Monday, June 2, 2008

Salvador, Bahia―A City Immersed in Colorful Folkloric Heritage

By Renée Ferguson, Senior Direct Mail Associate for Christian Children’s Fund

I awoke at the break of dawn and stepped out onto my balcony to catch the magnificent Bahian sunrise. The invigorating morning breeze washed over me as I listened to the waves, considering the picturesque vista.

The sunshine welcomed us to this celebrated city ― the second stop of our trip. And we enjoyed one of the tour’s few unhurried mornings.

Later we met for the bus tour of Bahia’s capital, Salvador da Bahia― Brazil’s fourth largest city.

Salvador, the heart of the country’s African/Brazilian culture, is divided into the Cidade Alta (Upper city) and the Cidade Baixa (Lower City).

The Upper City is located on a high steep cliff that drops sharply some 230 feet to the Lower City. The Lower City occupies the land along the rock-strewn harbor with its naval base, docks and warehouses. And it is the commercial and financial center of Salvador.

We stopped in the Lower City to see the Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra, Brazil’s oldest fort and lighthouse. Some young men were in front of the fort, which also houses the Maritime Museum, practicing capoeira, a Bahian form of martial arts and dance. I snapped a photograph and was very quickly approached and asked to pay several reals, Brazil’s currency, for the privilege.

We finished the bus tour as we approached the more colonial Upper City and because of its steep terrain and narrow streets, we finished with a walking tour. Walking through the streets of Pelourinho, (the old city), was like strolling through the history books. We could look down on the Mercado Modelo, a popular market in the Lower City.

Salvador, also called Bahia, is not only known for its culture and cuisine but also its architecture. And the stunning pastel-hued Baroque architecture of Pelo, as the natives refer to the Old City, is certainly no exception.

At a little after 3:00 this afternoon we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a few hours of free time before meeting at 7:00 for an evening out on the town. We boarded the bus to head back to Pelo for a brilliant dance, music and folklore show at 8:00. Arriving a little early, we had about 25 minutes for more shopping.

Some of us walked down to a little art boutique and applied our negotiation skills to purchase colorful paintings depicting Bahian life.

A few minutes later, we met at a small theater to enjoy the performance by Balé Folclórico da Bahia.

Afterwards, we walked across the cobblestone street to the restaurant for a late dinner. The menu offered traditional Bahian fish stew, grilled fish, grilled chicken or steak. We enjoyed the hearty meal and headed back to the hotel for the night.

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