Our transfer in Salvador de Bahia did not arrive so after downloading Uber we ordered one which took us from the airport through a wonderful avenue of bamboo and through the modern part of town which was rather spread out with some high rise buildings and modern metro stations.

We stayed in the lovely heritage Bahiacafe hotel in a main square in the old town owned by a Belgian. Apparently all the hotels in the area were owned by foreigners. Carneval in Salvador is quite different from Carneval in Rio with a street parade and numerous stages with music which were being dismantled the day after we arrived. There were military police on nearly every corner with large guns so we felt very safe with them all nearby. We were advised where we could walk safely and where not to venture so we followed these recommendations. There are over 20,000 police in Salvador. There is a great divide of rich and poor in the state of Bahia as in many other parts of the world but it seems more evident here with young men lying around or just walking around the different areas in the city.

Salvador is an 80% black community with strong African traditions and was the first capital of Brazil. The views of the Atlantic and the many islands was magnificent from up high in the old town. The architecture was a mixture of the more simple Portuguese style as found in Lisbon and many other French and Italian more ornately designed buildings. Many had been beautifully restored and were quite colourful and many others were in a sad state of disrepair. The old town where we stayed was the place to be seen many years ago but sadly it has deteriorated generally. The council is trying to beautify the area again as it is a main tourist hub. It is safe to stay on the main streets and in the squares but we were advised not to stray into certain areas. Everyone suggested that a taxi or Uber was the best option to get around.

The three hour walking tour was a historical one given by a middle aged woman lawyer who was half Brazilian of African descent and half Japanese. She was knowledgeable and gave us the history of Salvador and its many monuments. The old town was quite touristy with many souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. A main feature was a lift which took us down to the lower town and not far away a funicular to do the same. They both only cost AUD 7cents for a one way trip. The foreshore was not accessible as a major renovation of the grounds in front of the market was underway. In the lower town was the ‘Mercato Modelo’ which had been a food market but which was now a large souvenir market.

We were recommended to go to the new Carneval museum. We were most impressed by it. It was a modern building consisting of several areas; a reading room with views over the bay, two rooms with costumes and 18 different video presentations showing us the Carneval in Salvador from it’s origins in the European Carnevals, the different kinds of music played and the evolving Carneval music of today. A section of Salvador’s Carneval was influenced by many including Gandhi, Bob Marley and the North American Indian tribes and they had thousands of followers.

We made it up to the rooftop terrace at the ‘Casa do Amarelindo’ for sunset and enjoyed a Caipirinha and a Mojito and a cool breeze. It had been hot and humid since we arrived in Salvador. The evenings were balmy and it was very comfortable to sit outside for drinks and dinner. We tried a local dish the following night which consisted of fish in a sauce and a a very thick side dish which consisted of manioc cassava flour. It sat like a brick in our stomachs so after two tries we decided against any more. We found one cafe where we adapted our coffee order so that it was near to how we normally have it. The cafe staff were very accommodating.

After much conflicting advice about a red Salvador tourist bus similar to a hop on hop off, we decided to take it around the city and environs of Salvador. It cost us 70Reals and turned out to be a four hour trip stopping in two places. The first at a museum for “Irma Dulce” a catholic nun who was beatified for for work with the poor similar to Mother Teresa. Her image could be found on everything from keyrings to fridge magnets and bags. The second stop was at Salvadors most famous church Bonfin and its fence was covered with strips of material and which signify an offering so that wishes may be granted. We paid extra for an audio guide which only turned out to be a few English explanations given over speakers on the bus which wasn’t very successful.
We moved on to the business area of the city and then the more affluent high rise areas next to smaller favelas. The earth went from a red colour to the white sand dunes near the ocean. We followed along the beaches back to the Mercato Modelo or large souvenir market where we alighted and made our way to the second floor of the old market to see the sunset which was not great because of too much cloud on the horizon.

We had a free day on the 29th February so we wandered around the shops of Pelourinho and visited a few of the museums and some of the many churches in the area. The ‘Misericordia museum’ was an especially beautiful building which was originally a hospital and a section had very opulent rooms for it’s benefactors overlooking the ocean from all sides. We also visited the museum of ‘Jorge Amado’ a celebrated author and poet.
It was slightly cooler than the previous days and rained lightly for much of the day. We had another local fish meal.

We left at 9am on a private tour with Nelson an Afro Brazilian descended from African Benin. He spoke many languages and was a very interesting tour guide. He was a teacher of an Angolan language as well as English and was writing a book of his ancestry. We went to the outside of a famous Bloco or community centre and walked to a ‘Vodun Zo’ which was in the form of an African village with separate small buildings housing various deities pertaining to that particular ‘Vodun Zo’ There were many tortoises in the grounds as well as some chickens. ‘Condomble’is an Afro Brazilian religious tradition which was a creolization of traditional beliefs brought from West and central Africa by slaves and was started in Salvador. It absorbed elements of Roman catholisism and indigenous American traditions. Practitioners of Candomble believe in a supreme creator called “Oludumare” served by lesser deities called Orishas. These control the destiny of the practitioner and serve as a protector. It does not include the duality of good and evil and each person is required to fulfill their destiny to the fullest, whatever it might be.

We visited a lake on which several sculptures of ‘orishas’ were found and after a good coffee at Mariposa cafe we left for half hour trip to the airport in an Uber for our flight to Brasilia which only took a couple of hours. I enjoyed the mixture of architecture and cultures in Salvador and the vibrant feel to the city.

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