One for the history buffs, most old towns have one and Belem isn't any different, look back to the bad old days, when the fort was in use for the defence of the town, its very well maintained and worth doing, but, if forts aren't your thing, then don't bother, nice setting though.
During the day, the streets off of the side of the main street are taken up with market stalls selling everything you would expect from a market, but take a trip down to the waterfront and you come across (2) entirely different markets.
The 1st market you come across is the food market, under permanent canvas, lots of little stalls selling all sorts of local foods, its very local so not at all your 5* cuisine, but its really cool, if you carry on closer to the waterfront you can find a couple of bars and also some juice bars that sell their fruit juices in plastic bags.
Further along the waterfront you come to the spice market where they sell absolutely everything spicewise under the sun, they also have some excellent local arts and crafts and quite cheap too.
If you're in Belém, take a boat to the Island of Marajó (to Camará) and from there a bus or van to Cachoeira do Ararí. There, you'll find one of the most beautiful museums that I've ever seen. Established by a padre, everything in the museum is interactive; wooden "computers" teach you what alternative medicine you need for which disease, images and stories tell the history of the Island, including the inidigenous cultures, the history of slavery and local flora and fauna.
The museum even features a two-headed buffalo!
Seriously, I spent hours there and still didn't see and read everything, it's very beautiful and certainly worth a visit.
Just like in Manaus we felt like exploring the city just taking a walk in some vague direction ( to the river , without city map ) and let the city soak in on us..... Here are some of the simple impressions we had on this nice walk . Pic # 1 shows the tiles on the floor on Praça Republica , pretty old by their looks and very esthetic in my opinion. Pic # 2 , a house with a tree growing on the balcony ( or roof..? ) , pic # 3 an old house that must have seen better and more glorious days , but fascinates in its morbid decadence..... pic # 4 , the beautifully revamped docks that were turned into a leisure area with nice cafes and restaurants , a place to meet friends and hang out.... and finally pic # 5 , the romantic me at the docks in front of a beautifull sunset .....
Closing in on Belem , the last two hours of the whole boat trip down the Amazonas , we witnessed an interesting ceremony. From along the river bank on a stretch of about 10 km , many little paddle boats , often occupied with women and / or children came as close as possible to our gigantic embarcação while people from our ship threw tightly closed bags with stuff ( clothes ?? food ??) to them in the water..... These bags were received with great thankfulness and the people who threw them were not so well off themselves considering the way they traveled, which made me feel slightly bad for a moment but I had not known anything about this custom. Some brave adolescent kids even managed to hook their boat up to our ship under considerable risk and danger , then climb up the outer wall of our ship until they reached us travelers and offered fruits to sell...... I bought like three bags of a fruit I still don't know what it was but it was very tasty and made the kids day by paying him 5 reais....
The almost last impressions of the Amazonas journey were a wrecked ship ( pic # 4) and a little shack almost built on water in the middle of the river ( # 5 ) .....
One hour later we were on Terra Firma in Belem , a quick goodbye to our friends from the ship and off to the Hilton and back to civilization....
The beautifully restaurated area where Belem was "born" with the original fort with cannons pointing to the river , baroque churches , the city museum and government and administrative buildings is just a few minutes walk away from the city market and the docks. We visited the fort at night , having a posh dinner in a first class restaurant there and had a look at the churches from the outside. The next day we came back to visit the museum , wander in the nearby square and look at the government buildings from the outside.
An extensive visit to the whole area is highly recommended.
When I look at myself in these pictures at the museum I feel I look like , even though he probably never used shorts , Fitzcarraldo...... LOL...
No less a composer than Guiseppe Verdi praised the Brazilian Carlo Gomes, and no less an artist than Placido Domingo has recorded Gomes's greatest opera, I Guarani, a tale of love and blood that has -- as a subplot -- a respect and concern for the most numerous of aboriginal Brazilians.
Streets, parks, and theatres throughout Brazil are named for Gomes -- as is this conservatory, located in a beautiful 19th century building.
In rigorously modernizing Belem, it is always refreshing to come upon buildings like this -- often preserved between high rises. We can hope they will be long protected.
Built in 1762-72 by an ITalian architect, the Palacio Lauro Sodre was originally the seat of the Portuguese government of northeastern Brazil. (Portugal ruled what is now Brazil as two separate colonies until the late 18th century.)
Today the Palacio houses the Estado do Para government as well as a museum tracing the area's history.
Like the Teatro da Paz, the Basilica N S de Nazare was built from the profits of the rubber trade. It was consecrated in 1909.
Lavishly decorated with gold and Carrara marble, the church was modeled on St Paul's outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura) in Rome.
Each October the basilica is the focus of a major religious festival. A statue of the Virgin Mary -- miraculously discovered on the site of the basilica -- is carried through the streets to the Cathedral da Se. For two weeks Belem celebrates 'Cirio,' or the Festival of Candles, an event that compares with Carnaval.
Groups from Belem sometimes participate in Riio's Carnaval, carrying a copy of their wondrous statue.
In a famous bon mot, Charles de Gaulle said, 'Brazil? Brazil is not a serious country.'
The Brazilians, however, were the only South American country to send combat troops into World War II. They fought — and some died — during what is now generally conceded to have been an unnecessary campaign on the Italian peninsula.
Other than that, the Brazilian Army's greatest victory was in the 19th century. Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina pummelled poor Paraguay. (Over 90 percent of that landlocked nation's male population was killed.)
While the world need not fear the Brazilian Army, it surely ought to admire that army's Belem headquarters, a beautiful early 19th century building.