Jan 272008

Many visitors come to Brazil with the impression that Carnival is a nation-wide party which will greet them the instant they step off the plane. Apparently this is not true – you have to seek it out. But if you do, it can be one of the most wild and crazy festivals you’ve ever seen; how else could it have earned the title “the world’s biggest street party?”

There are in fact many different Carnival experiences here for the having; Sambodromo, the highly publicized samba parade, is just one, and in fact not at all a favorite of the locals. Silvia, a lifelong resident of Rio, has never even seen it. Instead, she recommended that we kick off this year’s festivities by attending a Bloco in a colorful old neighborhood called “Santa Teresa.”

A Bloco is a very local-feeling way to experience Carnival, and could probably be most easily described as a “small street-parade.” Locals dress up and march through the streets singing, dancing, drumming, drinking, and playing music for hours on end. Shop owners and local residents pop their heads out of their houses to join the fun as the parade passes by, sometimes spraying the crowds with garden hoses to cool them down. Street vendors dance their way through the crowds with coolers of beer and homemade vodka-popsicles, making a few bucks while still enjoying the fun. And in front of it all (er, the one I took part in at least) is an old-fashioned streetcar filled to the brim with yet more partiers of all ages. There are dozens of Blocos in all, beginning weeks before the main samba parade. And just think: Rio’s Carnival is specifically known as not being a “street carnival.” That’s why we’re flying up to Salvador for the last two days of the event.

I can hardly wait to see what’s in store for me up there.

Later that night Silvia and a few of her friends took me out to a huge three-story salsa club in a nightlife district called Lapa. Unfortunately something I ate didn’t agree with me…at all…and most of the night became more about trying to calm my stomach than actually enjoying myself. Ah, South America…it has indeed been awhile 😆

An interesting little tidbit: It’s actually not illegal here to run red lights at night; in fact, most people don’t even come to a stop at all. The danger of getting robbed is too great. One of David’s friends in Sao Paolo has been robbed three times this way, where a group of men jumped into his car at a red light, pointed guns at his head, and escorted him to an ATM where he was forced to empty his bank account completely. Wow.

David arrived a few hours ago, and Peder flies in at 5am tomorrow. The group is almost complete 🙂

  3 Responses to “A Taste of Carnaval”

  1. So if you can’t come to a stop at a red light for fear of getting robbed… do the robbers just hang out at parking lots where someone will eventually stop?

  2. sounds fun….and scary 🙂

  3. Noz: Good point, I’m not exactly sure. Probably there’s security or something at parking lots, but since there are SO many stoplights all over the place it’s not really manageable to “watch over” all of them. Especially in the crappier neighborhoods. Most locals seem to know where it’s OK to stop and where it isn’t.

    Pretty much every building’s parking structure I saw had fences and gates though, now that I think about it…

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