On The Other Side of The World: Brazil

What you know about this place? Football? Samba? Carnival? The statue of Christ the Redeemer? Yes, agree! But this is only a small part of what this country really represents..
Let’s see what can we find in one of the biggest cities of Brasil, Rio de Janeiro or as people call it – Cidade maravilhosa.
Portuguese people founded the city in January and called it Rio de Janeiro, which means River of January. It used to be a capital city of Brazil, but currently it is the capital of Rio de Janeiro state, the third most popular state of Brazil. It’s all covered with golden sand beaches such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, which are amazingly beautiful at any time of the day. These beaches are always full of people, swimming, playing games or just resting.  

Rio is rich with small and big museums, where you can find different type of expositions, starting from old Roman History sculptures, art galleries till modern art photography, handcraft and many other things.  You can always find what is more interesting for you as there is a big choice of where to go, but for me the best one was “National Museum of Fine Arts” (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes) which has a great collection of Brasilian artefacts, sculptures and paintings. 

Another great museum that must be visited is The National Museum of Natural History. This museum is situated on the grounds of Quinta da Boa Vista Gardens, in São Cristóvão district, in a neoclassical palace, which was the residence of Kings of Portuguese Empire and was Imperial Palace of São Cristóvão. Besides this palace, the Royal Family had a summer palace located in Petrópolis City, in the highlands or mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro State, but we will talk about this place later. Nowadays the National Museum of Natural History has a historical and scientific natural history collection, containing fossils from many parts of the world, huge dinosaur skeletons, costumes of Indians from all over the world, Egyptians mummies and coffins, equipment and weapons of early civilizations and primitive cultures, and various objects and references to native Brazilians tribe and Brazilians Indians nations.

The Rio Zoo is also located in the same Quinta da Boa Vista Park. Here you can see animals from all over the world, as well as giraffe, elephant, tigers and lions, gorillas and other type of monkeys, alligators and snakes, toucans and eagles, parrots and many other animals. This is a great place for people, who wants to feel closer to the nature. The proof of this are small marmosets, who are freely jumping from one tree to another or even coming closer to people to satisfy their curiosity.

Yes, Rio is not only the beaches, but the nature, parks, forests…
One of them is the Botanical Garden of Rio, which is a huge oasis inside the stone jungle and is full of green gardens, lakes and palm tree alleys. Whole park is full of huge trees, on which there are a lot of colorful birds, such as toucans. And the trees… not only inside the park, but all Rio is full of trees with bright colorful and strong smelling flowers.

Another wonderful place to go is Parque Lage, which is not very far from the Botanical Garden but not less beautiful. Here also you can see a lot of small and big monkeys and toucans in the nature. Garden has small lakes inside, as well as a small cave with huge stalactites. This is a very nice, green and quiet place, where you have only sound of birds singing that takes you far from the reality. You will always see a lot of people here resting on the grass.

Parque Lage is also a starting point for challenging hikes up Corcovado. This is probably the most famous place inside Rio, where every tourist wants to go. Everyone has their own intention to go there. One of them wants to see the Christ the Redeemer, the huge statue of Christ who “looks” to the great city with opened arms, like he hugs it. Another ones want to admire with the view that opens from the top of the Corcovado mountain as this is one of the highest view points in this city. And actually it is not hard to get there. You just need to choose which option you prefer. You can take a train that will take you straight to the top of this mountain. Through the train windows you can see the woods which is part of Tijuca National Park, the biggest urban forest in the world. But you can also take a van, that will drive you first to the Mirante Dona Marta (Dona Marta belvedere), another view point and a helicopter station on the way to Corcovado, and then on the top. There is always a choice of taking a taxi/yellow cab, but it is strictly forbidden to use your own cars.

As I already mentioned, the way to the Corcovado goes through the Tijuca National Park. This is a huge tropical forest in the middle of the city, with waterfalls, trails, animals and colorful butterflies. This is also a must go places where you can have a small adventurous hiking trip to the 30 meters high waterfall, which also has a small lake near it and an old bridge. There are also some other remarkable places to be inside the forest such as Vista Chinesa (Chinese view), which is a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the breathtaking view. There is also another part of the heaven a little bit far from Vista Chinesa, where one of the Emperors used to have lunch on the big stone “table”.

One of the most visited places in Rio is also Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar) and Urca mount. Highly recommended to avoid cloudy weather when going to Corcovado and Urca mounts, as once you get there you will have a wonderful views of the city. There is a cable car near the beach that will take you to the top of the hill and has 2 stops. When this dangerous engineering operation of construction was finished, people used to went up using a wooden car with less capacity of passengers than they have now for the current cars. This old wooden car is now shown on the first stage of the way to Sugar Loaf. There are also small places like museums near the entrances to the cars, where people can see which kind of equipment was used and how it used to work before. Once you are on top, you will feel like you have all the world is in front of you, the city, the ocean and the infinity…

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon) is another delightful location for Rio residents and tourists. It is one of the best known and especially dazzling landmarks of the city and includes the neighborhoods of Ipanema, Leblon and Jardim Botânico. You can see some people practicing there some water sports such as yachting, water-skiing and rowing. Every December the giant Christmas tree takes its place inside the lagoon. There are also a lot of clubs near it, where you can hear the Brazilian music as it is.

But Rio de Janeiro is not only the parks and beaches, but also a big city with residential neighborhoods. Each of them is different and has its own spirit of life. On almost every neighborhood you may see favelas where the most poor people live. These are very small houses built one on another, which gives just a roof for people to stay in. And usually it is not very safe to go inside these places.
The most popular place in Rio is the South zone, where all the famous beaches are located (Ipanema, Copacabana, Leblon).  From the Ipanema beach there is a nice view opened to the mountains called “Dois irmãos (Two brothers). Another cozy place is also the Botafogo. Here is one of the best places to admire with the sunset over the Sugar Loaf.
What about downtown, this is the financial heart of Rio and also most of the museums, cultural and historical centers of the city are located here.
There is also a place called Peninsula, which is a private district and totally separated from the city with its own security. There are also shopping mall, quiet parks and lagoon available inside this district.

One of the most visited and touristic places in Rio de Janeiro State is also Petrópolis City which also was the capital city of RJ state in the past. It is only 1h away from Rio and located on a hill full of woods. It has more soft climate and is the best place to spend summer days when it get too hot in Rio. Back to the history, it’s worth to mention that the second Brazilian emperor had a summer palace here, which is now an Imperial Museum. Part of the furniture here is brought from  the National Museum of Natural History that was the main residence of Emperors.  

Petrópolis is famous also with its cozy squares and bridges, bars and restaurants. One of the best places here for the sweets lovers is the small bar when you can taste delicious Hungarian sweets and cakes. You can also ride by horse-carriage through the squares and parks of the city and feel the medieval spirit of this place. 

In Petrópolis you can also visit the last home of Santos Dumont who designed and built an airplane and had a the first recorded and public flight on it without any external assistance. He also designed himself his small, but interesting house, where he had his own observatory on the roof. 

If you want to visit more museums, not related to the history, it’s worth to check the Wax museum of Petrópolis. It is not very big, but all the showpieces were made by the same professionals that made them for all famous museums in the world. Sometimes it was hard to identify if you see a real man or an exhibit in front of you.

The last topic that I’d like to share with you are the amazingly beautiful beaches of Brazil, that adorn the RJ state. They are 3h far away from Rio de Janeiro, in the small town called Arraial do Cabo, but if you are in Rio you must go to this places! Once you get there, you will feel like in a real paradise. This is a small quiet town with a lot of comfortable hotels and guest houses, lots of small markets and restaurants. But if you are here, you must spend your time with exploring the beauty of the nature creation, big sand dunes near the beaches and the water.. There is a special boat trip, that will take you to one of the best beaches in the world, with crystal clear water and white shiny sand beaches. You may also see some turtles in a water on the way to the beaches. These boats will pick you from the small harbor on a Praia dos Anjos (Beach of Angels) and will take you to another world called Gruta Azul (Blue Cave) and beaches near it. One of them is the Praia da Forno, where you can also reach by hiking trails. Another beach that you must see while you’re in an Arraial do Cabo is the Praia Grande (Big Beach), where I had seen the most amazing sunset in my life, with red burning sun going down on a horizon and light reflections on a water that were giving red color to it as well. This was unforgettable.

Another wonderful beach with a clean and warm water is in Buzios, but on the way to there there is one more place to be. It is a small island in Cabo Frio called Ilha do Japonês (Island of Japonese). This is a small island which is separated from the ground with a not very deep water, that you can easily pass by walk. The average depth may be a bit more than a 1 meter. The water here is also very light blue color and the beaches are full of shells.
But this is not the only place full of shells. There is one more beach not that far from Ilha do Japonês, called Praia das Conchas (Beach of Shells). This one is famous with the shiny golden sand and lots of shells there. The other side of this beach is full of big rocks and small island in the horizon.

Drive a bit more, and here you are, Armação dos Búzios! This is a nice city full of cozy villas and high priced restaurants. The best beach here is João Fernandes, where you will see a lot of people on the beaches as well as divers, as here the fauna is just adorable. You can even stay on not very deep place and see some fishes coming close. Sometimes you may also see dolphins on these beaches.

But, we need to go back to Rio. To hot, crazy city. What we can do here to feel less heat? Yes, ice-creams and juices, natural juices! Here you will find the best flavors of ice-cream, refreshing popsicles made from the most exotic fruits. Not less exotic are also natural juices here. You can have just a coconut juice or ask to prepare another fresh one for you. You won’t find such a natural one in any other place. Here the juices are not very different from creams. Nothing except the fruit! You may ask which one is the best? I will tell you. If you are a big fan of strange and not usual flavors, you must try juices made from Cupuaçu, Sugar cane and Graviola and ice-cream from Pitanga. These are the best! At least for me 🙂

And here it’s time to finish my story for now.
I’ve tried to share with you some moments from my first trip to Brazil. But this is not all that I saw. Not everything is possible to describe with words. There are a lot of places you must be in your life, a lot of things to try, to feel and to live. Don’t miss your chance and travel to Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro, the most marvelous city in the world…


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