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krisek Salvador - A travel report by Krys
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Salvador,  Brazil - flag Brazil
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krisek's travel reports

The capital of capoeira. Salvador.

  4 votes
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Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, is a very large city. Diversified. Steeped in history. Not all perfect history. It has a remarkable historic centre and stunning beaches. It is also the black capital of Brazil. And the capital of capoeira, too.


Pelourinho's main square.
Pelourinho's main square.
Salvador, the capital of Bahia state, is a very large city. Diversified. Steeped in history. Not all perfect history. It has a remarkable historic centre and stunning beaches. It is also the black capital of Brazil. And the capital of capoeira, too.

The flight to Salvador was on time, and took almost 2 hours. A guy from CouchSurfing kindly waited for me to take me to the city and to the weekly CouchSurfing meeting. He brought a couple of ladies with him, whom he was taking care of that day, I think. It was a very good job that he did. When I arrived at the old town Salvador, called Pelourinho, it was crystal clear that my hotel was not in a sae area. The ladies suggested that I looked for a different place, and each of them took me to their hostels to see if there were spaces. One of them did not, the other did. I got a dorm with four beds (two bunk beds) for myself for BRL25 a night. Not too bad.

The meeting was taking place at a bar in Barra district near the famous lighthouse. It was a great party, and I met a few very interesting people, whom I can further net along my route in the rest of Brazil.

Pelourinho looked great at night, but it was obvious that it was not entirely safe there. Fully armed police was standing on every corner and warned me to take care when taking pictures with my super sexy camera. The atmosphere was nevertheless incredible, mystic and outing with magnetism. Truly a spectacular place indeed.

The morning brought sunshine, which stayed until the afternoon. It felt safer during the day, and after a while, I simply took out my camera, which swayed from my shoulder for the most of the day. I was lucky to see a practice of capoeira in the street, which was very dynamic. It was super to see young kids practicing it, too. I must have stood there for an hour snapping pictures. It was a great morning. I had hoped to see capoeira in action in Salvador. The group was selling DVDs (poor quality) and music CDs (better quality).

Favourite spots:
A capoeira group posing for me after practice, for free.
A capoeira group posing for me after practice, for free.
Praca de Terreiro de Jesus with capoeira groups, flanked by two grand churches and a string of vividly painted colonial houses, and complete with a few graceful, tall palm trees, was definitely my favourite spot in Salvador. It was picture perfect and a very pleasant place. The only thing that was disturbing the ambiance was the line of white taxi cars standing at one of the piazza's sides. The square was not very busy. People just seemed to pass through it, either strolling to the lower parts of the old town, into the narrow alleys, or heading to the Praca de Se, out of the old town.

The capoeira groups, who practised their art on the piazza, did it for the benefit of the visitors, of course. But the grand thing was that they did not charge for their pictures or videos to be taken. They only tried their luck by selling souvenirs. It was truly great, because they looked fantastic, were really very friendly, invited people to practise with them and take pictures with them.

What's really great:
A woman dressed in traditional Salvadorian dress, posing for BRL5.
A woman dressed in traditional Salvadorian dress, posing for BRL5.
Salvador seemed very relaxed. What I liked about the place was that one could see many ladies dressed fabulously in historical consumes. Some dressed up for success - asking a few reais for their photo to be taken. Some worked as touts for shops, galleries and restaurants. They really created an incredible background to the colourful alleys lined with beautiful mansions, palaces and haciendas. It was like the time went back to the dark era of slavery, inequality and plantations. This incredible illusion was very believable, as few motor vehicles passed through the narrow streets of the old town, and the only signs of civilisation were mobile phones that people carried around.

Sights:
The lighthouse in Barra district.
The lighthouse in Barra district.
The UNESCO-listed Pelourinho had a great collection of colonial mansions, palaces and churches. The main sacral historic monuments included the Mannerist Jesuits Cathedral of Salvador dating back to the 17th century; the Baroque Convent and Church of Sao Francisco from the 18th century; the Rococo Church of Nosso Senhor of Bonfim; Catholic Church of the Ordem Terceira de São Francisco; and a few others in the inner old town, standing on hills.

One of the more remarkable sights was the 19th century Lacerda Lift (Elevador Lacerda) linking the lower and the upper parts of the old Salvador. It actually looks more modern that it is, but it did undergo many modifications throughout the years.

Between Pelourinho and Barra, there was also a neat park, where each year the Carnival commences in Salvador - one week before lent.

One other prominent sight of Salvador was the fortified Lighthouse of Barra in the southernmost point of the city. It looked incredible at night.

Accommodations:
Bunk beds in the Albergue do Pelo.
Bunk beds in the Albergue do Pelo.
Salvador is a very popular place, yet despite competition, a good value accommodation is not easily found. And it is hard to decide, where in the city to stay, although there are really just two choices. One is the historic centre, amongst the stunning colonial architecture. The other is beach. I opted for the former. It seemed everything was going to cost more than £50 per night. Then, through booking.com, I came across Pousada Suites Do Pelo charging BRL50 per night (£19, $30, €21) for an en suite singles. But, as I mentioned above, when I arrived in the city, I discovered that the area was unsafe, so I could not stay there.

Instead, I stayed at the similarly named Albergue Do Pelo in a dorm with two bunk beds for BRL25. That was the price of one single bed, but I was lucky that the hostel was not busy and I had the entire room to myself. The hostel's personnel was very friendly, the location was superb and there was free wifi. Credit cards accepted.

Nightlife:
At The Tche club in Rio Vermelho district.
At The Tche club in Rio Vermelho district.
Pelourinho had a few excellent bars playing to the fact that Salvador is Brazil's black capital, and took from the West African cultures. This created an incredible ambiance.

The Barra district, along the Avenida Oceanica, just across from the beach, boasted a few good pubs and bars, and a short hike north from there, the Rio Vermelho district had a few great nightclubs. I went all the way there to a superb club, The Tche, with a large terrace overlooking the historical harbour and the beach. The club attracted mainly Brazilian crowd, although a few gringos hopped there, too. Not a very glamorous spot, but safe, breezy, playing excellent music and serving incredible passion fruit cocktails. Entry BRL10.

Hangouts:
A side street in the old town.
A side street in the old town.
The capital of the Bahia state had great beaches running in the south from Barra to Rio Vermelho, as well as in Flamengo near the airport. The beaches were complete with the full blown facilities that would impress the most demanding of beachgoers. There were bars, showers, changing rooms, restaurants, discos, clubs, toilets. Everything. Seriously, perfect hangout spots these beaches were. In their own right. But the cafes and beach bars were the other.

In the centre, the historic Pelourinho did not suffer from any shortage of bars and cafes, serving perfect Brazilian coffees, cachacas, caipirinhas and caipiroscas. And lager! Mingling there with the local, in the network of the narrow alleys was a bliss. And in the evening, when the little street lights came up and the venues put up candles and gentle lighting, it was also very romantic. The fabric of the historic centre really looked so much different at night.

Restaurants:
Prawn moqueca at the Odoya Restaurante at Cruiseiro Sao Francisco in Pelourinho.
Prawn moqueca at the Odoya Restaurante at Cruiseiro Sao Francisco in Pelourinho.
It may have normally appeared that restaurants in a heart of an historical, UNESCO-listed, old town would be more expensive than elsewhere. Not in Salvador! On small square Cruseiro Sao Francisco, with an opening to the main piazza, there was the Odoya restaurant offering salads (BRL24-40), spaghetti (BRL28), fish/seafood (BRL36-58), and the traditional moquecas - coconut milk based stews (BRL30-49) only seemed slightly expensive. Yet, almost all restaurants along the beaches in Barra, the southern district of Salvador, charged about 20% more for much less quality and quantity.

I tried the prawn moqueca at the Odoya's, which came with all sorts of side dishes and rice. It was fantastic! The dish resembled a little Thai curry but it was milder and thicker. Very tasty. And the views from the tables out in the square just exacerbated the experience of dining in Pelourinho. The service was very good and professional and the restaurant accepted credit cards.

Other recommendations:
In the heart of Pelourinho, one of the most photographed bit of the old town.
In the heart of Pelourinho, one of the most photographed bit of the old town.
Salvador de Bahia was served by the Salvador International Airport (SSA) about 40 minutes by car. The most convenient mode of transport was taxi, which should not cost more than BRL60 (but would require bargaining).

The airport was also linked by a bus line - AEROPORTO-PRACA DA SE running every 20 minutes until 7pm, then every 40-50 minutes, and cost under BRL3.

Salvador suffered from a terrible reputation regarding poor safety. Although I was lucky that nothing happened to me (and I was moving around the town, including Pelourinho, at night and I did not see any thugs or trouble makers anywhere), large numbers of security officers and tourist police indicated that there was a reason for them to be around. At the other hand, this meant that one was very unlikely to meet any trouble in the areas frequented by tourists. The important thing is not to get paranoid, be sensible (be careful with valuables and cash) and enjoy this fascinating and colourful city.

Published on Wednesday September 14th, 2011


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Sat, Sep 24 2011 - 12:27 PM rating by jorgesanchez

You are writing very good reports about Brazil. This is one of the best.

Thu, Sep 15 2011 - 11:59 AM rating by mistybleu

Gosh, fast and furious. Another great read

Wed, Sep 14 2011 - 07:22 PM rating by shervin19

very nice report and also your info. Thank you!

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