The Marvelous City II

06Mar06

Originally written on March 6, 2006

Ola!!!

Here is the second and most likely last email I’m writing from Brazil. Once I read that Brazilians thought that God was one of them. Cariocas went even further by saying that God was ONE of THEM, but I think that if God were Carioca, we would all be hedonists. The reason for such a statement is nothing else but the largest party in the world – the Carnival!!!

Mangueira Escola de Samba, Carnival 2006

The festival starts on Friday with the ceremony in which the mayor of Rio passes the city keys and full power to King Moro for four days. This symbolically initiates the beginning of the festivities. The major events occur on Sunday and Monday evening when 14 samba schools, 7 presenting each night, compete in their dance, costume and float design, and song lyrics amongst other things. We couldn’t get the tickets for those events, but we saw the Parade of Champions on Saturday night when the top 6 schools preformed all over again with the Champion presenting at the end.

Carnival 2006, Rio de Janeiro

The Parade was the highlight of the trip, and it would have been worth it flying into the city just for one night to see the show. It was exciting to be there and see the show evolving in front of my eyes. Each samba school consisted of around 5000 participants and though their song, costumes and floats they were telling a specific, quite often allegoric, story. The beginning of each samba school procession was indicated with fireworks. The girls looked gorgeous, the guys looked gorgeous, everyone sang, clapped and danced!

Carnival 2006, Rio de Janeiro

From the beginning of the show at 8pm till the end of it the next morning at 5.30am, I had goose bumps entire time. At first D.P. didn’t believe me until I showed him how my hair on arms raised each time the bateria (samba band) of about 500 percussion players passed by. It was one of the greatest feelings. I didn’t feel a bit tired by 5am. How could one when there is so much energy and enthusiasm in the crowd inside Sambodromo where the event was held? Of course, I had to be seated in front of anelderly lady who got annoyed each time I started dancing around. She couldn’t take it anymore so she left. I didn’t feel sorry at all because the Carnival is not the time to relax, and I wasn’t ready to slow down.

Carnival 2006, Rio de Janeiro

Around 6am we made our way to the flat, had dinner/breakfast on the way back, and before getting into the bed, I had a craving for cold beer. So I drink it before going to sleep. I know, I know … it’s an unusual choice of a beverage before going to bed.

Aside from the parade, the carnival feeling can be felt throughout the city. Each neighbourhood organizes small processions and parties. One of the greatest ones were organized in Ipanema, the chic and upscale section of Rio. We went to both of them (last Sat and Tues), and it was so much fun.

Banda de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Mind you, during the second band procession there was so many people that at the end of it, I was overwhelmed by it. There were people everywhere drinking, singing, dancing … At one point I couldn’t take it anymore.
Everywhere I turned around there were sticky, sweaty bodies pushing around. Many streets smelled on alcohol and urine. Guys would piss wherever they could, and I literally mean wherever.

The clubs obviously hiked up there admission fees although many didn’t offer any special events for the carnival. They just wanted to take as much money from tourists as possible. We checked out a couple of them, but decided to save money for a day trip to the tropical islands in the Angra dos Reis region and Ilha Grande.

Angra dos Reis, Brazil

Atlantic Ocean around Rio can be very dangerous, and the waves are sometimes so strong that they tumble one in water. It’s quite possible one could dislocate his shoulder (I’m speaking of this from experience although nothing has happened to me). However, once we went to the islands about 200 km from Rio, the story was different. It looked like a piece of paradise – shallow turquoise water, white fine sand, and palm trees all around. Some of the islands that we went to, where so small that they could accommodated only about 100 people. The highlight of the trip was snorkeling and swimming in the famous Blue Lagoon.

The Entrance into Blue Lagoon, Angra dos Reis

Shortly, I have to mentioned the insanity with which bus drivers drive in Rio. It often feels that they drive sacks of potatoes instead of people. It’s quite ironic though. Buses are always in rush, while the metro, which is exceptionally clean and spacious, has signs all over that one shouldn’t rush because there is always another train coming.Tonight is my last night in Rio. We’ve done some sightseeing today (eg. Maracana football stadium) because the sky was cloudy, and it rained a bit.

Although this vacation was bitter sweet at certain times because of some private issues, I’ll always cherish it in my heart. Thanks to A.R. for sending me list of club and party suggestions all the way from the UK, but above all thanks to D.P. for showing me around, and to his friends for helping me understand the Brazilian culture.

Escadaria Selaron (Selaron’s Staircase Tribute to Rio de Janeiro)

All I could say at the end is that the city hasn’t been named marvelous because of its location, nature and climate. It’s the people itself that make it marvelous. They make it the way Rio de Janeiro is.

I don’t know where my adventurous spirit will take me next, but that’s not going to be any time soon. It might be Playa de Carmen (hola JP.G.) or safari in Africa for Christmas (if my invitation is still valid, I.M.), but whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

I hope you are well and I’ll see many of you soon! Unfortunately, it’s time for me to wake up from the dream and get back into reality.

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