Belo Horizonte can't delight with beaches, sun and sand, but can show of with wonderful architecture, fine restaurants, wonderful parks and a mountanous surrounding second to none.
around 450km from Rio de Janeiro
around 580km from Sao Paulo
Belo is a little off the beaten tourist path, but for those who make the trip, its very rewarding!!
if you have some time, look at my Nova Lima page and you see what I mean the park Pampulha, with one of the early architectural designs by Oscar Niemeyer and the surroundings in beautiful contrast to it.
Belo is also blessed with a wonderful nitelife, great Restaurants.
or watch on sunday a football game at the Minerao Stadium.
BELO HORIZONTE: CITY, CHECKERS AND CAVE
Let me explain a little about the layout of Belo Horizonte. Imagine, squares with criss-crossing 1-way streets. Then, imagine, another series of squares, much larger… perhaps, between 4 to 5 of the smaller squares. These are the 2-way avenues. Tilt the larger squares at 45 degrees to the small ones, and superimpose both together. There, you have the centre of Belo Horizonte.
With this design, there would inadvertently be spots where the junction of 2 streets is crossed by an avenue, thereby creating a junction of 3 roads, or 6 radiating lines. In theory, there is the possibility of 8 radiating lines, where the junction of 2 avenues meet the junction of 2 streets but the good city-planners of Belo Horizonte never let that disaster happen, by creating a square here, or a round-about there, sneakingly diverting the unsuspecting traffic away
So, at each junction with 3 roads (1 of the road has 2-way traffic, mind you), it was always utter chaos for me. I never knew when or how to cross the roads. Sometimes, there would be a lull, and I would attempt to cross… only to have massive traffic, usually appearing from my blind-spot, bearing down towards me. Then, I tried to follow the fellow Belo’s crossing habits. In my 2-microseconds of inattention, he would have spotted a mini-gap between the vehicles and leapt across to THE OTHER SIDE. The contours of Belo Horizonte are also very undulating. So, it was rather a mean feat for a car to zoom straight down from that hill at top speed, then, make a left turn… not of 90 degrees, but of 135 degrees, and then, zip straight up another slope, all with enough horsepower. I made full use of the rotating capabilities of my head each time I ended up on such a junction. Then, of course, when I did manage to get to the other side, I would have to recheck the map again on which radiating line to follow.
I wandered down to Mercado Central. This is another massive market, but permanent, selling all sort of food, household items, baskets, pets, and other assorted home decorations. It was a huge maze, and I found it rather delightful as well, with many interesting things and people to observe.
When I came upon the Palacio des Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Palace), I entered it, figuring this might be another Niemeyer’s design. There were several renovation works going on and as I could not find anything interesting to admire, I prepared to leave. Then, just as I was out of the door, I spotted what looked to be a photography exhibition next to the exit.
It was an exhibition of the photography works of Pierre Verger, a famous French photographer. I had seen his signature around but never really found out properly who he was.
And… my goodness, I was totally blown away!
The first was an exhibit of his passport pages and indications of where he had been in his long life, starting from his first trip in the 1930s to his last trips in the late 1980s. He had travelled to nearly all continents - Europe, Asia, Africa and America. He obviously had a special love for West Africa and Brazil, visiting Senegal 10 times, Nigeria 15, Benin 23 and Brazil 26 times in his life.
As I went through the exhibits, I was in absolute awe. I was thorougly touched by his MAGIC. His brilliant works of art in medium format, taken with his Rolliflex in black-and-white, display spontaneity, rhythms, diverse expressions, lyrical compositions, play of light and shadow, of people, cities, cultures… yes, humanity… L-I-F-E!
I was especially moved by one of the exhibits showing the Faces of the World. In there, while staring at the various faces from Japan, China, Mexico, Guatemala, Benin, Togo, Peru, Italy, Brazil, Nigeria…, I found them all staring back at me with pride, joy, intensity, passion, shyness, surprise… I don’t know why but the two times when I entered the room, and then, when I wrote about this in my journal and now, here in the travelblog, I had tears welling up to my eyes. I was just so touched by everyone I saw through his lens, that he allowed me to see through his eyes. And I felt very grateful to them, and to him, for letting me see all this.
He captured LIFE, these people… so different, yet all the same, living under the same sky, sharing the same earth, captured for eternity in these images. Mr Verger had lived with them, loved them and respected them and in turn, he had been loved and respected.
His photos caught all essence of life, people at work, sleeping, performing rituals at Candombles, partying at Carnaval, sharing a hug, having a cigarette, peering shyly out of a window, leaning on each other, looking relaxed, cheering, shouting, playing music, smiling smiling smiling…
By evening, I was rather charmed by a little band playing Cuban son, one of my favourite kind of music!, on one of the squares near Praça Sete. I found myself standing there a good half an hour listening to the great music. The squares seemed perfect for the mellow Belos to hang out. Some middle-aged and elderly men were playing checkers on one side. And teenage boys were skate-boarding at the other end.
I made a day trip to Gruta Maquina. Not such a good idea, after all, due to the terrible transportation timings.
The bus leaves at 6.30am (ungodly hour!!), takes 3 hours to get there. You need just 1 hour to visit the cave but the return bus only leaves at 4pm!
So, you have 6 hours to wait with nothing to do.