Around 1700 gold was discovered in the state of Minas Gerais. In 1711 Vila Rica de Ouro Prêto (lit: ‘Rich City of Black Gold’) was founded, which soon became the capital of the state and epicenter of Brazil’s biggest gold rush. Thousands of slaves dug out the gold, which was taken to the town where it was weighed and melted into bars at Casas de Intendéncias (weighing stations). Continue reading
City of Angels, City of the Dead, or City of Cats: These names all refer to the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. With 5000 sepulchers this eternal resting place is a rich synthesis of history, art, religion and death, and serves as a tribute to Argentina’s rich and famous. Continue reading
A thick black blanket steadily moved eastwards, threatening to block out daylight and announcing an impending storm. I took short gulps of air, exhausted from having legged it uphill to the 4000-foot John Gardner Pass. Instead of a postcard image of a snow-white glacier against a cobalt blue sky the weather gods presented me with a blurred world of grey with just enough light penetrating to vaguely see Southern Patagonia’s eerily blue, crevassed ice field and a couple of snow-covered peaks in the distance. Continue reading
I have a choice, I realized as I was swinging in midair. Either I freak out or let go and enjoy. While fear is an emotion, often used as an excuse – I can’t help it, I’m just too afraid to do it – I took a rational decision not to be afraid and relax. That in itself was an awkward if not an intriguing experience. Furthermore, it worked. I felt my muscles ease up and I took notice of the world around me. Seconds earlier I had only been staring in some sort of void without really seeing where I was. Continue reading
“Why would you want to go to Brasília? It is an ugly city that lacks a soul,” is the most common remark I have heard from Brazilians about their capital. Despite these discouraging words I decided to visit the city and judge for myself.
My verdict: “Brasília is an ugly city that lacks a soul.”
Yet I stayed a midweek and enjoyed every single day. What happened? Continue reading
“If you turn around you will see the entire row of pyramids,” Alice said. I pulled lightly on the reins and Esthela immediately reacted, at which I quietly breathed a sigh of relief because truth be said, I was not so sure that she would listen to me. Continue reading
Smack in the middle of Brazil’s sun-scorched, dun-colored, vast and desolate northeastern Sertão region lies a national park. Why? What’s there to see? I read a local guidebook, become fascinated and jot down Serra Capivara National Park on my bucket list. Continue reading
The sun was setting on my arrival; it was still too early to see all the planets and stars. Our guide suggested taking a look at the moon. One by one we moved behind the telescope and admired a half-full moon. It felt so close that if I reached out my hand, I could actually touch it. Especially the craters were clearly visible, among which the Sea of Tranquility, where the Americans planted their flag during the first landing on the moon. Continue reading
“Look at that! Am I seeing what I am seeing? A white baby whale?!”
It was swimming right along its dark-grayish mother in the Golfo Nuevo, a protected bay along the Atlantic Ocean of the Argentinean coast.
“Oh yes, it’s been around for a while. It’s an albino whale. Quite exceptional of course,” my neighbor informed me.
I was stunned and fell in love with the place even more than I already had. Continue reading
I stare down into an empty grave. Packed-down earth is surrounded by brick walls and a fence to prevent visitors from accidentally falling in. Seven stones bear the names of the persons who were buried here, underneath an airstrip, for thirty years. Continue reading
In the doorway stands an elderly man. Our eyes meet and I shake his hand.
“You are lucky to live in such a beautiful building. What an incredibly tiled façade your home has,” I comment.
For the past couple of hours I have been strolling through the center of São Luis and I still don’t believe what I am seeing: this is by far the best-preserved center of any of Brazil’s major cities. Continue reading
I feel as if I am looking at a scene in the cartoon of Jack and the Beanstalk. Amidst the flooded forest of Anavilhanas, I am looking up at a meters wide trunk of a tree that divides into three immensely thick branches that reach high into the sky, as if they are on their way to heaven.
We can’t climb to heaven, but we can go around the trunk scrambling over the buttresses protruding from the water. It is a balancing act, and a combination of stretching my legs as far as I can to reach the next buttress and squatting to carefully descend to a lower part; I feel like a child again, playing in the woods. Continue reading
The 275 waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls lie on the Argentinean-Brazilian border and I already saw them in Brazil. Yet, I wanted to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site from the Argentinean side as well, even though I wasn’t sure this side would anything to the experience.
These falls have at least one feature that Argentina can brag about: They were the stage for the movie The Mission (1986), starring, among other actors, Robert de Niro. The movie shows the spectacle of this natural phenomenon but even more so gives insight into the Jesuit, close-to-utopia missions in the region, where Guaraní people were invited to live with the Jesuits in reducciónes to be protected against being hunted down by the Brazilian (Portuguese) Bandeirantes (slave and gold hunters). Continue reading
I am standing in front of the largest wooden structure in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Western Hemisphere or the world, depending on whom you talk to. Verifiable facts are that the St Peter and Paul Cathedral is 161 feet long, 54 feet wide, 48 feet tall, and is the biggest wooden building in Suriname. Continue reading
From the bridge I could see them for the first time: the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. This was the site that had been on my one-day-must-see list since childhood and finally I was going there. I was so excited! Continue reading