Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Sunday, March 6, 2011

FRIDAY, MARCH 4 - Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

It is another beautiful, sunny day with calm seas. We are up at the usual time and have a nice breakfast. Dick goes to hear the new speaker talk on "Brazil, The future is Now." Then he goes to Trivia. His new team is a little more international and they win! Maybe we will get a bookmark yet!

We are scheduled to dock in Salvador at 1PM. It is the original capital of Brazil, founded in 1549. The capital was moved to Rio in 1763 and finally to Brasilia. This city was a port of entry for the African slaves in colonial times. It is the most African city in the world outside of Africa.

About 11:30AM we see land from our room and go out on the balcony to see the most beautiful, blue water and a nice lighthouse on a point of land. In a few minutes,
Terry comes on the blower to comment on our sail in. We go up to deck 12 to listen and take some pictures. It is a pretty picture with the clear, blue water, and ships at anchor in the large bay lined by both a colonial and modern city.
The old part of the city is easy to pick out on the top of the hill.
The old city has a UNESCO World Heritage designation due to the good condition of the old Portuguese center.

While the ship is actually docking, we grab a bite of lunch from La Veranda and head to the room to get ready for the tour. We are met at the room by a waiter delivering a tray of a dozen, chocolate-covered strawberries and a note from Franco apologizing for the mix up in Signatures the other night! Nice gesture!

We are taking the only tour offered for this port. It is the four hour, "Highlights of Salvador," and leaves at 1:50PM. We get our tour bus number, #3, and are called very quickly. We get to our bus and some, bearded, grey-haired, ponytail-wearing, a**hole and his well used looking wife have removed our reserved sign and put it in the tour guide’s seat. He flatly refuses to move and says the sign was not in the seat when he got on, despite the fact that we are told, quietly, by two different people that he did move the reserved sign. Carolyn has asked for the front seat reservation as sitting there makes it easier for her to get up and out than when sitting in the cramped seats further back. If it had been an all day trip, we would have taken it up with the ship’s staff (or "something"), but we are backing up traffic boarding the bus and we are only going to be on the bus for a short while. We will discuss the situation with the ship’s staff later.

Since this is the most black-African city in the world outside of Africa, our tour guide, whose name we never catch, is black. He is very nice, speaks his English very well and tells us that we have now arrived in the real Brazil. In order to understand the rest of the afternoon, one must know that this is Friday afternoon before CARNIVAL starts tomorrow; CARNIVAL EVE so to speak.
After a 20 minute, four mile drive through the typical, horrendous traffic on narrow streets we arrive at the park in front of Bonfim Church.
This, according to our guide, is the most popular church in town. The people here practice a mixture of Catholicism and Candomblé, a religion based on personal dialog with the orixás, a family of Africa deities closely linked to both nature and the Catholic saints.

The park in front of the church has numerous food booths as well as people selling religious stuff.
One of the local traditions is taking a piece of colored ribbon, tying three knots in it, for the three wishes you make as you tie each knot, and, either wearing it around your wrist until it deteriorates and falls off naturally or tying it to the wrought-iron fence in from of this church. The fence is, quite literally, covered with thousands of these ribbons with more being tied on every moment we watch.
The church is open air with tourists taking pictures, people quietly sitting in prayer and with a priest in one corner doing his thing with a group of 15 or so people. It is quite pretty and we add to our collection of church pictures from around the world!

Back on the bus, we spend another 20-30 minutes making our way to the Cidade Alta (Upper City) where we block traffic to get off for our walking tour of the historic, original area of the city known as Pelourinho. Pelourinho is related to the word pillory as this is the square where slaves were tied to a post and whipped for various infractions.
The streets here are paved in roughly laid cobble stones and are quite crowded. Carolyn tells Dick to focus on people pictures and she will work on the architecture. It is a people photographer’s paradise as this is, again, the eve of the start of Carnival.
After about 100 yards, we take a left turn up a very steep, roughly paved street.
 The street here is fairly wide. Beer stalls are being set up all along the left side of the street and there are stacks of orange, plastic chairs and tables waiting to be set out.
Each stall looks like the ones next to it with the exception of a sign containing, we assume, the owner’s name. All of them are selling the same beer, Nova Schin Cervejao, and it looks like the beer company has provided everything for the setup, including the tables and chairs!
On the other side of the street are, one after another, men sitting in chairs having a white, towel turban custom made/fitted to their head.
We learn that this is part of the costume for the "Sons of Gandhi," a men-only social club that parades during Carnival. Our guide says it has over 8,000 members. Their other garb will be an all white kaftan with blue and white beads and blue and silver ornaments on the turban and kaftan.

Let us say here, that despite the very crowded conditions of this walk,
we felt totally comfortable and everyone was most congenial and friendly.
Several times, Dick asked permission to take an up close photo of someone and was always granted permission with a smile.
This walk was an experience of the best kind and we will remember it long after other events from this trip have faded.
After several twists and turns,
we finally arrive at the square in front of the church and convent of Saint Frances.
The foundation stones of the convent were laid in 1686 and the foundation stones of the church were laid in 1708. The church was completed in 1723 and the decorations were largely in place by 1750. After paying our 10 real fee ($6.68), we entered through the cloister.
This large, open area is surrounded by a covered walk, the interior wall of which is covered by blue and white tiles.
These tiles are painted and make up 37 tiled mosaics inspired by the Flemish artist, Oto Van Veen as published by him in 1608 and reproduced in the book "Moral Theatre of Human Life." The convent has a copy of the original text. The tiles were installed between 1743 and 1746 and are in remarkably good condition.

The interior of the church is largely covered in gold leaf and the guides will tell you that over a ton of gold was used.
The people working on the restoration and upkeep of the church will tell you that the amount is substantially less. However much gold is present, the effective is quite beautiful.
We are to meet our group in the middle of the square at 4:10PM and still have some time so we stroll UP the square, nothing is level, and people watch and look for the perennial pin for Jack.
No pin, lots of people. Dick strikes up a broken English, broken Spanish conversation with a guy selling carnival beads. We already have some around our necks and he is impressed that we do. He assures Dick he is from Barcelona, Spain, not Portugal. Dick, rubbing the man's forehead, suggests he may be a little too dark to be pure Spanish. The guy howls with laughter. He rubs Dick’s forehead and suggest Dick is too light skinned to be Brazilian. More laughter by all parties and we move on to meet our group. What a fun interaction between races and cultures!

From here, we walk through the Municipal Square
where people in costume are already beginning to gather
and ladies in fancy white dresses are cooking local specialities at food stands. One particular bread delight is fried only in coconut oil. Imagine your cholesterol count after having a few of those.
We ride down the Elevator Lacerda to the Cidade Baixa (Lower city) and walk through food vendors selling vegetables as well as cooked to order items.
We cross the street to the Mercado Modelo, a large handicraft and general tourist stuff market.
Carolyn finds two seashell dolls dressed in the traditional white dress of the local ladies. These will become Christmas tree ornaments. She also finds four, nice, large figas, the clinched fists of freedom that are good luck charms in this culture. These must be given as gifts in order for the good luck to pass. You can’t buy one for yourself.

Back on the bus and back to the ship, we are ringing wet from the humidity. It is good to return to our floating home. We head to our favorite watering hole, the Horizon Lounge, and find many of our fellow tour members have the same celebrate a great, fun afternoon with a cocktail! We decide to order dinner into our room tonight and have our usual Caesar salad and pizza. It has been a nice day!

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