yellow lights, a black man approached us, introduced himself as a taxi driver and informed us that with 250 cruzados he would take us to the hotel. My friend thought that he exaggerated with the amount, and as she said it, the lights went out in the square and we were in complete darkness.
Then a loud sound was heard and suddenly the small church was lit with a strong purple color. I was ready to collapse from the fear. The situation improved a bit when the taxi driver explained to us that this church was of historical importance and in a while poems would be recited with a musical accompaniment. This is what probably he had said, because he spoke in Portuguese, that we didn’t know.
With risk of our lives, we agreed on the price he brought in front of us his taxi. What a taxi? A crock Volkswagen with two doors. Even if we wanted to get out in case of emergency we would have to jump out of the window. Something that was impossible.
After all of the excitement we returned safely back and enjoyed the security of our beautiful hotel having a drink in the pool, surrounded by palm trees.
Good night Salvador!