Sunday, 15 August 2010

Belém of Pará.

If you read the "Lost World" by Arthur Conan Doyle, the expedition party in the Brazilian Amazon to spot the miraculously surviving flying dinosaurs, start from the port of Pará. That was the name of the fortified city at the mouth of the great river, the connection of this most mysterious jungle to the rest of the world. Today this is Belém, in the massive state of Pará. I read this book a few months ago and tried to trace it a bit and I ended up finishing it where I could have started.

Belém is one of most beautiful cities I've seen in a while and this goes a long way. It is simply stunning. Once again I was flabbergasted with the bad reputation it carries. What is wrong with people, don't they have eyes to see and hearts to loose? The architecture is majestic and I don't mean just the center-pieces of its colonial past. Sure, the theater in the main square, the white churches and finely restored mansions, the fort and colourfully tiled fronts neatly stacked behind the docks are excellent. The newly renovated docks too, in a very modern and fashionable take, full of fancy restaurants and boutiques are cool. But in the old city and port, where you have to keep your eyes low for the safety of your steps and your gaze gets overwhelmed by the super-saturated surroundings is where all the secrets lie.

This is where the heart of the city still beats too. The famous marker of Ver-o-Preso has a reputation almost as big as itself. I never managed to get there at its peak (it's 4-5am!) but deliciously lost myself in it nevertheless. The huge tent with the endless stalls cooking on the spot the best food you can ever have and the nearby well stocked native market, the smelly and bustling fishing boats port, the forgotten piles of açai berries on the cobble-stones, the house about life in the Xingu river and the native tribes, people playing checkers with plastic bottle caps and dominoes, siestas in the shadow. Belém is magnificent.