"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Friday, May 01, 2015

World Cruise - Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

For some reason I can’t explain I had envisioned Salvador da Bahia as a small town or city up the coast from Rio. As we neared I was amazed to see it sprawling along the shore about as much as Rio had. It turns out that Salvador is a city of 6 million people and boasts the world’s largest harbor. We passed by the skyscrapers and obvious modern part of the city and docked at the cruise terminal near the older part more historic part of the city. Most of the points of interest were said to be nearby.

Bob and I had booked a highlights excursion since we knew nothing about this port. After breakfast, we boarded our tour bus that thankfully had A/C as it was already heating up. Our guide for the four hour tour was actually French and had lived in Salvador for 28 years. He spoke very good English with a French/Portuguese accent which would have worked better if he’d slowed down his speech a bit. When someone asked him to, he apologized for the French influence, slowed for a bit, and then picked up speed again.

This was definitely the older poorer section of town. Housing, while colorful, was obviously made from a lot of found materials. It’s always a shock to see a rundown and awful looking shack with a line full of clean clothes hanging out. The clothes never seem to match the background.

Our driver took us first to a small inland lake called Dique do Tororo. The statues floating on the lake show what a great African influence there is on Salvador. They depict the Orisha, the deities of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble. They appear to be all female but are really male and female dressed in African robes. Each represents a different aspect of the religion.

A church was our next stop. The Church of Nosso Senhor do Bofim has a reputation for miracles. Many who have come there to pray for healing have received it. To honor the answers to prayer, the recipients have made casts of the body parts (all sorts of body parts) that were healed and they hang from the ceiling of a small room adjacent to the sanctuary. As the small church ran out of room, they suggested people bring pictures instead and now the walls are covered with pictures of grateful people who have experienced healing or an answer to other prayers. There is a badminton racket on the wall along with a few other odd items. Just wondering?

While the body parts room is interesting, it distracts you from looking around more. When I glanced back into the sanctuary, I realized I had missed seeing the ceiling that is painted as elaborately as the Sistine Chapel.

Outside the church, the wrought iron fence is festooned with prayer ribbons. I marveled at how many times we have seen this similar practice in other parts of the world, Japan and Turkey to name two. Sometimes I think our cultures have more in common than less.

An ice cream parlor was up next. Ice cream is not a good thing for me to eat but I thought I would try it at least since our guide was so insistent that this was the best ice cream anywhere. The place turned out to be a Baskin Robbins on steroids only the ice cream was awful. I had papaya flavored and Bob had coconut. I thought maybe the papaya just didn’t translate well into an ice cream but Bob’s coconut tasted nothing like coconut either. It wasn’t worth risking the stomachache and I tossed mine in the trash.

Our last stop was the large market area that was close to the ship. We had no interest in shopping so we told our guide we were leaving the tour and would make our own way back to the ship. Across from the market was the Lacerda Elevator, a tall pillar that rose to the upper level of the city and contained several elevators to ferry passengers from the lower city to the upper historic area. For fifteen cents in Brazilian Real (about a nickel in USD) we rode to the top, a relatively quick and smooth trip.

A cobblestone plaza with people leisurely walking around enjoying the sunshine greeted us. Several ladies in large white dresses were strolling around as well. I think they are part of the Candomble religion which has a great African influence. I need to do more research on that when I have my own WiFi back at home. We had been told that they would expect money if you wanted to pose for pictures with them.

Our goal in the historic upper city however was to find the Igreja De Sao Francisco, the Church and Covenant of St. Francis. We followed our map from the ship and soon found what we thought was the church. It was a church but after we paid our $6 BRL each, we discovered it was another church nearby with a museum. (Our guide had joked that there were 365 churches in the city, one for each day of the year.)

We excited quickly and finally found the right church a little way down the street. The cloister was the first area to explore and it was surrounded by walls of painted tiles depicting all sorts of sayings. Two of my favorites were “time flies irrevocably” and “nothing is more useful than silence.”
The amazing part of the church though is its sanctuary whose walls are covered in sculptures and intricate designs and then painted over with a combination of oil and gold to give everything a rustic gold look. This ceiling too was painted with beautiful pictures.

As I write this, I’m looking at my tour pamphlet with the prayer of St. Francis at the back (in English of course).

Lord make me an instrument, of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon
Where there is discord, let me bring unity
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith
Where there is error, let me bring truth
Where there is despair, let me bring hope
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy
Where there is darkness, let me bring light

Master, grant that I may seek to console rather than to be consoled
Understand rather than to be understood
Love rather than to be loved.
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Great words to see me through to the end of our World Cruise. 

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