Monday, January 23, 2012

2012, 6th - 8th & 20th - 21st January: Salvador, Brazil

2012, 6th - 8th & 20th - 21st January: Salvador, Brazil

For more photos follow this link to the set in my Flickr account:

There are not so many photos accompanying this blog entry as I was not inclined to carry my camera around Salvador too much as it has a reputation for street crime - so I thought it best to be cautious.

My time in the city was spread across two separate weekends, with my visit to Lençois in-between these two stops in Salvador. I stayed in the Barra district which is at the end of the peninsula on which the city is built. Barra (pronounced Ba-ha) is a more relaxed place to stay than (say) the Pelourinho as there is less street crime. In fact, I felt relaxed in Barra while I had heard a lot of stories of ´issues´ on certain streets in and around the Pelourinho.

It is with thanks to a friend Laura in Rio de Janeiro (that I met through my host there) that I had such a sociable time in Salvador. Laura put me in touch with some of her friends in Salvador, and Brazilians (as well as someone from the US) being such nice people they volunteered to show me around the place.

On my first weekend there I met with Túlio. I accompanied him, Kate and Tanure on their boat. We sailed from a marina in Baía Todos-os-Santos which is the large bay to the west of Salvador. We made a trip into the main bay in the direction of Salvador - giving views of the city in the distance, before heading to the shores of a small island (Ilha de Mare) where we dropped anchor. Túlio phoned a restaurant on the island who delivered (by launch) a lunch of shrimp, lobster, crab, salad and farofa to our boat (tough life isn´t it).

Kate, Tanure & Túlio on their Sailing Boat

On my second weekend in Salvador I spent time with Lisa who I met through Túlio. Lisa is from the US but has lived in Salvador for many years, so she has a great knowledge of the city. One evening we visited the Pelourinho district, which is a historic quarter (the city centre during the Portuguese colonial period). It has plenty of charm (and a bit of grit too). The name Pelourinho means whipping post  - there was one in it´s central plaza for punishment of slaves. Now the district is a hotbed of Bahian music and dance with many schools and theatres. Lisa took me to a performance called Balé Folclórico da Bahia held at a small theatre. Accompanied by live musicians at the back of the stage, the dancers performed many pieces from traditional African dances with the Gods (Orixá) - including homages to the Gods of war, rivers and lakes, death, storms, hunting and fire. A visually inspiring pieces was the fisherman´s dance (Puxada de Rede) with rising circular movement which was uplifting. The highlight of the evening for me was the Capoeira, a dance which (normally gently) mimics fighting and which was originally performed by slaves in Brazil. The form performed at the theatre was a more athletic and acrobatic version than the original more gentle and fluid Capoeira Angola, so plenty of multiple back-flips, high kicks, posturing and bravado. This is more of a showy form of Capoeira and it is certainly very entertaining with more wow factor. However, the Angola version (which we saw in a plaza later in the evening) is more ´dreamy´ and flowing - maybe a little longer-lasting if you are into nodding along to simple rhythms in a chilled stylee.

After the theatre we wondered the cobbled streets of the Pelourinho, admiring the colonial architecture. The many music and dance schools on the first floors of buildings were sending out the banging rhythms of live percussion - leading to a real cocophany of sound in the streets. We stopped at the stall selling traditional Bahian cusine - tended by a fine looking black woman in traditional dress. The food on offer was typically Bahian; including dishes made with shrimp, beans and manioc flour (acarajé is a memorable one) as well as sweet dishes made with tapioca - and typically for Brazil only a passing glance at vegetables. Around the Pelourinho there were various performances in full flow - these involved a group of really competent percussionists playing carnival-esque banging rhythms with a vocalist on the mic.

Lisa & Tim with Bahian Food Street Vendor in the Pelourinho

 Banging Bahian Rhythms in the Pelourinho

The next day I joined Lisa and two of her friends (Tom and Paulo) for lunch which included more Bahian food such as farofa (made with manioc flour) and moqueca (a fish stew with coconut milk). In the evening Lisa took me to a jazz performance at the Modern Art Museum which is by the sea - a pleasant spot in the setting sun with some really competent musicians playing jazz with some Bahian percussion fused-in at times.

My enjoyment of Salvador is largely due to my kind hosts - so thanks go out to them.

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