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Flag of Brazil  , State of Bahia,
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia, one of Brazil's most interesting and diversely cultural states on the North East coast (the place where the world cup draw took place). This was Brazil's major port for the slave trade throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and so is not only influenced by the colonial Catholicism of the Portuguese but also heavily by the African influx. What this creates is a heady mix of culture, music, sun, sand and food. Like nowhere else we have been, Salvador is a delight to the senses. 
The African culture has had a huge influence here and where the original religious ceremonies brought over by the slaves are still practised, they are done so without Catholic dilution. We went to a dance and music performance demonstrating some of the celebrations and prayers made to 5 of the gods worshipped in this culture and it was an hour of incredible singing, drumming and crazy dance moves that were tiring just to watch! This is so rare in South America as, in the other countries we visited, the Catholic church did it's best to destroy any other religions it came across and so the indigenous religions became so heavily fused with Catholicism they were noticeably different to what they had been before.
I don't know if it's the African influence or something else but Salvador is a HUGE party town. In the 5 nights we were there the cobbled streets lined with brightly painted buildings were filled day and night with Capoeira (the Brazilian martial art that looks like a beautiful gymnastic dance), samba shows, drum shows, jazz nights by the harbour, parades, and extravagant costumes! Brazil has a reputation as a party place and if you go to Salvador you will not be disappointed. Try as we might, we failed to capture the incredible atmosphere here in our photos - it is so vibrant and colourful (and noisy!) no photos could do it justice.
Salvador does have it's darker side though. Lonely Planet warned us that if we are going to get mugged anywhere in Brazil it will be in Salvador (luckily we didn't!) and in the main tourist centre there is a heavy presence of tourist police. This makes you feel safe whilst in the centre but very wary (possibly unnecessarily so) as soon as you leave it. We were also warned about the young kids that beg for money to pay for their crack habit. We were told not even to buy them food because they will sell it and not eat it, which is really hard to do when you see the kids. We met a French lady whilst we were there who had lived in Salvador 10 years ago and was returning to see how it had changed. She said there were less favellas now and a lot less children in the streets than before, which hopefully seems positive for the area, and from what we've heard it seems a lot safer in recent years. Let's just hope it's not an artificial facade to encourage the tourists to visit.
There are a number of beautiful islands that are easily accessible from Salvador which provide the perfect get away from the hectic city but still have the lovely beaches and diverse food. These islands are apparently where Brazilians go on holiday and so we couldn't resist hopping across to one......
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Kat on

Looks like so much fun, I think we should recreate the street party when you get back!

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