Salvador de Bahia, set on the Baía de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) opening into the Atlantic, has rich Afro-Brazilian roots that are still visible in the music, the cuisine and the Candomblé religion- a mix of traditional African and Roman Catholic religions that was born in Bahia. There are stunning churches everywhere (365, one for every day of the year), cobblestone streets, a charming center that feels protected (“Just don’t leave the Pelourinho!” says everyone, all the time), and music fills the air. It’s relaxing and enjoyable just to roam around. The town has been transformed for tourists though, making the culture feel somewhat exploited , as well as making prices high. For Michael Jackson fans, or anyone who was alive in the mid 90s and owned a TV, Salvador is where he shot the “They Don’t Care About Us” video, with the young boys from the local samba school drumming. It’s their claim to fame in town.
We spent one day North in a small disneyland-like town that we’re sure Visa helped build, given the emblem everywhere (even on the street signs), called Praia do Forte. Even though it took us hours to get there (the bus system in Salvador needs a serious overhaul), the sea was beautiful and the town was a special sight.
For me, the highlights in Salvador were watching this incredible all female percussion band preform in the street, each of them strong, powerful, passionate and beautiful, playing and dancing in sisterhood, it was really moving- and eating a delicious fish Moqueca, a coconut milk-palm oil dish served with veggies, rice, black eyed peas and farofa (Brazilians put Farofa on everything- it’s like cornmeal but made from Manioc root). Also, the famed Acarajé was indeed delicious. It’s like a tapa you can only buy from a lady in the street (yes, always a lady, usually in traditional dress)- a falafel type biscuit is cut open and stuffed with pimento (spicey), two kinds of veggie/bean mash, salsa and shrimp (if you want). Yum.
So, I guess it always comes down to the music and food in Brazil 🙂