Showcase Town

    Showcase Town

    Finished the trance, the old man stood up and took the grandson in
    his hands. Right then and there you could hear the acauã bird’s singing mixed to the old
    man’s anguished laugh. And you couldn’t tell the acauã from the kid’s screaming. Finally,
    the cry was born! Mister Manezito laughed and laughed, the first time in his life.
    By Brazzil Magazine

    The South

    The Southern region, known in Brazil as Região Sul, includes the states of Paraná,
    Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. It covers almost 7% of the country’s land area and
    contains 23 million inhabitants—just over 15% of Brazil’s population. Most of these
    people are descendants of the German, Italian, Swiss and Eastern European immigrants who
    settled the region in the latter half of the 19th century. They have kept alive their
    customs, language and architecture, so you’ll see painted wooden houses with steep roofs
    and onionspire churches, and find small towns where Portuguese is still the second
    language.

    Geographically, Paraná, Santa Catarina and the northern part of Rio Grande do Sul are
    dominated by planaltos (tablelands): near the coast is the Planalto Atlântico,
    formed of granite, and in the interior is the Planalto Meridional, formed of volcanic
    basalt, with rich, red soil known as terra roxa. In the southern interior of Rio
    Grande do Sul are the pampas—the grassy plains, while on the coast there are three
    large saltwater lagoons: Patos, Mirim and Mangueira.

    With the exception of the north of Paraná, the climate is subtropical, and the
    vegetation varies from Mata Atlântica remnants on the Paraná and Santa Catarina coast to
    the almostextinct Mata Araucária and pine forests of the Planalto Meridional. Snow is not
    uncommon on the Planalto Meridional during winter.

    The economy of the region has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The pampas,
    where once roamed huge herds of cattle driven by gaúcho cowboys, is now dominated
    by endless fields of soy beans—much of which goes to feed European cattle. Heavy
    industry, encouraged by cheap electricity from the Itaipu Dam, has transformed the South
    into Brazil’s secondmost developed region.

    Proud of their differences from other Brazilians, Sulistas
    (Southerners)—especially the gaúchos from Rio Grande do Sul—are growing
    increasingly dissatisfied with the central government in Brasília. Talk of separatism is
    rife, and a recent poll in the three southern states showed that 40% of respondents
    favored independence.

    PARANÁ

    CURITIBA

    Curitiba, the capital of Paraná, is one of Brazil’s urban success stories. As in many
    of Brazil’s cities, thousands began to flood into Curitiba in the 1940s. With only 140,000
    residents in 1940, the city has grown tenfold, to more than 1½ million people today. Yet,
    with the assistance of a vibrant local and state economy, Curitiba has managed to
    modernize in a sane manner—historic buildings have been preserved, a handful of
    streets have been closed to cars and there are many parks, gardens and wide boulevards.

    Surprisingly, a progressive mayor instituted several incentives, including lower bus
    prices, to get people out of their cars—and the strategy worked. Traffic congestion
    was reduced, and today it’s easy to get around in Curitiba. Drivers go slowly and stop at
    red lights, few horns honk, pedestrians cross streets without blood-type identification
    bracelets, and although I haven’t researched it, I bet Curitiba’s divorce, heart attack,
    murder and dog-abandonment rates are all down.

    The local Curitibanos are mostly descended from Italian, German and Polish
    immigrants. There is a large university population, which gives the city a young feel, and
    a good music scene as well.

    At 900 meters above sea level, Curitiba is atop the great escarpment along the route
    from Rio Grande do Sul to São Paulo. Due to this location, it flourished briefly as a pit
    stop for gaúchos and their cattle until a better road was built on an alternative
    route.

    Curitiba quickly went back to sleep. It wasn’t until the tremendous growth of the
    coffee plantations in northern Paraná, at the beginning of the 20th century, that the
    modern city of Curitiba began to take shape.

    Like the gaúchos of old, most visitors are just passing through Curitiba. The
    highway from São Paulo (400 km away) to Florianópolis (300 km) and Porto Alegre (710 km)
    intersects Curitiba, and it’s the turn-off for the train ride to Paranaguá and the bus to
    the Iguaçu Falls.

    There’s not much in Curitiba for the out-of-towner, but it’s still possible to pass a
    pleasant day in a park, museum or older neighborhood waiting for your bus or train to
    leave. This is an easy city to walk around, and if you have errands to do or clothes to
    buy, Curitiba is a good place for it.

    Information

    Tourist Office

    The Departamento de Turismo (2233535; fax 2523266), on the 5th floor at Rua Ébano
    Pereira 187, has a useful map, and some brochures about the city’s attractions. English
    and French are spoken.

    For more info read the book.

    Passeio Público

    Take a stroll in the Passeio Público, where Curitibanos have relaxed since 1886.
    Because it’s right in the center of town, on Avenida Presidente Carlos Cavalcanti, the
    park is always busy. There’s a lake and a small zoo. The park closes on Monday.

    Rua 15 de Novembro

    Known by locals as Rua das Flores since 1720, when it was already the main commercial
    boulevard, it’s good for walking, shopping and peoplewatching. It was the first pedestrian
    mall in Brazil, created in 1972.

    Setor Histórico

    Over by Praça Tiradentes and the Catedral Metropolitana, take the pedestrian tunnel
    and you’ll be in the cobblestoned historic quarter, the Largo da Ordem. They’ve done a
    very good job of restoring some of the city’s historic edifices, and there are several
    restaurants, bars and art galleries. It’s also a good place for a drink and some music at
    night.

    Santa Felicidade

    The old Italian quarter, about eight km from the center, is widely touted for its bars
    and restaurants, many of which are monuments of kitsch. There’s really not much to see
    here, and there are good Italian restaurants in the center of town. If you really want to
    come here, catch a `Santa Felicidade’ bus from Travessa Nestor de Castro, just behind the
    cathedral. It’s a 20minute ride.

    Rua 24 Horas

    This is a covered arcade about 100 meters long, with gift shops, restaurants and bars
    that open—you guessed it—24 hours a day. It’s a popular addition to the city,
    and very crowded around 3 am.

    Museu Paranaense

    The Museu Paranaense, at Praça Generoso Marques, is in an artnouveau building that
    used to house the municipal government. It’s worth a visit just to check out the building
    itself. Chronicling the history of the state of Paraná, the museum has a hotchpotch of
    objects and a collection of artifacts from the Guarani and Caigangues Indians. It’s open
    Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and on weekends from 1 to 6 pm. Entry is free.

    Museu da Habitação do Imigrante

    Located in the Parque João Paulo II, this museum is a tribute to Paraná’s Polish
    colonists. It consists of a few log cabins containing objects used by the pioneers, and is
    open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. The park itself is a pleasant one in which to wander. To
    get there, catch an `Abranches’ bus from Praça Tiradentes. The entrance to the park is
    not well marked, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s on the righthand side, about three km from
    town.

    Other Museums

    Among other museums that are worth a look is the Museu Ferroviário, in the old train
    station on Avenida 7 de Setembro. It’s open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am, to noon and 1 to
    6 pm, and on weekends from 1 to 6 pm. Also try the Museu de Arte Sacra in the Igreja da
    Ordem (Largo da Ordem). It’s open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to noon and 1:30 to 6:30
    pm. On weekends, it’s open from 9 am to 1 pm.

    Train Ride to Paranaguá

    Completed in 1880, the railroad from Curitiba to the port of Paranaguá is the most
    exciting in Brazil. Leaving from Curitiba at an altitude of 900 meters, the train descends
    a steep mountainside to the coastal lowlands. The 110-km track goes through 13 tunnels and
    crosses 67 bridges. The view below is sublime and, depending on the cloud formations and
    tone of the sunlight, often surreal: threatening mountain canyons, tropical lowlands and
    the vast, blue Atlantic.

    When you arrive in Paranaguá three hours later, you will have seen the world change
    rapidly and radically: the climate is hot and muggy, and often rainy in the winter; the
    land is flat and low until it hits the wall of mountain; the vegetation is short, lush and
    uniform; and the people are sturdy, with strong Indian features and faces defined by years
    by the sea.

    The bad news is that, due to government cutbacks, trains run daily only during the peak
    Brazilian tourist periods: January, February and July. Otherwise, they run only on
    weekends.

    When they are actually running, there is a regular train (trem) and a tourist
    train (litorina) that both run from Curitiba to Paranaguá, and then back to
    Curitiba. The trem runs every day in January and February. From March to September
    (excluding July) it runs on weekends. In July, and from October to December, it runs on
    Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends. But the trip on Wednesdays and Fridays is one way to
    Morretes.

    The trem departs at 7:30 am and leaves Paranaguá for the return trip at 4:30
    pm, stopping at every station along the way. Tickets cost $5.

    The aircon litorina runs at almost the same timetable. The difference is that in
    July, and from October to December, it runs one way to Morretes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    The litorina leaves Curitiba at 9 am and starts back at 3:30 pm. Tickets cost $10.
    It’s full of tourists, and has a recorded description of the sights in Portuguese,
    English, Spanish and French. It makes photo stops, but doesn’t stop at the stations.

    Both trains take about three hours each way. For the best view on the way down to the
    coast, sit on the lefthand side.

    Getting tickets can be tricky. They can be bought up to two days in advance. This means
    that if you arrive in Curitiba late and want to take the train the next day, you should go
    to the station at about 6 am so that if there are no seats left for the litorina,
    you can get on the trem. Even if tickets for both trains are sold out, don’t take
    the bus yet. Some of the local travel agencies seem to buy a few extra tickets for the litorina
    in case they get customers for a tour; if they don’t, they come to the train station to
    sell the extra tickets. So hang about and ask around—you may get lucky.

    Tickets are sold at the train station behind the rodoviária. For information,
    contact the ticket office in Curitiba (2348441).

    For places do stay and eat, and getting around, read the book.

    Entertainment

    Up in Largo da Ordem, there are several bars featuring rock music. There’s also the
    Casa Nilo Samba, at Rua Mateus Leme 65, which has samba and choro. Up the hill,
    John Edwards Bar is at Rua Jaime Reis 212. It’s a bit pricey, but has good jazz, blues and
    bossa nova from Wednesday to Sunday nights. John Edwards, the owner, is an American from
    San Francisco.

    The London Pub in Lagoa da Ordem is a small place with great local jazz. It’s informal,
    cheap and always crowded with a mix of mostly arty and university types. The music starts
    late and goes late.

    Things to Buy

    The Feira de Arte e Artesão, held in Praça Garibaldi on Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm,
    offers an excellent variety of arts & crafts.

    AROUND CURITIBA

    Vila Velha

    An interesting day trip is a visit to the `stone city’ of Vila Velha, 93 km from
    Curitiba on the road to Foz do Iguaçu. Here you’ll find an interesting collection of
    sandstone pillars created by millions of years of erosion. There’s also a place to swim
    and an elevator ride into a crater lake.

    To get there, catch a semidireto bus to Ponta Grossa from the rodoferroviária
    and ask to be let out at the entrance to the state park. Unless you camp, there’s nowhere
    to stay in the park, but there are always plenty of buses back to Curitiba. If you’re
    going on to Foz, catch a bus or hitch into Ponta Grossa, 22 km away.

    MORRETES

    Founded in 1721 on the banks of the Rio Nhundiaquara, Morretes is a tranquil little
    colonial town in the midst of the lush coastal vegetation zone. It’s a good place to
    relax, swim in the river and take some walks in the nearby state park.

    Several buses and the train stop at Morretes on the way to Antonina and Paranaguá. If
    you like the feel of the place, just hop off—the spectacular part of the train ride
    is over anyway. The town itself is very small, and it’s easy to find your way around.

    Marumbi State Park

    The park offers some great hikes, and is very popular with Curitibanos, who get
    off the train at one of its many stops and hike down the old pioneer trails that were the
    only connections between the coast and the Paranaense highland in the 17th and 18th
    centuries. The best two to walk on are the Graciosa trail, which passes close to the
    Estrada da Graciosa, and the Itupava trail. Views from both are fantastic.

    To get to the park from Morretes, catch a bus to São João de Graciosa. It’s a couple
    of km from there to the park entrance, where you can pick up a trail map. Don’t forget to
    take some insect repellent!

    Rio Nhundiaquara

    This river served as the first connection between the coast and the highlands. Now, one
    of the best things to do on it is hire a truck inner tube from the guy who runs the
    service station and go `tubing’ (in Portuguese bóia, or cross). The guy who
    rents the tubes will also take you upriver and drop you off. It takes. about four hours to
    float back down. See Dona Glória at the Hotel Nhundiaquara for more details.

    Cascatinha

    Five km from Morretes on the Rio Marumbi is Cascatinha, a large lake which is good for
    swimming. It’s a fine place to camp. There’s a cachaça factory nearby.

    ANTONINA

    Antonina is 14 km east of Morretes and 75 km east of Curitiba on the Baía de
    Paranaguá. Direct buses link Antonina, Curitiba and Paranaguá. Similar to Morretes,
    Antonina is old and peaceful. Its first settlers panned for gold in the river. There’s a
    fine church in the center, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, that was begun in 1715
    and rebuilt in 1927. Its festival is held on 15 August.

    The beaches along the bay are not very good, but Antonina is an easy place to kick back
    and take in the great view of the Baía de Paranaguá.

    PARANAGUÁ

    The train ride from Curitiba isn’t the only reason to go to Paranaguá. It’s a colorful
    city, with an old section near the waterfront that has a feeling of tropical decadence.
    There are several churches, a very good museum and other colonial buildings that are worth
    a look. Although there has been some renovation, you still feel surrounded by decay.
    Fortunately, there aren’t enough tourists to destroy this air of authenticity. Paranaguá
    is also the place from which you leave for Ilha do Mel and the mediocre beaches of
    Paraná.

    One of Brazil’s major ports, Paranaguá is 30 km from the sea, on the Baía de Paraná.
    Goods from a vast inland area, encompassing the state of Paraná and parts of São Paulo,
    Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul, are shipped from here.

    The primary exports have been gold, mate, Madeira and coffee, and are now corn,
    soy, cotton and vegetable oils.

    Paranaguá’s old section is small enough to wander around without a set itinerary.
    Without much effort, you can see most of Paranaguá’s colonial buildings, churches,
    waterfront bars and various markets in a couple of hours.

    Museu Arqueológico de Etnologia

    Don’t miss it! Many Brazilian museums are disappointing; this one is not. Housed in a
    beautifully restored Jesuit school that was built from 1736 to 1755 (the Jesuits didn’t
    get to use the school for long, as they were expelled from Brazil in 1759), the museum has
    many Indian artifacts, primitive and folk art, and some fascinating old tools and wooden
    machines—an enormous basket weaver, for instance.

    At the front desk are notebooks with descriptions of the exhibits in English. The
    museum is at Rua 15 de Novembro 567 (near the waterfront). It’s open Tuesday to Sunday
    from noon to 5 pm.

    Churches

    The city’s churches are simple, unlike baroque churches. The Igreja de Nossa Senhora do
    Rosário is the city’s oldest. Also worth visiting are the Igreja São Francisco das
    Chagas (1741), Igreja de São Benedito (1784) and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rocio (1813).

    Waterfront

    Down by the waterfront, you’ll find the new and old municipal markets, and depending on
    the time and day, both can be quite lively. Nearby is a bridge that leads to the Ilha dos
    Valadares. There are 8000 people on the island, mostly fisherfolk and mostly poor. During
    festivals, they dance the Paraná fandango: a hybrid dance that combines the Spanish
    fandango and the dances of the Carijó Indians.

    There are no regular boat trips to Ilha do Mel, except during the summer, but there is
    a tourist boat that explores the river. The boats leave daily at 10.30 am, noon, and 2 and
    4 pm from the end of Avenida Arthur de Abreu, and the trip lasts 1½ hours.

    Excerpts from Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by
    Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more
    information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications.
    Used by permission.

    Buy it at
    Amazon.com

    Lonely Planet
    Brazil – A Travel Survival Kit

    by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey,
    Leonardo Pinheiro, Robyn Jones,
    704 pp.

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