Oh where, Oh where does the tourist trail go...

Curitiba Travel Blog

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There is a bus route in Curitiba that is built for tourists, it hits about twenty of the cities main attractions allowing the visitors to wonder at their own leisure. Over the weekend I took the bus to a few of the wonders: the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the German forest, A Ukrainian church, a recycled stone quarry, and a viewing tower. Combined the sites became vastly different colors on the palette of a cityscape. The Museum was thought provoking, with its framed views and intentional lighting pulling your gaze from one exhibit to the next. There was a diversity among modern art in the collection and in the mediums: some cubist paintings, some Miesian furniture, some interpretational film. It was almost climactic to wait until the end of the exhibit, until you wondered throughout the blank hallways to crawl up the tunnel and into the eye. Yet, it was just as anti-climactic to realize that the show room was void of any works due to the schedule being in between shows. Following the Museum, some friends and I headed to the German forest. It was a spur of the moment adventure because neither of us had heard of the attraction before; It turned out to be a spectacular place. You arrive on a hilltop with only a German style hotel and bakery to hint at the treasure awaiting you. We sat down in the sun and enjoyed a petit lunch while soaking in the panoramic view of the city as well as the chiming sounds of the waterfall pouring down the hillside. After, we took the wooden bridge across the stream and began descending a five story winding tree house. The house had no siding, but was built with a rustic style and obvious quality. It had vantage points to take in the scenery as you descended into the thick lush forest. Once at the bottom, a lovely stone path tore off from the monumentous tree house and disappeared into the wood. Walking along the path, smaller sheds appeared just over each horizon line. Under the dwarf-like roof’s were large tile story book pages in Portuguese of Hansel and Gretel- the entire story. My friends and I spent much time acting out each scene for our cameras… adding props when necessary. Before long, we were attracting the attention of some fellow forest strollers. The next stop we disembarked on was the reformed limestone quarry. Once one of the most polluting and unsightly mars on the face of the city, it now stands as a reservoir and a park for Curitibans alike. As you approach, remnants of a coliseum come to mind, or perhaps a Spanish mansion. Yet, as you pass the pools of coy and fountains and make your way to the edge of the water, the view drops hundreds of feet to the park below. A water fall of only about five feet in width rains down a water fall of color into the small lake below. Tourist shops, restaurants, and the like fill the emporium. My companeros and I chose a grassy knoll to lay out on while we listened to the hum of flies, quack of ducks, and incessant laugh of kids playing futbol. A brief but intriguing stop was the Ukrainianian Church. A protruding object, like a wart on the side of a modern childrens park, the church rises above the trees. Built out of wood that has become grey over the years, the quality and prudish detail stand out. A central path leads you directly from the road to the front entrance, forcing you inside. Nominally lit it is reminiscent of a cross between an American prairie house and an Orthodox Catholic Church from Greece. Lastly, but not in the least bit less worthy of the tourist trail was the viewing tower. A sketchy entrance that takes you around the back of the building makes the place seem less that what it is. A small museum exhibit of telephones and other turn of the century communications devices distracts from the empty space of the lobby. When you finally step off the elevator and are greeted with a 360 degree view of the state of Parana, your breath leaves your lunges. I’m still not sure whether it was the fascination I had with the architecture laid out before me, or the fact that the setting sun in the distant hills created colors I never knew existed. I was able to gather photos to illustrate my research- parks created from flood plains, building code restrictions, zoning ordinances, pedestrian walkways, and many other difficult to describe ideas. Following our relaxing but informative tour, we felt prompted to hit the streets of this lovely city and walk back to the hotel. The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the hotel from the twenty minute walk was the clean refreshing feeling I had- even though I had just come from the down town of relatively large city. Pollution can be overcome.
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I was at the park over the weekend; Curitiba is famous for many things, one of them being their frequent parks. While sunbathing and relaxing on the grass with friends I was noticed a large beastly dog of which I couldn’t recognize the breed. I assumed it was a mix of some type but it stuck out because it wouldn’t stop growling at the people playing futbol- it was almost eerie. Normally, this wouldn’t have been worth mentioning but something Santiago said to me later the next night stuck out. At a party, I was flipping through some photos and walking by he pointed to the dog and said, “Ooh, that’s a Fila!” Having no idea what he was talking about I pushed him further to explain. “Well, it’s a big dog that was bred here in Brazil to chase after slaves.” I couldn’t believe him. Not only did I discredit the fact that someone would actually breed an animal to chase down other human beings; but still, I had doubts that something like that would happen in Brazil. If someone were to attempt such an atrocity, I would be more convinced if they said they were from Georgia in the 1700’s rather than Brazil. Although I am aware that slavery of Africans was rampant in the Northern areas of Brazil, mostly to support the sugar cane industry, race relations among Africans and European immigrants seem too facile to have stemmed from such hate. The international market views Brazil as a beautiful and happy mixture of Africans and Europeans; it is the apex of perfection for a swirl ice cream cone. I too held this view. Coming from Atlanta and originally from Texas, the Southern bias was always apparent even though I never aided it’s spread. Race relations in America between African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans are tight in some states, stemming from a brutal history of cruelty and oppression. However, the Brazilians put on a façade for the rest of the world, showing that they have either moved beyond their past or that the past was not as significantly brutal as North Americas. From my experience I have drawn the conclusion that one does not forget a history of slavery, so therefore the show of mutualism and respect that Brazil paraded around the world must have stemmed from a more neutral set of relations. Yet, I was very wrong. After researching the history of the Fila Brasileiro- the vicious dog I saw in the park, Santiago’s tidbit proved true. The Fila was bred to be loyal to its owner but mean and hostile to strangers. It was necessary for the colonist to heard cattle, hunt jaguars, guard the ranches, and be a friend. It is a hazy mix between an ancient bulldog, mastiff, and bloodhound. The name Fila is derived from rudimentary Portuguese “filar” meaning, “to hold.” That is specifically what the dog was used for in the newly discovered country of Brazil, to hold slaves during transport or in work pens on the plantations. I was saddened to discover that an ignorant animal was used for such a horrible thing, but even more surprised that the country of Brazil was able to transition from a rancid past to a bright future. Still, as I dug further in my quest to learn more about the Fila Brasileiro, I ran in to more and more in formations discounting the international audiences opinion of Brazilian race relations. Brazil is a country similar to the United States, in that is has a marred history of equal respect for all. But, unlike my original impression, it has not solved the race relation problems, and infact is just beginning to open a festering wound. Many groups are beginning to form to stand up for the tiny percentage of Brazileiros that consider themselves black. Brilliant black lawyers conceded that due to their race alone they would never have a place in the Supreme Court. Universities and Private institutions have painfully low percentages of black students and affirmative action has only been implemented in the past few years. It seems that the foreigner’s idea of Brazil being a perfect paradise that has overcome a harsh past is exceedingly wrong. Brazil is a country who never fully dealt with the past- choosing to ignore it and move on, yet the wound has only been getting worse and signs of strain are showing in the population. I hope that Brazil can learn from the United States accomplishments and mistake regarding her position in race relations and move more quickly to a stable peace.
Curitiba
photo by: joesu