Salvador da Bahia – Mix of cultures

Salvador da Bahia is the capital of the state of Salvador and the most populated city in the Northeast region of Brazil. The city, the first capital of Brazil has a beautiful influence of the African Culture which directly reflects the “baianos” way of life.

Salvador is a great city for shopping, eating out, spending the day sightseeing and taking pictures of its people and amazing architecture or just relaxing by the beach, where you can sunbathing, swim, snorkel or practice watersports.

EATING

While in Salvador, your visit won’t be complete until you try one of the many colourful and tasteful dishes. The flavours found in every restaurant has been adapted through decades and became a delicious experience that all food lovers must try. Dishes such as the “Muqueca de Peixe” a fish plate or the “Caldo de Sururu” which is basically a mussels soup. If you are not a big fan of strong culinary make sure you don’t order too “hot” or “quente” as the locals describe a very spicy plate.

The most traditional food from Bahia is the “Acarajé” which is acually a simple snack made of peeled black-eyed peas, stuffed with shrimps, seafood and deep fried in palm-oil known as “Azeite de Dende”. Besides the opportunity to taste a typical appetizing from Salvador you will also meet one of the most notorius persons in the city: The “Baianas”.

“Baiano” or “baiana” is how the Bahia citizens are called and the “Baianas” are those ladies, who prepare and sales the “Acarajé” and many other plates, they usually wear white long dresses and lots of traditional jewerly, which is, or use to be part of their religious beliefs. Great photo opportunity! You will find them everywhere.

If you plan to shop or eating in town, and you will, I recommend to have some local currency: Real (the “re” is pronunciated as “re” in reverse and the “al” is pronunciated “al” as in natural).

SIGHTSEEING

Now, let’s stop eating, burn some calories and play around with your camera. There is no better place to start your visit than the “Pelourinho”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can easely reach the Pelourinho by the “Elevador Lacerda”, a public elevator that conects the lower and the upper old town is located few blocks away from the Cruise Ship Terminal. The “Elevador Lacerda” is one of the post cards of Salvador. It cost just a few cents to use the elevator.

The Pelourinho is the upper part of the old town and its streets has many churches, museums and and incredible architecure with many mansions build by the high society during the XVII and XVII’s.

There are many musical groups that will be playing in the neighborhood and also many local young men playing the “Capoeira”, a misture of dance and fight that was created by the slaves in order to practice their martial arts without beeing noticed by their masters.

In the Pelourinho you must be aware of pick-pockets.

Salvador is well known for having 365 churches, one per each day of the year.  The most famous is the Church of Our Lord of Bonfim, where in January 2nd, the local people wash the staircase steps in honour to Oxalá, one of the Candomble gods.

CULTURE

Although Rio de Janeiro has the most famous Carnaval in the world, I prefer to celebrate the holidays in Salvador, where many Brazilians believe to be the birthplace of Samba and Carnaval.

The Carnaval in Salvador attracts more than 2 millions of people and it takes place in the streets of the old town starting in front of the Lighthouse and the Barra Beach.

The locals are very friendly and very proud of their identity. Music is everywhere. Salvador is know from its musicality and many styles were born in the streets of Salvador including Samba, Axé, Lambada and many other variations. A great souvenir is a music instrument called “Berimbau” which looks lot a like a one string bow. You can buy your almost anything in the “Mercado Modelo” just in front of the “Elevador Lacerda” in the lower part. Very popular as well is the hand made linen.

The market  has lots of souveniers including handicrafts, spices, typical poetry books called “Literatura de Cordel”, which are very similar to the old style comic books, those little magazines are very ilustrative and will inspire your imagination.

The main hobby of the “Baianos” is “to do nothing” specially in the beaches. There any many beaches near the downtown area and during the summers, it will be hard to find a “spot in the sun” but the best beaches of Salvador are about 1-hour drive to the North suburbs of Salvador, ask for the Rota do Coco – a costal road, where you you find hundreds of kilometers of breath taking beaches and many amazing and yet not so famous restaurants.

You will not leave Salvador without making three wishes while having a “Our Lord of Bonfim” ribbon knoted three times around your wrist, it is said that if you wait until the ribbon breaks, your wishes will became reality, unfortunatelly I always removed my ribbon before it breaks.

My last recommendation is to step out to your ship’s pool deck,  and see the town while your ship sails away from the “City of Fun” with a glass of “Caipirinha” in your hands. You will be marveled with the views of the old fort, the lighthouse and the inumerous beaches protected by the reefs.

Luciano Travassos

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