Salvador: the soul of Brazil

I arrived in Salvador and settled into a hostel. Nice place, nice people but for some reason I wasn’t too keen on them. We somehow failed to connect. In such situations I tend to shut off and keep to myself. Luckily, I hardly spent any time in the hostel and wandered the streets all day long.

I knew Salvador would be nice, but wasn’t sure whether I would be impressed with it after Olinda. It was again a colonial city with live music on the streets. Well, I was impressed with it! It was indeed similar to Olinda but on a much greater scale. The colonial part of the city was bigger and higher and the bands were larger and noisier. I loved the Pelourinho (colonial part) and all it had to offer. The handy-crafts shops, the steep cobbled streets, the colorful buildings, the live music, romantic restaurants, plaza cafes, the great variety of people and they spirit. I could just wander the streets all the time. And that is what I did for most of the time actually! Every step, every corner was an excellent photo opportunity and I hardly out the camera away. I knew it was dangerous and kept it low-key for a while but only until I realised how well secured the area was with policemen at every corner. There was no stopping from there on! Click, click, click!

I also went to the beach a couple of times visiting two different beaches. The first one supposedly crowded was lovely, with shallow lagoons and crystalline water stretching along the city’s skyscrapers. The second beach, supposedly gorgeous was a bit of a slum. Crowded, dirty and smelly. Oh well, it is all an experience.

I went to a folkloric dance show which was a bit expensive but totally worth the money. They did an art interpretation of traditional Candomblé worship dances which was fascinating to see. There was the dance of fire, the dance of the Goddess of the Rivers, the God of Disease and Death, the God of Iron and War as well as samba and capoeira. An amazing spectacle! Beautiful people, performing beautiful dances in beautiful costumes. The energy, the spirit, all that makes a great performance was there. Memorable.

I also went to a Candomblé ceremony. Now that was a surreal experience. I am not going to go into the details of the religion as you can find out for yourself. I am just going to mention some interesting details. We went to a family house somewhere in the slums where the priestesses were getting ready for the ceremony. People were slowly gathering and by the time it began there was not a single space left. The room was packed with people even standing by the door. We were told by the guide that we are not allowed to laugh as the hosts would get offended. They would take it as a disrespectful behaviour towards their religion. We kept our mouths shut, maintaining a straight face all along. We wondered if it’s OK to smile at a little girl that was running around, making silly faces. We did smile and nothing happened. The sky didn’t fall on us. We kept smiling at her and the people around us. They were doing it afterall. We figured it was safe.

The ceremony began with all the baianas dancing in a circle. The drums were playing and they were chanting. That took a while and not much happened, they just danced in circles looking tired and bored. That is when it started happening. One by one they started falling into trance. One minute they were standing with their eyes wide open, and the next they were sleeping with people supporting their body weight. Once they were stabilized, they would either stand in the middle of the circle, swaying, occasionally performing religious movements or would go on dancing in their sleep. The process took a while until most baianas fell asleep. They were possessed by the God of Iron and War. The Blue God. They would dance, and dance, and dance, sometimes slower at others faster, hugging important people or swaying in the hands of the baianas that were awake in need of support.

Once the God had decided he had had enough dancing they would make their way into an adjacent room and disappear. Some would return for more dancing. Then some worshipers would also fall into trance. Those were people familiar to the house, it would not happen to others. We didn’t wait for all of them to leave as some took a very long time. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the end of the ceremony when the soul was purified and a God assigned to each person. I wonder what my God would be…?

The ceremony was long and and on the verge of being boring if it wasn’t for the random electrifying moments. None of us would relax for a second wondering when the next person would go into trance or what would happen next. It was surreal. I still can’t believe what happened days later. I am sitting here, typing this, shaking my head in disbelief. I can’t believe it! What a thing to see and experience.

The day after the ceremony I took it easy and spent the day in Pelourinho, drinking freshly squeezed maracuya juice at a cafe on the main plaza, reading and people watching. Perfect ending.


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