Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cross country travel - day 10

Curitiba Trade Center
I often share about our morning routines but since I want to do some research on Curitiba and we have a lot of sights to see I am off and writing.  I am excited about the city and when we open the blinds,  the sun comes shining through (Yeah it's back!!).  Since we only have one day to explore let's get right to Curitiba. 
Founded in 1693 Curitiba is full of history and amazing things to see.  It is definitely the largest city we have visited on this trip with 1.75 million people calling it home.  The capital of Parana (a state in southern Brazil) and the largest city in the state, it is a prominent cultural, political and economic centre in Brazil.  The cities historical importance lies in its location, half way between the cattle raising ranchers in the southern part of Brazil and the markets in the north.
The city's first non indigenous settlers came from Paramagua when gold was discovered in the region.  These settlers formed a small village called  Vila da Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais ("Our Lady of the Light in the Pine Forest").  There is an interesting legend about the creation of the city as a group of pioneers founded a small village near the Atuba River in 1648.     These settlers adored Nossa Senhor da Luz and had a statue of her in a particular place in the village.  Legend has it that every morning the image turned her eyes to the pine forest which was known to be sacred to the native Tingui tribe.  The villagers took this as a sign that they were being shown a special place for their village and although they knew the Tingui took them to be enemies,  the settlers took the risk and went into the forest to find this special place.  During this search they came across the Tingui tribe and to their surprise the Indians were peaceful and expecting them to come.  The leader of the tribe is said to have taken a stick and stuck it into the ground saying "Core Etube" ("many pines")  By this location a mighty tree would grow and today it is the zero mark of Curitiba.  In 1812 it officially became a town and the name was changed to a form of current day Curitiba. There were several variations of the name before the current spelling and pronunciation stuck.  Later in the 1800's, people from Germany, Poland, Italy, and the Ukrain began to migrate here to become part of the farming community as the city grew and developed.  Today,  most of the migration to the city comes from other cities within Brazil.  The rich history can be seen throughout and we are excited to begin out journey, (thank wikipedia)

As we drove in the city a little yesterday we noticed a site seeing bus, so our first goal is to find where we can catch the bus.  I feel a bus is a great way to get acquainted with a new city and while on the bus you can make a list of what you want to go back and see.  This is how we have decided to spend our morning.  Tickets for the two hour journey can be purchased in the heart of the city so we quickly head in that direction.  Our destination is Tiradentes Square/Praca Osorio which is anchored by Catedral Basílica Menor de Nossa Senhora da Luz of Curitiba.  A beautiful Catholic Cathedral constructed from 1876 to 1893 in the neo Gothic style. The square is considered the birthplace of the city.  It is lush with palm trees, an elegant clock tower, and of course artistic mosaic sidewalks. After finding a parking spot we purchase our tickets, board the bus and soon we are on our way enjoying the sites from atop the double decker bus.  It is a little cool today but the tour sure gives us a good overview of the city and once again I am glad I brought a jacket. I am amazed by all the beautiful architecture and lush squares throughout Curitiba.  The excursion takes us into several of Curitiba's neighborhoods and we are able to see a lot of the popular tourist spots located throughout the city as we add them to our afternoon and future visit agendas.  Past beautiful churches, Hospital Caridade, Paiol Theater, Museu Oscar Niemeyer, Tigre Royal, Paco Municipal, Arabian Memorial, Curitiba Trade Center, Botanical Garden, Tiles Panel, Motor Car Museum, Curitiba Memorial, to just name a few of the places we saw and added to our must explore more.  (I don't think we will hit them all today but sure will try and if we don't it always means a future visit is in line)

The bus tour comes to an end back at the square where it all started and we decide to explore the square and the area at the end of the route.  Located in the central part of Curitiba it is obviously the oldest part as well.  The city is proud of its history which is apparent by the amount of older buildings which have been or are currently being renovated.  We are surrounded by architectural wonders and details with beautiful color accents.  Each building tells a story and how wonderful it would be if one could understand what they say. We turn the corner and see Garibaldi Square.  Simply spectacular with colorful buildings and majestic architect.  The square is anchored by "Memory Fountain" (nicknamed Drooling Horse).  A bronze sculpture by Ricardo Tod, unveiled in 1995 and dedicated to the memory of people who, in the past, used to stop at a nearby drinking fountain to allow their horses to get a drink.  I simply think the sculpture accents the square with it's all white church, colorful shops, and mustard colored Arcades of São Francisco.  We find a little cantina to grab some lunch and enjoy the square.
After lunch we continue our walking tour and we comment on how the city is laid out to encourage pedestrian traffic. As we walk along we are lured into a building by a wonderful "wood sculpture of Bucephalus".  A spectacular sculpture depicting a sea horse and soon we realize we are in an open air art
museum.   It happens to be the Memorial de Cidade (Curitiba Memorial).  The Memorial of the city of Curitiba is a space dedicated to the memory, the arts and culture of Curitiba.  On our visit we enjoy the eclectic art and wonderful people watching.  It is another beautiful find in the heart of the city.

Our next find is the Paço Liberdade (Freedom Square), which is centered by a stunning building built in 1916 as the seat for the mayor of Curitiba.  Today the building houses a quaint little restaurant on the main floor and offices on the other two.  The building is accented by whimsical fountains, elaborate sculptures, mosaic sidewalks, and the beautiful buildings which line the square it sits in the middle of.  There is definitely plenty of photo opportunities and more details then one could observe in the short hour we spend exploring.  We will have to come back to this spot someday to continue finding more little treasures.
A few steps further down the pedestrian streets we come to another one of Curitiba's important landmarks,  the Federal University of Parana.  A historical building constructed in the early 1900 century to house the newly defined federal university.  A truly grand structure with its large concrete columns,  it anchors one end of Santos Andrade Square and sits across from the Theater Guaira.  We walk through the square admiring the University building, flowers, garden sculptures and white fountain in the middle.  We come across a lady walking her dog and she shares some history of the square and suggest that we take a look inside the Theater on the far end of the square.  We bid her a good day and walk to the theater to check it out.  Upon entering the theater we are greeted by a older gentleman who offers to show us around.  As he brings us into the different nooks and crannies of the theater,  he shares his history with the theater.  He has been working there for many years and has met many famous Brazilian actors and actresses.  (Including my friend Fernanda Montengro)   The tour is surely a pleasant surprise and we enjoy the stories he shares.  We spend quite a lot of time with him visitting behind the stage, up to the balcony, and the tribute wall with plaques honoring many of these actors and actresses who have worked there.  The tour is ended when a group of school age students arrive and he must lead them on their guided tour. 
We decide it is time to see a couple of the other places we saw while on the bus tour earlier and since they are not in the center of the city, we head back to the car.  A short drive and we arrive at the Curitiba Botanical Garden.  As we pull up, the gardens are hidden by large mounds of dirt covered by lush green grass.  We walk to the top of the mound and peer over to see the beautiful trademark gardens of Curitiba created in the French garden style.  A flourishing  lawn filled with finely cut hedges and a carpet of flowers rolled out down the middle of the walkway.  The air is fresh and with partly cloudy skies it is a perfect day to walk in the garden.  At the end of the walkway past the fountains is a glass structure. Built in an art nouveau style with a modern metallic structure, the greenhouse resembles the Crystal Palace of London.  It is filled with tropical plants found in Brazil.  There are parts of the garden which are currently being renovated and so the greenhouse is a little crowded today.  We spend a little time there before deciding it is time to head on. 
It is getting late in the afternoon and so we decided to head Santa Felicidade.  A region of the city where the Italians settled when they first came to the Curitiba.  Today it is known as the gastronomic district of the city with a wide variety of famous restaurants and wineries.  There is a restuarant which has been recommended not far away where we plan to have dinner this evening.  It is on our way back to the center of the city so for now we just grab a small snack, a little wine, some chocolate and enjoy a nice walk down the street  exploring the great architecture.
Evening is approaching and so our time in Curitiba is quickly coming to an end. 
We leave the main street and head towards the restaurant but are disappointed as it is closed.  I guess this mean we will have to find a new place to eat.  We continue downtown and settle for eating at a railroad station turned into a mall.  The Mexican food was not bad,  but I sure wish we would have stayed in Santa Felicidade for dinner.  After eating and a little walking around,  it is time to end our day in Curitiba and get some sleep for our journey back.