Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Day in Goias - A charming city!

Goias, Goias, here we come. OK – what do I mean by Goias you ask? Well, today we are heading northwest and visiting the first capital of the state of Goias. Yes the state and the capital city used to share the same name until 1933 when the state capital was moved to the newly built Goiania (read about this transition in  my blog What hidden gems. Goiania!). Our traveling companions Renato and Marinete stop at our front door (OK security gate) at 8:10 sharp and we are off.

It’s a two hour drive and the first stop we make is for gas. We all get out to stretch our legs, grab some coffee and pao de queijo (if you have read previous posts you should know what this is - cheese bread for those who do not). I am surprised when the Brazilian behind the counter asks me a question in English.    I wonder how he figured out I was American. It is almost a sense Brazilians have, at least those who have spent time in the U.S (and he had spent time in Webster, Massachusetts). After some thought though, I realized as much as I tried not to, I had asked for something in English so I tipped him off.  After a short converstation we get back in the pick up and continue our adventure.

The terrain passing by outside the pick up’s window turns quickly from the agricultural landscape with farms and livestock to a dry almost desert looking land.  This part of the cerrado has a large range of biodiversity and a distinct beauty of its own.  With it being the dry season, it definitely is starting to show signs of drought. After a while we start seeing some hills and valleys, full of a variety of vegetation. It is a gorgeous drive through the country and I have to say there is not much in between. There is one little town we come across where our first delay occurs.  There is a bridge being replaced so all traffic is getting detoured.  I always enjoy a good detour when I am traveling for pleasure. It takes you into neighborhoods and down roads you would never thinking of traveling. Today’s detour is a short one but it does stop us for a while with the rest of the travelers as we wait for oncoming traffic. The stop gives the local entrepreneurs an opportunity to sell their water, car phone jacks (kind of odd I know?), fruit and who knows what else. Each one leaving enough time in between the previous to make sure they make a good ask for the sale. We get out of the car for a quick stretch as we wait about 15 minutes. The street is narrow with the walls of typical Brazil on each side, lovely greenery flowing over the tops. The sun is hot and there is a cool breeze so it is definitely a perfect day to travel. Once everyone returns to their car (and we wait a couple extra seconds for the lady in the car in front of us who walked her dog a little too far) we are allowed to travel over the one lane bridge the military has supplied to keep traffic flowing to the other side of the river.

This detour is the first of three delays on our trip to Goias. The second and third are actually first seen as we speed by heading towards the final destination. There is a little discussion of what we just passed and a decision is made to turn around.  The first stop is to visit a colonial Catholic Church at the tops of some glorious steps. We wander up the stairs to the white church with blue trim matching the wide open sky behind. Built in 1910, the church stands proud and tall on the top of a little hill overlooking a Serra Dourada valley. The houses around the church have a lot of charm and are quite photogenic. There is a wall which starts here and continues through the natural hills to Goias. The wall was built by slaves and today is a piece of art in an unsuspected location. Once we are done exploring the church and its surroundings we continue on to the little roadside shop seconds up the road. Inside the little shop we find beautiful pottery. Made of bluish gray clay, it is well known to this region of Brazil and reminds me of the mud sculptures from Davenport, Iowa, where my aunt and uncle live. We look around at the pottery, make our purchases and hop back into the truck.

This is the last delay in our travels this day and soon we arrive in the de-seated capital of Goias. The city is located on the edge of the Serra Dourada Mountains (Gold Mountain Range). The Mountain range has two explanations for the origins of its name, one being from the gold found her in the 1700’s creating a huge gold rush to the region and the other is from the golden sunsets that can be seen through out the rough terrain. As we arrive it is a gorgeous day with fluffy white clouds suspended between the never ending crystal blue. The town remains in it colonial glory with many of the historic buildings built in the 1700’sand proudly preserved. The streets are in need of no speed bump as the cobble stone streets are rough enough to discourage any speed to your travels through the quaint streets.

Goias was founded in 1727 and named as a tribute to the local Goyaz Indians. At this time gold had been found in the mountains so a influx of Europeans settlers came to the city in search of their fortunes. Because of it's proximity to the gold find it soon became the capital of the state.  It was also the largest city in the area and very wealthy from the mining. As stated above, in 1933 the capital was moved to the newly built Goiania and today the city holds onto that heritage creating a tourist destination. In 2001 it gained international acclaim by being listed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) as a  World Heritage Site for it’s contributions to human cultural or physical significance.  Today with a population around 25,000, the locally economy is dependant on agricultural produce from the local orchards and cattle herds. Ecotourism has brought an financially viable source of revenue to the area with its hiking, waterfalls, and panoramic views (not that these activities are on our itinerary today).(again thanks wikipedia!)

We maneuver slowly down the cobblestone streets through the main part of town and stop in front of a quaint little restaurant (Restuarante flor de IPE) on the far end of the city. It is a welcoming place with a beautiful arch of blooming pink bougainvillea as its entrance. The path we follow leads to a courtyard with a simply elegant but leafless tree, surrounded by blooming plants at its heart. In the back we find the restaurant with a patio and great buffet filled with local Brazilian food.  The buffet is set out almost in anticipation of our arrival. We find a table at the edge of the patio overlooking a stream out back with bustling water. We enjoy a relaxing meal under the grape vine canopy,  with a cool flowing and the sounds of the stream below. When I finish cleaning my plate (it was that good) I excuse myself to take a look around (and snap some photos). I find some great angles and the best angle I find is the hammock. What a wonderful place to put your feet up and I personally love a good hammock. I decide to take a rest and enjoy a little quite time. As I look to the sky, I notice there is one of those white fluffy clouds blocking the sun. The silver lining of the cloud gets my attention as I am amazed how bright it is. Simply magnificent! As the cloud moves and the sun begin to beat down on me, I decide it is time to move on and leave my comfortable cocoon.


At this point my friends are ready to head back a few blocks to the main part of the city. The touring begins. First stop is the large Catholic Church "Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario" on the top of the hill. It is a grand sturcture built in 1734 – with its gothic architectural style is definitely not typical in its colonial surroundings. At first we turn the corner and are disappointed as the front doors are now closed (they had been open when we drove through town to get to the restaurant). Fortunately for us we search a little more and the little gift shop to the right of the church (selling the usual rosaries and traditional Catholic gifts) is open. Yeah! We are awestruck by the stunning square between the church and the residence. With breathtaking white arches contrasted with beautiful flowers and greenery. A truly serene place where one can easily see many prayers being inspired here. The side door to the
church is open and we enter to find a lovely sanctuary with hand painted murals and more breathtaking white arches. The sanctuary is decorated with wild flowers arrangements of pinks and purples. Obviously wedding nuptials will be performed here later today.

We leave the church to walk down the hill along the stores lining the cobblestone street. Again a beautiful day and I think again just how wonderful life is. I would find it hard to believe that anyone would not be
enjoying this peaceful day. I travel in and out of the different stores, investigating all the locally made crafts and souvenirs. In hind sight I probably should have made a purchase or two to memorize my trip.

Across the bridge connecting us to the “commercial” area of the city we travel. It is easily to see the townspeople are proud of their heritage and keep the city well maintained.  Passing by some of the cities landmarks including "Church of the good death-Museu de Arte Sacra of the Church of the good death" housing a large collection of Baroque sculptors, "Cross of Anhanguera"on the banks of the red river, "Largo da Matriz-square with Bandstand" situated in the center of the city,  it has served as the main platform for community activities. 

We explore this square and on the one side is the old governor’s palace (built 1751). Ninety-eight governors of the state of Goias lived in this large property. It was built to serve as the residence for the govenors in the new capital. Luiz and I take a quick tour and I again fall in love with the antiques and well kept period furniture throughout. The quad out back is two tiered and flourishing with greenery and flowers. Today they allow wedding ceremonies in the space and I can easily see someone wanting to get married in this well manicured garden. The tour is in Portuguese, but Luiz translates for me. A couple times during the tour as the guide waits for him to translate, I wonder what the other people on the tour think about this interruption. I guess I will never know. Personally, these are the times I wish that learning the language was much easier.

After the tour we meet up with Renato and Marinete (who had decided not to go on the tour) and continue our exploration of Goias. The four amigos (us) head towards the towns market as it is supposed to be something to see in town. We stop and ask for directions and have a cute discussion with some local older ladies. They discuss how the market is surprisingly closed and that there seems to be no one in town for it being a Saturday. (again thanks Luiz for the translation). Although my Portuguese is limited by the

end of our visit, the one lady shares her concern for me being in the sun with such light complexion and offers me refuge under her umbrella for a minute. A new friend is made. The state of emptiness is very uncommon for the little community but we are not going to complain. Except that the most of the city market was closed and we would have loved seeing more. I think the lack of crowds is a positive for us.  Once we get to the market there is not much to see so after a couple of photos we turn around and explore more of the narrow streets of Goias.

The next destination on our walk is at the top of the hill and the Chafariz de Cauda. Built in the 1700’s as an aqueduct bringing water to the cities residence it has been preserved well over the years. Today is serves as a distinct symbol for the city of Goias. It can be found on post cards and represents the colonial architecture preserved in this picturesque community.

There is rumor of a special candy maker located a short distance from the Chafarez de Cauda so we ask a couple of people for assistance in locating this treat. Made in the home of Dona Silvia, we locate the home and are greeted and asked to have a seat. She disappears into the back room and returns with a tray of white candy in hand. Carved in the delicate Catholic symbols, the candy is sweet and definitely different then anything I have had before. We thank her for her hospitality and begin our journey back through the town towards the pick up parked at the Cathedral.

We make a quick stop at a cute little cafe “Bodega Fantastica” to have coffee and an afternoon treat. It’s an eclectic shop decorated like a hippie shop found in San Francisco. With a stage and a microphone it is easy to see they have open mike or some form of performance here from time to time. We finish our coffee and finish our journey through Goias.
I leave Goias feeling relaxed and rejuvenated from the day or exploration. If you ever have the opportunity to leave the beaten path of Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo and visit a different Brazil,  I would suggest this being a stop on your tour of the central area of the country.   I would truly love to come back and explore some more of the ecotrousism someday. (Read "Wedding Show - Goiania Style")

Please let me know if you would like a Goias -I would be happy to share this beautiful city with you! All inclusive packages available--
See my about me page for contact information or leave a comment.



ricardo luiz irineu brito said...

cool! i like so much the way you say the things about us... our land... our people.

Dave said...

Ricardo I enjoy everything about Brazil -- thanks for reading.