Brazil was originally a Portuguese colony with large exports of sugar and coffee. Brazil had the largest number of African slaves in the world, upwards of 4 million before slavery was abolished. Because of this, there is a large African influence today including the samba and capoeira dances. Because of the French Revolution, the Portuguese royal family moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1808 to escape Napoleon. During the 13 years that the family lived in Rio, it became the capital of Portugal. There are nearly 800 favelas, or Brazilian slums, in Rio de Janeiro accounting for 2 million people.
Christ the Redeemer was built by the Catholics in 1922 to celebrate 100 years of Brazilian independence. Brazil is the largest catholic country in the world, therefore Christ with his arms open to welcome people from the bay entrance to Rio is fitting. It took 9 years to build Christ the Redeemer and faces east on hunchback hill in Tijuca forest. Tijuca forest is the largest urban forest in the world covering 32 square kilometers.
We rode the cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Unfortunately due to fog, we couldn’t see Christ the Redeemer from the top.
Copacabana Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Brazil, along with Ipanema Beach. It is where most of the sand volleyball Olympic Games were held. We watched part of a foot volley game, which is incredible. Players can use any part of the body but their hands with all of the other traditional volleyball rules. It takes great skill.
We went to a Flamengo vs. Bahia game at Maracanã stadium. Flamengo, a local Rio team, won 3-1. I won a free jersey for guessing the score before the game. Maracanã stadium holds nearly 80,000 people and is where the 2014 World Cup games were held.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro is definitely the most interesting cathedral architecture I’ve ever seen. Although it is quite ugly in my opinion from the outside, the inside is beautiful with great acoustics. The church service was lively and fun with singing and dancing.
Santa Theresa is a bohemian, artsy neighborhood in Rio originally where the Portuguese nobles lived in the early 1800’s. The famous Selaron Staircase connects Santa Theresa to Lapa, the happening night life neighborhood in Rio.
We tried the traditional pão de queijo, which is a cheesy bread common in most cafes in Brazil.
The 215 Selaron Steps are named after the designer who lived in the green house along the staircase. He built the steps to thank the people of Rio for welcoming him to their city. He originally collected tiles in the colors of the Brazilian flag from dumpsters around the city, but eventually people from around the world began giving him tiles from their countries as well.
On our last night in Rio, we ate a traditional Brazilian BBQ, where they serve all you can eat meat off large skewers.