Brazil 1: Sao Paulo, endless city full of, well, everything

Johannesburg should have prepared me for crazy big city, but there’s crazy and crazy. And Sao Paulo is definitely on the top of the scale. Well, my very first contact, at the tourist information in the airport, was actually very nice. Then buying the ticket for the airport shuttle bus into the city brought the immediate realization that even in tourist-heavy places English is no option. And high tolerance for weird bureaucratic procedures, reminding me of Italy, is essential. The first bus on my line was half empty, but I had been sold a ticket for the next one, and wouldn’t be let onto the first one to leave… By the way, I think Sao Paulo has the largest Italian population of any place outside Italy.

Well, the more difficult the official way of things is, the more nice people you always encounter to smooth your way. The entry to the apartment complex of my first host already familiarized me with the security procedures which seem intense even after Johannesburg. I was waiting to be picked up in between two electric fences, a moat-like structure, where the two gates would never be opened at the same time. So this is my first picture:

And Sao Paulo is the first „dangerous“ city where I did get a little scared actually — because most people I met had a first person story of some crazy crime, being held up with a gun at the traffic lights in bright daylight and being kidnapped in the car waiting in front of a school in the afternoon are some of the highlights, but also „simple“ things like being mugged for phone and money on a daytime walk with friends in the city. Well, nothing happened to me, luckily, and the police presence is certainly also impressive.

The next day gave me this gorgeous panorama of the city, beautiful and scary at the same time. Houses as far as the eye can reach…

An inner city walk reveals the very diverse beauty of the city. Starting with the MASP, museum of art with a pretty eclectic collection, but nice architecture. And an odd hippy hut in the back yard, where you can also find people playing music, drinking, smoking, socializing at night. Some graffiti, for which SP is also rightly famous, this one if I’m not mistaken by „Os Gêmeos“, whose work I had already seen in Scotland

I love how the different houses sometimes form a harmonic whole, and sometimes something seems very much out of place.

The Cathedral Sé was also an impressive sight in the sunset, …

… and is considered the center of Sao Paulo — all distances to the city are calculated in reference to this stone. And another tourist landmark, the municipal market („mercado municipal“), with beautiful architecture, …

… great fruit stands with all sorts of produce I had never seen before in my and (sadly) disappointing restaurants.

Two more pictures from the balcony of my first host, beautiful nightly skyline.

Why do so many universities in the world have these funny clock towers without any use? This is the USP, I think Sao Paulo’s biggest university — according to Wikipedia some 20,000 staff and almost 90,000 students. And also geographically well worth a city of its own — it took me more than an hour to walk across the campus in the shorter direction.

Another impression of Brazilian culture in the form of the bill from a bar. It is totally customary to split bills simply by the number of people without looking at who had what. Very relaxing, and works out well usually. Of course, it is true that you think twice about ordering a dessert if the others don’t. And you pay more than with the „Central European“ way of splitting if you don’t drink much, like myself. Anyway, as in this case the bill often already states how much will be each person’s share to spare you the maths, and the waiters naturally come around and swipe everybody’s credit card. Oh, a tip of 10% is also already included in the bill. You wouldn’t have to pay it, but would of course be in a slightly awkward position trying not to.

What takes the place of our German trash bins is also interesting and can be quite romantic. Or not.

Thanks to Couchsurfing, I had a great time at an afternoon flatshare party where about half the people played samba music and the other half listened, sang or danced. Only sad I was pretty tired from going out the night before… And another activity a tourist wouldn’t do: Playing (well, more learning to play) Tennis in a central park that is built all around sports.

Another museum visit, the Pinacoteca, with great architecture and interesting ways to accentuate it in a modern way — here a huge rotating mirror on the ceiling. And unexpected ways in which art comments on its contemporary life, like this depiction of a Roman slave from a time when there was slavery in Brazil. The facial expression in the picture puzzled and engaged me for quite some time.

I also loved this drawing of a city taken over by cars and found it quite suitable to include in my post on Sao Paulo.

The Pinacoteca also has nice balconies and a garden to relax in between the art experiences. And I wish I could take that weird bronze seat home.

Outside the Pinacoteca a nice park and and old train station, …

… apparently completely manufactured in Europe and only assembled here.

The good thing about modern art: You look at everyday stuff differently. „Arte no Metró“, art in the metro station of the Pinacoteca. Empty or … ? This by the way is the new „yellow“ metro line which was just recently finished, by a French company which I had the pleasure to meet some of the French workers involved with. Super high tech, not even drivers for the trains. At the same time, the busses are legally required to carry a ticket vendor along with the driver, a measure against unemployment. In general public transport is good — when you’re near a metro station life is super easy, and when you’re not you can get anywhere if you know how to use the buses, which is tricky. Anyway, unemployment seems to be almost unbearably low, companies have big trouble finding people qualified for their positions and have to resort to stealing employees from each other.

This is one of my last Sao Paulo pictures, a gorgeous sunset after my walk through the USP campus. And off to rural life again, pictures coming soon.

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Datum: Sonntag, 30. Oktober 2011 17:04
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