The city of Vitoria is a pretty big city, with over a million people living in the city and surrounding areas. It has the second largest port in Brazil.
It has an old city and a new city..The old city has colonials building that seem to be in disrepair and in need of serious help: everything from the main Metropolitan Cathedral to the old City Hall, which is a shame, since they are beautiful buildings.
I (Nina) took a cab ride for a couple of hours with Susan, Elton and Nancy while Kal and Chao (Nancy’s husband) hung out by the old city and did not go with us. (No room in the cab and there are no larger cabs anywhere in Vitoria).
The poor driver didn’t speak a word of English, and we tried to tell him where we wanted to go, but it seems that he already had plans to take us to 4 places: a museum, the Cathedral, a beach and the Garoto Chocolate Factory store.
The Cathedral was the first stop. It was a typical Cathedral with some lovely stained glass windows and doors, but the paint was peeling everywhere and needed some real help.
Next, we drove around the old city and came across the old City Hall. What a beautiful building but in much need of repair. Such a shame…..
Close-up details of the top of the building
Next we arrived at the Museum Solar Monjardim. It turned out to be a beautiful surprise. We wanted to go to another museum, but since our driver didn’t speak English he took us here. There was a guarded gate that we had to pass, and we were scrutinized first to make sure we were who we said we were. The Museum was a manor home for a large farm at the start of the 19th century. Brazil had slaves up until the late 1800’s, and this farm is now part of a large neighborhood. The farm produced sugar cane and products for the consumption of the owners and their slaves. The manor was home to a private family into the 1940s. We were not allowed to take pictures but did sneak a couple in. The furniture was sparse but beautiful and they had some great porcelain.
The Kitchen: In the kitchen they used brick as the flooring material to prevent fires.
The Stove and the clay pots used at the time
Then we went to the beach!
Then to the chocolate factory store: Brazil has the best chocolates in all of South America. There were no samples, so we had to take a chance. We all purchased some, and it’s good, but definitely NOT Belgium Chocolates or even Swiss! More like Nestles…..
While Nina went on a private outing with 3 other friends (I never heard of a large city where no cab held more than 4 people!), Kal went out with a couple of guys for a walk around the old city of Vitoria around the port area.
As we left the port area I saw the following on the back of a handicraft seller’s street booth:
On the top stripe of the flag of Israel is a quote from Psalms 46:11. Look it up if you’re interested. I took special notice of this because when we were in the large favela of Rio that we visited, I saw in two different places, similar street booths of locksmith/keymakers with 6-pointed Stars of David painted on them, and the name on each of the booths was CHAVERIO PENIEL which means, “Peniel the Locksmith”. Now Peniel is is biblical name, but many Brazilians also have biblical names. However, those booths had Hebrew writing on them that said “We make keys”. So maybe it belonged to a Brazilian who had lived in Israel for a few years and learned enough Hebrew to write it on his booth, or maybe it belonged to an expatriate Israeli who now had a business in a favela in Rio.
We started by going to a mercado or market, which we thought was supposed to be a fruit and vegetable market but which turned out to be a handicraft market. Actually, and more accurately, it was a large store owned by one owner, but it is marked on the tourist maps as a mercado which in my mind implied multiple sellers rather than just a single store.
There were a lot of woven baskets
and Brazilian figurines…..
in short, a lot of junk….But I did find Nina a hand woven straw purse that I bought for her, and which I knew she would like, maybe to carry her knitting in….
From the mercado we walked to an edifice that is used today as a government building. On the way there we stumbled across an office of the Brazilian Communist Party. It shares a building over a business named the American Pie Boutique. The juxtaposition struck me as funny, so here’s a picture.
The government building we were going to is known as the Anchieta Palace (“Palace” in South America means “place where someone dwells”, as when the French use the term for a hotel. Some South American “palaces” are actually pretty run-down). This building rests on the site of an original Catholic church built in the mid-1500’s by a Jesuit priest named Jose de Anchieta. In the early 1600’s the building was a monastery and law school (the first law school in Brazil). A bas relief of Anchieta’s portrait hangs over the inside of the main entrance to the building.
The Portuguese threw out the Jesuits in the 1700’s because the Jesuits were teaching things that rubbed the Portuguese monarchy the wrong way, and in the 1800’s when Brazil gained independence from Portugal, the government took over the building to use as a government building. Over the years the original structure was added to, parts were destroyed (the belfry) and the building fell into a cyclical state of neglect and repair and neglect again. Recently the building celebrated its 460th anniversary, and the government did massive renovations and improvements to it and turned it into a gorgeous structure while still preserving elements of its history. This is the official poster of the anniversary:
This is a side view of the same building.
Inside the building is a room commemorating Anchieta’s role in the founding of the city of Vitoria by establishing the original church. Since Anchieta’s burial site is not known, a symbolic gravestone lies in the same room next to this wall panel.
After visiting the Anchieta Palace we took a short uphill walk to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Vitoria,
We arrived for the last 15 minutes or so of their “Mincha”, lehavdil – their Friday noon High Mass, replete with a choir. The music was quiet but distinctly Latin and actually projected an uplifting mood. We arrived in time to watch the priest distribute Eucharist wafers to the parishioners.
As the noon Mass concluded we departed back in the direction of the Anchieta Palace and descended the several levels of stairs leading from the front entrance of the Palace to the street running in front of the Port of Vitoria. At the bottom of the staircases was a marble statue of a youth riding a fish or a sea monster.
I assume the figure is mythological but I can’t identify it. I don’t believe it to be Neptune because Neptune carries a trident, and there is none here.
As we returned to the ship we saw a group of youngsters from a local samba school being cleared to come on board the ship.
They performed for us on board this afternoon. The boys and girls (boys play drums, girls dance) are aged 6 to 16 years. They put on a 45-minute non-stop movement show. Absolutely great! And they had a great experience coming onto the ship, eating lunch in the buffet – as much food, pizza and ice cream as they could eat in an hour – some of them had never ridden in an elevator, so it was an equally memorable experience for them, one they will talk about for years to come.
Here is a picture of the front entrance of the Anchieta Palace taken from the 11th floor of the ship.
Later that evening, before sunset, we sailed away from Vitoria, passing high granite boulders that line a part of the bay,
favelas located on the opposite shore of the bay,
a Carmelite Nunnery on the top of a mountain overlooking the bay,
and finally, the bridge expanding across the Vitoria bay,
leading out to sea and to tomorrow’s next new adventure.
LATE NEWS FLASH:
Our next port of call scheduled for the day after tomorrow, was to be Salvador de Bahia, the most Africanized city in Brazil. We were scheduled to be there for one of the days of Carnaval as the Carnavals in Salvador and Recife, our stop after Salvador, are reputed to be the two best in Brazil, even though Rio’s world-famous Carnaval is larger and more boisterous.
However, we were informed that because of a police strike in Salvador a week before Carnaval, the city has become violent and too dangerous to take a chance on visiting there at this time. The US Consulate General in Rio has posted advisory warnings cautioning American citizens not to go into Salvador for Carnaval or until law and order are restored to the city. Since we were in Salvador last year, we knew the city was fascinating, but during Carnaval it turns out that all the wonderful places we visited last year are ALL CLOSED during Carnaval, so we didn’t feel the loss as much as others who had been looking forward to visiting there.
Instead of going to Salvador, therefore, we are going to continue on directly to Recife, and we will have an extra night in Recife, which will give us two days of Carnaval celebrations there. We’re all gettin’ ready to boogie (or samba…….or conga…..) !!!