Recife, Brazil

Recife is the capital of the north eastern state of Pernambuco.  Known as the Venice of Brazil for its many canals and rivers which are crossed by lovely bridges, it gains its main income as a commercial port.  It was one of the first areas in Brazil settled by the Portuguese and became prosperous due to the sugarcane industry. African slaves were imported to work in this industry from the 16th to 19th centuries and their influence is seen in the culture of the city.  The Dutch also had some influence in the 17th century when they took control of Recife and it became one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The Dutch were expelled during a conflict known as the Pernambucan Insurrection. The first Jewish community and synagogue of the Americas was founded in the city (The same was said of the one in Curacao.).  Today I took a tour of Recife and the nearby historical town of Olinda, one of Brazil’s best preserved colonial cities. It is known for its 16th and 17th century Baroque churches, monasteries and colourful colonial buildings. It’s core is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It got its name when the Portuguese official who chose it as the then capital exclaimed “Linda” which means beautiful. Our tour started in Recife and we visited Praca de la Republica (photo) with the courthouse (photo) on one side and Santa Isabel Theatre on another. We then visited the Franciscan Convent of Saint Antonio (photo of the courtyard),  and then the Casa Cultura, which used to be a jail and is now basically a handicraft centre.  Each store occupies a former cell which would have held 20 prisoners (photo).  We then set off for Olinda.  The interesting part of Olinda is set up on a steep hill and the streets are very narrow so we abandoned our buses for smaller vans.  We first stopped at the top for spectacular views of Recife (photo), a taste of coconut water and some more shopping at a handicraft place.  That, we could have done without!   However, we did have a chance to walk around and see the colourful streets for which Olinda is noted (photo.) Our last stop of the day was the Benedictine Monastery which has a spectacular interior (photo) which was lent to the Guggenheim Museum in New York at one time. Leaving town we saw more carnival decorations (photos).  We were told that the carnival music in Recife is not Samba but another style of music which combines a European and African beat. Unfortunately I could not clearly understand what it was called.  Our next stop tomorrow is Maceio. It is very hot and steamy here and I am going to Nostalgia Beach, known for its wild and undeveloped atmosphere, to try to cool down.

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