Recife, Brazil – Cultural Trip to the City
So today I got up, ate breakfast and jumped into a cab. First stop, Marco Zero which is the point the Portuguese settlers first landed in the 1500’s. From there I took a self guided walking trip through the streets past many of the historical buildings of Recife and stepped into the oldest church in the area. Strangely, my guide didn’t have much info on any of the sites (joke, ha ha) but they were beautiful.
After walking across one of many bridges in the area I saw a huge bazaar of people, street vendors and shops. Not a single blue eyed person for miles. Mind you, I’ve got my $1,500 DSLR camera out and I’m snapping photos while every other person either stares at me or my camera. Their eyes were not evil or unkind, instead they were intrigued, surprised and maybe even a little envious (of the camera).
I saw a park in the distance and headed towards it. As I approached the entryway I found a $5 Real note on the ground! I looked all around but no one was near. To me it’s next to nothing ($2.50 USD) but to the person that likely lost it, it’s 1/3 of a day’s wages!
At no time did I feel unsafe; in fact, just the opposite. I would smile at many of the women, younger girls, even the older ladies on the streets and they would often smile back. Some would give me huge grins of happiness. To the men, I would often give them a slight head nod of respect and they would often do it back or give me a thumbs up. I stopped at a por kilo (pay by the weight) restaurant and had a good meal. The server was very friendly and refused to take the tip I offered her but I made her take it anyways and she shot me a huge grin.
Brazil’s weather, seasons and cities are backwards to the USA. The southern part of the USA is like the Northern part of Brazil. Where I’m at in Recife is analogous to Alabama (really any Southern USA state). So most of the people are poorer, simpler, less materialistic and friendlier here compared to Rio de Janeiro. I’d say Rio is most like Los Angeles and Sao Paulo is a bigger version of New York.
Anyways, back to Recife. As I’m walking I’m using my iphone to guide me on the map. I nearly bump into two policemen standing on the street. I gingerly give them both a salute of respect and they both give me positive responses. I get about 20 paces when I hear the sounds of boot steps behind me so I glance back to see one of the policemen. He tells me in Portuguese that my camera is not safe here, that someone will try to steal it. Wow, you know you’re not in the best area when the police tell you to put your camera away. I’m surprised because it feels like a safe neighborhood to me but I heed his advice.
Next I jump on the Recife Metro and head for my hotel. On the way I see a stop for “Shopping.” Now that’s really strange. Why is everything else in Portuguese except for the “Shopping” stop? I decide to get off to check it out. The station looks normal but as soon as I’m out of the train car and standing on the platform I decide this wasn’t a good idea.
The area outside the station is rough. Maybe the shopping is up the street or close by but I’m not interested in trying to find it. I see 10-12 thugs standing on the narrow exit walkway of the station. They stare at me and my camera like a mouse about to eat the cheese sitting on a trap. No thanks, I get back on the train and get off at the closest stop to my hotel.
After a brisk 20 minute walk I’m back to my temporary home in Recife. See all the photos from my Recife day trip here.