“Grandes Expedições à Amazônia Brasileira”, written by environmentalist and educator João Meirelles Filho and recently published by Editora Metalivros, is a little gem for those interested in the history of the Amazon region and the very diverse agenda of men and women that explored the region during the last century. The author, that works for Instituto Peabiru, a non profit based in Belém, follows the steps of religious missionaries, Army officers in charge of surveilling the country’s borders, scientists looking for new species and artists in search of inspiration. Among his characters, Silvino Santos, the Amazon first filmmaker, Percy Fawcett, the British explorer that disappeared in the mid-twenties looking for a mythical city in the region, the Cousteau family, sculptor Frans Krajcberg and Botanical painter Margaret Mee.
This is, in fact, a sequel – two years ago Meirelles published a similar book covering 42 expeditions to the Amazon that happened between 1500 and 1930, including those led by writer Euclides da Cunha and naturalists Karl Friedrich von Martius and Johann Baptiste von Spix.
Check some of the amazing images included in the new publication:
The New York Times published a couple of years ago The Other Brazil: Minas Gerais. The daily calls the state, the second more populated in the country, “rural heartland”. The author, Seth Kugel, writes:
I think too many foreign travelers miss: the Brazil that lies beyond the Christ on the hill in Rio, the eco-lodges of the Amazon and the model-flecked beaches of Florianópolis. Instead of a cross on a hill, Minas has colonial towns loaded with Baroque-style churches. Instead of vast rain forests, Minas has gorgeous mountains and countless waterfalls. And instead of beaches, it’s the home of a country cooking style famed across this nation of more than 190 million.
hiking at Ibitipoca State Park, famous for its quartzite caves, natural pools, waterfalls, special rock formations, great views and typical fauna and flora.
Are you going to drive on Brazilian roads? Need a map? Sure, you could certainly use Google Maps, but there are other map options easier to print and full of information essential for the travelers. They indicate, for instance, where you will find unpaved roads, tollbooths, National Parks or Native Reservations etc.
Your first option would be to download state maps in zip format found on the website of the DNIT, the federal department of transportation infrastructure. Full of details, they are a great resource.
Anthony Bourdain, host of one of the coolest food shows on TV, offers us a great opportunity to discover the Amazonian culinary, its exotic fish and fruits, memorable dishes and bizarre tastes. In a recent visit to the region, “the last great undiscovered culinary frontier” – to quote the king of avant-guarde cuisine, Ferran Adriá – he reported tasting sessions of tacacá, jambu, filhote fish and other delicacies you find basically nowhere else. Enjoy this foodie trip with the Travel Channel. The program, originally aired in April in the US, can be watched on Youtube (sorry for the less than great film quality):
If you are planning to visit the country, check these free, downloadable guides that can help you select the destinations that you can’t miss.
1- The Brazilian Embassy in London just released a good booklet with the basics about tourism in Brazil and the main destinations. It goes a little beyond the obvious.
2 – The 2009 Rio Michelin Travel Guide is fully accessible through Google Books.
3 – The Ministry of Tourism published a mini-guide that targets the foreign tourism industry but can be quite useful to the average tourist planning a trip to the country. It lists destinations according to their particular interest (culture, ecoturism, sun and beach, sports, or business and events) and indicates the main airports and roads.
4 – The city of São Paulo published two options online. First,a trilingual guide with a series of maps of different regions, accompanied by a list of restaurants, shops and attractions. Second, a bilingual brochure for LGBT tourists with both regular tourism information and tips concerning specifically gays, lesbians and transgenders. It also has a companion website with updated info.
Almost all Brazilian cities were constructed around a central square which generally includes the main church or cathedral, gardens, cement benches, a fountain and, in many cases, also the city hall and a prison. Frequently, there is also a bandstand that may host musical shows or political speeches. Check some of these cool examples of bandstands – coretos in Portuguese – and feel the nostalgia.
Jimmy Hoffa, the trade union leader that mysteriously disappeared in the mid-seventies, was born in Brazil – which has less than 8,000 inhabitants, 97% White. Brazil is ruled by Emperor Brad Gates, despite his name, a Democrat. Local families are quite rich, have a median income of $37,569, thanks to a bunch of small mechanical industries.
This is not a parallel universe – Hoffa was really born in Brazil, a tiny town in the state of Indiana, in the American Midwest. In the 1840s, the owners of the farm that originated the city decided to adopt the name of a country that was frequently mentioned by local newspapers (God knows why).
One of the few things in Brazil, Indiana that might remind you of the South American country is Chafariz dos Contos, a fountain donated by the Brazilian government as a token of friendship in 1956. It is a replica of a baroque fountain of same name, built in Ouro Preto in 1745.
Brazil has at least 3,000 caves officially identified – and some of them are absolutely phenomenal. You will find here a selection of images found at Flickr. You should also visit Fotografia magazine’s website to check 20 years of underground photos by Alexandre Lobo.
In case you are wondering, the best source online of information about these geological formations is the Sociedade Brasileira de Espeleologia website (unfortunately, most of it only in Portuguese).