Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Known as Salvador, this city of some 3 Million people is one of the oldest in Brazil and was at one time the capital city.  It is the third largest city in Brazil after Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.  It is also the city with the largest population of African descent as 70% of the people can claim African origins.  This is reflected in the culture of the city and candomble, a mystic blend of African ritual and animist belief, also known as voodoo, is found here. Its Carnival is the largest street party on the planet according to the Guinness Book of World Records.    Most of the city is very modern as can be seen from the harbour when sailing in to the port, though this contrasts with some of the old fortresses and colonial buildings which can also be seen (4 photos).  I took a walking tour of the old town up on the hill above the harbour, known as Pelourinho, which has been preserved and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the Municipal square (photo) there is a lovely view of the harbour and the fortress which used to be a jail for  political prisoners (photo). Carnival was just ending today and they were clearing up the streets and the main squares (photo).  Many but not all of the old buildings have been renovated and house restaurants and shops selling locally produced handicrafts (2 photos).  During our walk around the area, we visited the 17th c. Jesuit Basilica Cathedral (photo) and the Church of St. Francis, completed in 1723 with its beautiful 18th c. baroque interior (2 photos). Next to it, is its sister chapel, the Church of the Third Order of St. Francis with its ornate facade (photo.) During the colonial era, Africans were not allowed to enter Salvador’s churches so they built one of their own, Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks (photo) which took them more than a century to complete.  They paid for it by selling gold dust which they washed out of their clothes after returning from working in the mines.  All of the statues of saints in the church have dark skin.  Our next stop on Monday is Fortaleza, Brazil.

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