Rio Historic (by Carmen)
I often think of Rio de Janeiro as a modern city complete with problems caused by rapid, unplanned urbanization. I hadn’t much thought of historic Rio but it was a pleasant surprise to find it. I know not all of you are not history buffs. I am no expert either, but I love my hostoric trivia. For example, the city was founded in 1565 and has functioned as an important port for centuries. It was also the seat of Latin America’s only monarchy. Don Pedro I and Don Pedro II reigned from 1822 to 1889, when Brazil was declared a republic. Ok… I´ll tone down the trivia for the rest of the post. :)
A mix of colonial and modern buildings fill in the narrow streets of Rio’s center. It’s on one of these streets that Cafe Columbo can be found. After all the historic cafes of Buenos Aires I wasn’t expecting much from this one. But I was wrong. It was beautiful, bright, elegant and airy. Huge mirrors lined the walls so that soft light bounced throughout the cafe. The sweets they offered weren’t as spectacular as the surroundings but they were still good. Drinking coffee and eating a fruit tart at Cafe Columbo is a lovely way to spend an hour or two.
Just uphill from the center area is the Santa Teresa neighborhood. We tried to take the historic streetcar that rides along the city’s old aqueduct (history AND transit, woot!) but it wasn’t running. The strange thing is no one would tell us why. Finally, a friendly shop owner told us that a few years ago the streetcar had flipped over killing 6 people! It was a tragic accident that the government says they are fixing. But they are taking too long and the residents are upset. Hence the crying tram. I hope the city gets their act together by 2014 because the tram is an important lifeline for the residents of Santa Teresa.
One more history lesson was at the Jardim Botanico, founded in 1808. Since Rio was our most tropical destination, I was pretty excited about this one. It had some pretty extraordinary flowers, like the one with thick red petals and a prickly yellow center. And of course, they had plenty of orchids. But my favorite part turned out to be the historic central fountain. Palm lined paths led up to it and it was backdropped by the Corcovado (the mountain with the famous Cristo statue on top of it).
Rio’s history added another layer to this beautiful city.