RIO DE JANEIRO – Day 2
Kal and I went our separate ways on Day 2 in Rio. He escorted an excursion from the ship, and I went off with 7 other friends to explore Rio attractions in a van we rented for the day with a driver. So I will write about what I did, and Kal will write about what he did.
Since we were in Rio last year, there were a couple of things I wish I would have seen last time and everyone was game, so off we went to Escadaria Selaron, which is a staircase that is covered with tiles from all over the world. The Chilean born artist Selaron decided to cover the steps with colorful mosaics. The 215 steps are a vivid riot of color. Here is the bunch of us on the steps! First stop on the tour!
People bring tiles from wherever they are from to the artist to place on the steps. It is a work in progress but very cool.
From there we went to Santa Teresa, which is a bohemian neighborhood in the city with great restaurants and some funky stores.
A typical terrace
Here is the view from the top of the hill in the San Theresa neighborhood. Can you see the statue of Christ on the far right ?? See how small he looks!
The mountain you see in the picture below is called Pao de Acucar – Sugarloaf Mountain. You can just make out the cable car that carries passengers from the smaller mountain called Morro da Urca. We spent the entire day up there last year; there are restaurants and shops and a park to sit on a bench and watch the view. We didn’t want to leave last year. It was lovely.
Our last stop was to the Botanical Gardens, it was very sparse. I wouldn’t recommended it. It was tranquil like all gardens but didn’t have much in the way of flowers, just an orchid house (not much there either) and one really interesting flowering tree.
Traffic was horrific and took almost as long as the entire tour!!! Took us an hour and half to go cross town back to the boat, and all because of the Carnaval, but we made it and arrived about half hour before the ship left for the next port of call, a town named Buzios, located a 2-hour drive from Rio (and that took the ship all night to get to!). It’s a resort town for the citizens of Rio and full of exclusive shops…but more about that later!!
The tour I escorted was billed as as tour of “Corcovado and Rio Highlights”. In practice what this meant was that in addition to having certain buildings and other sites pointed out to us from the bus window (kind of like a Cook Tour – “gib a cook fuhn vyter” ), it meant we were going to visit “the Guy in the Sky” and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio. Whoever assigned these tours must have had a sense of humor to assign this particular one to the ship’s rabbi !
Corcovado means “hunchback” in Portuguese, and it’s the name given to the highest protrusion of the mountain on which the statue of Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is located, overlooking all of Rio and offering 360 degree views. Although the statue is visible from most of Rio and looks quite small from the ground, once you get up the mountain and see the statue, it is quite large – 130 feet high, that’s 13 stories tall – not exactly Mt. Rushmore, but big nonetheless….
This is a photo looking up from the base of the statue (which had scaffolding around it):
HUGE, however, doesn’t mean that the sculpture work is particularly good. It is certainly not finely detailed but more nearly “roughed out” so that the image is recognizable. For the curious, here are some close-ups that I took (the first photo shows a crescent moon as the photo was taken while the moon was still visible, around 9 AM)
I wasn’t particularly interested in the statue itself, which is just a piece of carved stone….for me the interesting aspect of the statue was how the artist had the stone shlepped up to the top of the mountain and erected upright there, considering that you have to take a train up to near the top, then an elevator (or climb 220 steps) to the top, and then erect a piece of rock that weighs 700 tons. Honestly, nobody I asked could tell me how they did it…..The largest movable cranes I am aware of can only lift 350 tons, and in order to use them, you’d have to MOVE THEM IN PIECES to the top of the mountain and reassemble them prior to operation. So it’s still a mystery to me…..
The statue’s left hand points in the direction of Rio’s Centro (the central district, where the port and businesses are located), while the right hand points in the direction of Rio’s famous beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema.
Just a side note: Many people who come to Rio try to locate the famous “Girl from Ipanema” from the 1960’s song. Actually, until recently she was a “Grandma from Ipanema”, but she passed away a couple of years ago. However, her many “nieces” and “grandnieces” still roam Rio’s beaches today…….This IS NOT one of them:
But I digress….
Getting back to Corcovado, what is remarkable about Corcovado is that you can get 360-degree views of Rio. On a clear day this has to be spectacular, but at the time of the day we were there, in the morning until about 10:30 AM, the views over Rio were a bit hazy in some sections.
Because Corcovado is the highest point in Rio, it was necessary to return to the base of the mountain by the same way we got up there: first by an elevator and then by a train. There are two cars attached together that go up and down the mountain.
The mountain is actually one of Brazil’s national parks – more like a nature reserve – that is located entirely within the boundaries of Rio, and the train and tracks, including several stations, run right through it.
After we got down from off the mountain, our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio, built in 1968. It is located in an area of town that has modern skyscrapers, but right around the corner the building architecture takes you back to Portuguese colonial architecture of the 1700’s, one of the anomalies of this city where old and new, rich and poor, exist virtually side by side.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is shaped like a cone; I did not find either the architecture or the interior impressive.
I thought the stained glass inside the cathedral was very pedestrian. This is a view of the interior looking up to the roof. 3 of the 4 panels of stained glass are shown.
There was an interesting “floating” crucifix statue above the church altar (you can see the top of it in the photo above, at the bottom of the green glass), which was an interesting touch,
but the interior was so dim, an the stained glass behind it so busy and therefore so distracting, that in my opinion it detracted from making the statue the central focus of the interior of the church. When the Cardinal of Rio writes me for a rabbinic opinion of his church design, I will tell him that….
Outside the church was a structure that, when I first saw it, looked to me like the fire lookout stations that the Jewish National Fund built throughout Israel’s forests in the 1960’s to spot forest fires……except that there was a cross at the top……
Turns out this is the belfry of the church, where the bells toll….. One bell is missing. To me the one bell I could photograph at close up looked like the front part of a western movie buckboard
but it turns out that no, it’s actually a church bell. What do I know about church bells?
The outer doors of the Cathedral had some copper panels depicting famous scenes from the Old and New Testaments. For example:
The creation of Adam and Eve
Jesus preaching to his disciples (Sermon on the Mount?)
and the Last Supper
These reminded me of the last copper door panels on a church that we saw, which were the 16th century (I think) panels on the church next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. IMHO the Italians did a better job…I’ll mention that, too, to the Cardinal, if he asks…..
A large building directly across the street that was faced with angled glass panels provided the following reflections of the Cathedral and belfry, which I actually found more interesting than the Cathedral itself.
I particularly liked this one, with the reflection of the double cross from the belfry:
And so, with out visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio concluded, we hopped back on to the bus and headed back to port and our ship.
Tomorrow we sail to the resort town of Armacao Dos Buzios, a playground for those living in Rio and located only a couple hours drive north of Rio and on the beach……