February 24, 2012

Salvador of Bahia

Salvador lies in the Brazilian state of Bahia, along the coast and north of Rio. In the 16th century, Portuguese settlers established the city, and it quickly became an important center for the sugar industry and slave trade. That legacy remains today, making Salvador the center of Afro-Brazilian culture. This resulting culture, in many ways, outshines the rest of Brazil in terms of music, literature, etc.

Salvador is known as Brazil’s capital of happiness, and the people of Bahia are known to be some of the friendliest on the planet. We experienced this first hand when friends of friends – Lazaro and Alice – picked us up from the airport, waited in long lines with us while we bought our abadas for Carnival, brought us into their home, took us sightseeing, and hosted us at their favorite restaurant on multiple occasions.

This easy-going friendliness also means that they are very laid back people. So when they say they’ll pick you up at 8:00, it often times meant 9:45…or not even at all. We went with the flow of “Brazilian time” and are leaving Salvador very grateful for all that they did for us.

Even with Carnival going on, we still tried to get out and see as many of the Salvador sites as possible. This proved to be complicated because Carnival shuts down some pretty major roads, so the bus lines don’t run like normal and traffic is horrible. Add to that the fact that people here seem to give very vague directions, and plans can quickly go sour. One day, a bus ride to the historical center that should have only taken 30 minutes, turned into a 4.5 hour nightmare.

Salvador has a very beautiful historic center called Pelourinho, with brightly colored facades and at least 7 humongous churches crammed into a compact set of cobblestone streets. One of the three Carnival circuits (a more family friendly version) parades through Pelourinho. Unfortunately, this meant that much of its pure beauty was peppered with scaffolding, barriers, portable restrooms, stages and lots and lots of people. It was fun to see all of the decorations and costumes, but we would have loved to visit Pelourinho during a non-Carnival time period.

One of the highlights of our time in Pelouinho was getting to see a demonstration of Capoeira – a mix of dance and martial art of Afro-Brazilian origin.

Another nice site we visited was a church called Igreja do Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. It’s somewhat small comparatively, but one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in all of Brazil. We visited it on a Sunday morning during a church service. Off to one side of the church is the Salon of Miracles – a room where people pay homage to medical prayers that have been answered by hanging plastic body parts from the ceiling and posting their stories with (sometimes too graphic) pictures on the walls.

Colorful ribbons are an easily recognizable symbol of the Igreja Bonfim church that are tied all around the perimeter and seen worn on wrists or shirts throughout the city. Three knots are tied, and with each knot, you say a prayer. We each tied one ribbon on the church’s gate and one ribbon on our backpacks.

We rounded out our time in Salvador with trips to the northern beaches of Piata and 
Praia do Forte. 


  1. So everytime I read one of your guys' post I suddenly get jealous and wish I could be there too. You look like you are enjoying yourselves a lot. Keep it up and look forward to many more pictures and posts.

  2. Btw StrydeTaz is Scott. :). Miss you both and be safe.