Into the BEACH
Salvador is literally surrounded by beaches. They are where people go to relax, cool off, chill, socialize, eat, drink, dance, exercise, surf, and of course swim. They vary from crowded city beaches great for meeting people to tropical idylls a short way up the coast.
One of the first beaches that most people get to know in Salvador is Porto da Barra. Porto da Barra was, interestingly, the site of Bahia's first European settlement, Vila Velha, or the Old Village. During the 1960's it was a hangout for the Tropicalistas, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and their crowd, and it continues to be very much of a hangout today.
On weekends, especially Sundays, the beach can get very crowded, and you have to be careful about where you put your stuff. The beach is set within the bay and the water is much calmer than on the oceanside beaches; it's good for swimming.
Porto da Barra, like all Salvador beaches, has its barracas where beer and seafruit can be bought.
A Candomble is a ritual with African origins, making offerings to a particular god or baptizing a young devotee. There is usually a patriach or matriach presiding over the ritual.
I visited a Candomble session in Salvador. It was to baptize a 12-year-old boy. While I did not always understand the deep meanings, this was briefly what happened.
Men were in charge of the complicated drum-beats (sometimes with hands for a god, and other times with drum-sticks for another god) and provided the main singer. They chanted in the Yoruba language. Some women and men danced slowly in tiny movements in a circle in the yard. Younger devotees danced with their backs hunched and heads hung low. The floor of the yard was strewn with a type of leaves.
The dancing, singing and drumming went on for hours. The 12-year-old boy was brought out first covered with white dots to immune him against illnesses. Later, he was brought out again, covered with yellow, pink and blue dots. We were to throw leaves at him as he passed by.
Slowly, the devotees entered into a trance and the main matriarch of the event started hopping on one leg, which meant she was possessed by the god Ossain who was painted on a picture as hopping on one leg.
These entranced were watched over and guided by mentors (who were not in a trance), just in case they got a little lost or started grabbing their jewellery and hurt themselves. Then, with their eyes closed, the entranced swooped out of the yard one by one, somehow knowing where the open gate was.
After a very long wait, they returned with very colourful costumes, with bright blue, yellow, red, sequined-dresses and head-gears which had beads or shells draped across their faces. They held implements on their hands like axes and metal-snakes.
The ritual stretched way past 2am, I reckoned. We left around 1.30am. No way they faked this for tourists.
Bahia: multiple faces
Bahia are not only Carnaval, condombl?, skyscrepars, beaches and more...but it's also favelas, mininio de rua, families that live collecting cans...and it's also the energy of life in each person, great persons that give free professional assistance to poor people without gouvernament assistance...and it's also the country where a few riches are owner of farm big than Tuscany, where the simply people that work there are like .....'slave'?
Don't stop your visit only in front of monuments by try to understood a little bit more of this country talking with the people.
You'll see this store all over Brazil and it is the country's best known jeweler. They specialize in creating original pieces using fine jewels and stones from Brazil. Many of their designs have been worn by famous Hollywood stars. I took a look at some of their products at the store in Rio and they really were quite attractive, but not in my budget.
Yemanja - In Salvador - Do Not Accept Substitutes!
Yemanja is the best known, and most stagey of the Bahiana restaurants. The food is traditional Bahiana food, derived from African traditions, with some colonial Brasilian thrown in. Rich in Dende (local palm oil), coconut milk, shrimp, and manioc (yucca)flour (farinha or farofa).
Yemanja is an important figure in the Candomble religion, which can be likened to the Afro-Brasilian version of Catholocism. The africans brought to Brasil to work as slaves were allowed to retain some of their culture, including their religious practices, which were melded together with the Catholocism of their keepers. Yemanja is the goddess of salt water and giver of life, and was therefore seen as a parallel to the Virgin Mary. There are many other african gods that share personna with Christian religions figures.
The restaurant is in a one story building along the waterfront north of the Pituba area, between Salvador Proper and Itapua. The decorations inside are typical, as are the costumes of the staff. The Bahianas wear the typical full skirts with the typical head wrap of white cloth from the colonial period. Bahiana food is a joy that must be experienced first hand. I usually order a shrimp moqueca, which is a kind of shrimp stew served on rice. This is one rich dish, as are all of the offerings, but do not worry, there is no such thing as worry in Bahia. I also like a well made vatapa and pirao, as these each have their own characteristics. Best to try them for yourself. Bahiana food is best eaten in Bahia, as it loses some of the appeal when transported to Rio de Janeiro, or to the far northeast.