A love letter for Brazil
Being away from my home country for almost one year is more than enough to acknowledge that I was not born to be separated from the things I care about the most: friends and family. Likewise, the sunlight. If only I could bring them all with me...
Brazil, the most exceptional place in the world, is not only where I was born but where life is lived and cherished in a unique and passionate way: the energy, the light, the warmness, the vibration, the nature and, most importantly, the people. This altogether multiplies the magnitude of a giant country, absolutely beautiful and blessed in its own right.
More than half of all inhabitants around the globe (7.8 billion) live in just seven countries (UN estimates). It comes as no surprise that Brazil's population plays a big role in it: it's the world's sixth most populous nation whose 212,556,000 people are markedly recognized as the ones who always light up a room, in any place at any time, with an incomparable spirit of which we are simply born with.
We are noisy people; we laugh a lot; we joke about ourselves even when discussing serious business or struggling to cope with a pandemic. It’s part of our charismatic and optimistic nature. In equal measure are our spontaneity and hospitality essence capable to invite a stranger for dinner right after we met, purely because a Brazilian's heart is so generous and always open to welcome a new friend. So intense is also a Brazilian's persistence: they rise and fall and there’s no flatness and monotony within their lives. To me, this is to be alive!
Funnily enough, the other day I caught myself questioning why the expression "joie de vivre" is related to the French when, in fact, there's no more joyful, constantly happy people than Brazilians. My dear Gallian friends: je suis vraiment desolée, but I think this title belongs to us! As for the French perspicacious, particular sense of humor, well, that is something truly and authentically yours that no one will ever take away from you.
A melting pot
As a balmy land of opportunities, Brazil has always captivated the aspirations of dreamers and immigrants. After all, it's a tropical gateway where the abundance of natural resources propels a thriving agricultural industry. All year long, gorgeous weather exalts exuberant landscapes of green coasts, fluffy beach sands and native forests: it's all splendid! All this drives a magnetic force capable to make one question: is paradise here?
A place where endless job offers are granted, São Paulo has been chosen by the biggest Italian and Japanese communities outside their home countries. No wonder why this capital (which is the financial center of Brazil) also gives you the chance to indulge in the best pizza napoletana outside Italy. At the same time this huge city reassures you that Japan's roots are very well represented by some Michelin star restaurants.
Germans have also found themselves at home, in Southern Brazil, where they helped to shape the region's DNA. You can almost feel like being in a tiny Europe when strolling around the picturesque "enxaimel" houses whose architectural style is made with wooden, leaning roofs. Sausages, potatoes and apfelstrudel also prove their obvious heritage, let alone the biggest Oktoberfest festival outside Germany.
Nevertheless, it's our colonial past that prevails in our culture. Starting by our spoken language which is quite close to the one from Portugal albeit it has its own way of talking in addition to distinctive words and expressions. More than three centuries of Portuguese colonization also means that Catholicism is deep-rooted in Brazil's veins and makes it the most Catholic country in the world!
The 27 Brazilian States carry hundreds of houses of worship and they welcome millions of devotees every year (don't be surprised to learn that the world's biggest basilica, after Vaticano, is based in Brazil). Baroque and neo-classical churches attract architectural enthusiasts as well. If you are one of them, it is worth visiting Salvador, Ouro Preto and Rio de Janeiro.
Furthermore, culinary habits were influenced by the Lusitanos too and many esteemed and traditional dishes are still protagonists on weekends gatherings. One of them, the exquisite "feijoada" (a weighty recipe made with black beans and pork or beef), usually makes a tempting pairing with the most praised national distilled called cachaça (the aged, amber ones are wonderfully irresistible!). As with Carnival, our much-loved party and likely the most colorful and fascinating parade in the universe, it was also introduced by the Portuguese. This is something they really should be thanked for!
No matter how many charming words I come up with to describe the exuberance of Brazil, they would never be fair enough. You can only understand the incomparable features of this wild country once you are there, absorbing people's energy, which, without fail, is full of bliss and excitement. Despite missing all this every single day, I'm really thankful for living in a place where I dreamed to be, even if it's far away from the ones I love most. I'm a citizen of the world, after all. And wherever I go, I'll make sure to continue spreading our Brazilian zest.
Brazil is not for novices therefore allow me to give you some friendly piece of information before you hit the road:
Be careful: always pay attention to your belongings, such as cell phone, wallet, pockets, jewelry, and so on. Unfortunately, security is by no means the country's strong point and violence is everywhere: saying that makes me feel embarrassed and sad in equal measure. It could be paradise if it weren't for this, I guess.
Brazil currency: it can be quite accessible to travel and make the most of it if you come from a place where life is spent in Euro, USD or the British Pound. I wouldn't say that you can do so much by paying so little just like in Thailand, but it's quite affordable. The official currency is called Real and the exchange range would be something like 1 Real is equal to about 0,18 USD. A regular beer costs generally 5 Reais. A single ride in the public transport costs 4,40 Reais. You can eat very good food and pay 15 USD. In the more sophisticated restaurants, a meal can cost between 25 and 40 USD.
Brazil transport network: surprisingly there's no national trainline. More than unacceptable, this is outrageous. So, people frequently go from one place to the other by car or plane. There are several local airline companies whose network covers pretty much the whole country although I would recommend designing your journey thoroughly because distances can be long. Taxi and uber services are spread throughout all capital cities though they can be a bit rare in the countryside.
P.S. it's such a shame that Brazilian authorities don't make an effort to develop sufficient cycle lanes. If you are brave enough to bike in cosmopolitan cities such as São Paulo, be extra careful because traffic is frenetic and drivers can be not super polite.
When to visit Brazil: anytime, honestly. Brazil is an immense land and it can cater to everyone's travel preferences almost at any time of the year. If you are looking for incandescent temperatures and crowded beaches, don't think twice and book a ticket for December or January. It goes without saying that New Year’s Eve and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro are a once in a lifetime experience. I personally love going to Bahia and the other coastal regions during low season (April and May) because it's less packed and prices are more reasonable. Even during Brazil's wintertime (July and August) weather can be gorgeous.
Where to go: although I want you to feel inspired and connected to such a special and dear place to me, this is not a travel guide story. I promise to meticulously write about my favorite Brazilian cities and gems in the not too distant future. Until then, consider that Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Pantanal and Inhotim are places likely to change your life perspective.