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.
Azulejos, the very typical Portuguese white and blue tilework, can still be found in several Brazilian cities, generally remnant from the colonial years. They began to arrive in the country around 1630 and were used to adorn churches, monasteries, palaces and other mansions. Check this series of images of azulejos seen in the states of Bahia, Rio, São Paulo and Maranhão.
Settled by 2,000 Swiss immigrants in the northern mountains of the state of Rio, Nova Friburgo has a vague alpine feel that attracts tourists since the 19th century, as you can see in these pictures that belonged to Dom Pedro II, an avid photo collector. They were probably taken by Henschel and Benque, two “Imperial photographers”. You can see other images of this collection at the National Library website.
And, for the record: in the beginning of this year, very heavy rains killed several people in Nova Friburgo. The city is still recovering.
Brazil is a huge and fantastic country, and the best way to discover it is by car or motorcycle. Of course, when you’re used to driving in Europe or the US, you will quickly notice a number of differences. In this post, I would like to give some practical information and pointers about driving in Brazil. In my opinion, driving in Brazil can be divided into a number of different conditions :
big cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
smaller back roads.
tracks and dirt roads.
The “rules” (I don’t mean “the law”) vary according to which situation you’re in, but one thing that almost always applies is: who has the bigger vehicle, has the upper hand. Don’t expect people to stop and give way, even if you have priority (like on a roundabout). Don’t expect people to use indicators when they turn left or right. Don’t be surprised to see cars and even trucks driving at night without lights. Big cities – traffic jams: in the big cities you will almost always end up in a traffic jam. Rio de Janeiro but especially São Paulo are notorious for the hectic traffic. The already complicated situation is often made worse by accidents, broken down vehicles or storms (flooding). there are also hundreds of motorcycles (125 – 250cc) making their way through the rows of cars, honking their horns and switching lanes, often at considerable speeds, so be very careful in traffic jams and check your mirrors before changing lanes.
The BR116 between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of the best highways in brazil. Also one of the most expensive
Major highways: These are usually in good condition and especially the toll roads are equipped with a well-functioning tow service (free of charge). In case of an accident or engine problems, you will get towed to the next gas station. One of the best highways in Brazil (also the most expensive in terms of toll) is the BR116 (the Dutra) between Rio and São Paulo. São Paulo is the state with the densest road network. a quick look at the road map of Brazil and you see this very easily. The condition of vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles…) goes from excellent to literally falling apart… I’ve seen cars with doors missing, or pieces being held together with a piece of rope. You also see lots of cars with completely bald tires. Some vehicles you see here wouldn’t last 10 minutes on the road in Europe. I don’t want to scare anyone, because a road trip in Brazil can be an extremely rewarding experience. It’s just that with the right information, you can avoid bad situations or at least avoid getting frustrated by the undisciplined or even reckless behavior of other road users. Here are five practical hints and recommendations for anyone who wants to venture out on the road in this amazing country.
1 – Road conditions and signalization
As in most countries, road conditions in Brazil can vary a great deal. As a general rule, the roads in the south and south-east regions are in much better shape than those up north. When you cross the state border between Espírito Santo and Bahia, the BR101 suddenly changes from a double two lane highway with perfect asphalt into a secondary road with potholes and no hard shoulders. No better example of the economical differences between the South-east and the North-east of Brazil. Independent from the location, heavy rains can wreak havoc, causing land slides, wash away part of the road surface or leave impassable mud holes. Holes in the road: Sometimes water can wash away the earth under the asphalt and eventually part of the pavement will cave in and a hole will appear in the road… people usually “mark” these places with a leafy tree branch. So when you see something that looks like there’s a tree growing out of the asphalt, there’s probably a deep hole in the road. Needless to say that this kind of “signalization” is very hard to spot in the dark…
One of the divine experiences of traveling along the Brazilian lands is the surprise appearance of little waterfalls along the road. You stop the car, dive into the shower, fill your bottle and go back to the car, dripping, in bliss.