Watching a Soccer Game in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracaña Stadium, Brazil

One of the most unexpected sites I ever did in our 13-year journey was visiting a soccer stadium and actually watching a soccer game. Traveling is full of surprises, and here I stood, in 2007, in the what ‘everybody’ considered to be the most famous stadium in the world.

Football Game in Maracaña, Rio de Janeiro (©photocoen)“You can’t leave Rio de Janeiro without having seen the Maracaña Stadium!”

“The what?” I couldn’t even pronounce the word.

“The Maracaña Stadium! You don’t know what it is?”

“Sorry, never heard of it.” Continue reading

Hiking up Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, or Not?

With the Olympic Games coming up soon, I’d thought I’d share some of my ignorance about Rio de Janeiro when I first visited it in 2007.

Sugar Loaf Mountain ,Rio de Jaineiro (©photocoen)

Thus far, thick traffic and having to watch my back had made me wary of the city but after a leisurely walk up the Sugar Loaf I took in the view and suddenly understood the spell that visitors as well as Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro’s residents) fall under. Even more so, I could now clearly see why the city’s earliest colonizers chose this spot to settle down Continue reading

A Toilet Challenge (Philippines)

Rizal Mountain Run, Philippines (©photocoen)I’m not easily disturbed by non-western toilets. Give me a bucket with water instead of toilet paper, and I’m okay with a hole in the ground. There are few advantages of being anosmic but not being able to smell is more often a pre than not at rest rooms, bath rooms, toilets, or comfort rooms. The latter word is used in the Philippines. Continue reading

Why the Galápagos Islands Are Worth a Visit (and how you can visit them)

Do you go on a cruise, or do you stay in a hotel and find your own way around? Do you need a bag of money, or is the Galápagos a destination for low-budget travelers as well? Let’s take a look what the islands have to offer, and to whom.

Tortoise, Galápagos Islands (©photocoen)

“Look there’s one. And there’s another!”

Words from the seat behind me made me sit up straight and look out of the window. All I saw were grazing cows. What were they talking about? Continue reading

Travel Memories – The Beauty of People

Workshop in Quito, Ecuador (©photocoen)In Quito, Ecuador, Coen and I camped in a car workshop for a couple of weeks. We were surrounded by broken vehicles and mechanics whose overalls were black from grease and dirt, and the noise of a blaring radio. This was not the first time we were camping in a workshop; we had done so before during our then ten-year overland journey in Asia and South America.

You get used to many things when traveling for a longer period of time, but each time I am flabbergasted by the hospitality of people and the confidence they have in us. Continue reading

Slow Travel Cities

Slow travel is growing! The term is getting familiar to more travelers and I have come across a number of encouraging initiatives. Among them are a couple of people who have started Slow Travel City Websites. The ones I learned about are Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Stockholm. If you know of more, let me know in the comment section below, and I’ll add them to the list. Continue reading

Visiting an Awarak Community in Guyana

Santa Rosa Church's Graveyard in Moruca, Guyana (©photocoen)The music stopped. Silence took over, only interrupted by the twittering of birds. In her new coat of snow-white paint, the recently restored Santa Rosa Church stood outlined against a green landscape of coconut trees, palm trees and weeds that were about to reconquer the cemetery around the church.

Wooden crosses, bare wood or painted blue or white, bore the names of the deceased. Their dates of birth and dead were referred to as ‘sunrise’, or ‘dawn’, and ‘sunset’. Across from the church stretched the savannah, the late afternoon sun turning the grass into a mixture of golden yellow, warm red and soft green. The Moruca River cut across the savanna, which was interspersed with narrow waterways; families and their kids were quietly paddling in their dugout canoes. It was a moment of bliss. Continue reading

Dutch Heritage in Guyana

Fort Zeelandia, Guyana (©photocoen)History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou

One of our surprises in Guyana has been its earliest colonial history, which happens to be Dutch. Why did we never learn anything about Guyana in school? The Dutch were the first Europeans to establish settlements, forts and plantations in this region and stayed for two centuries before the colonies became British. You’d gather that does deserve some attention, wouldn’t you?

Of course our colonial history isn’t something to be particularly proud of but that doesn’t make it a reason to exclude it from textbooks, does it? On the contrary. And so we took up the opportunity to fill in the gaps during our journey here. Continue reading

Our 4 Favorite Colonial Churches in Minas Gerais (Brazil)

In the 17th century gold was discovered in Minas Gerais, an area north / northwest of Rio de Janeiro. It led to an explosion of gold mines and cidades históricas with ornate architecture reflecting the resultant wealth. Once the gold was depleted many people left, seeking their fortunes elsewhere; however, colonial architecture still abounds.

According to our guidebook you will find more than thirty baroque and rococo churches worth a visit in this region. While we visited most of them – call us freaks, if you like – I am aware that this is a mission impossible for an average two or three-week holiday. So which of these ecclesiastical landmarks are a must-see? Here are four churches that I believe will give you a good impression of the religious architectural glory of those days. Continue reading

Who Are The Prophets of Congonhas?

Prophet Jonas.

Prophet Jonas.

When you follow the Estrada Real in Minas Gerais, the Royal Route along which gold and other mined treasures were transported to Rio de Janeiro in the colonial days, you’ll probably get saturated by the number of baroque-rococo churches you visit along the way. Even we did, and we are church buffs. The churches are beautiful – stunning if you love the amount of gold and glitter used in them. But there are (too) many.

Congonhas is a place to take a breath. Okay, there is a church and yes, you should see it (in fact it’s a basilica and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but,as far as we are concerned, the town’s most interesting attraction is outdoors. Continue reading

Where to Learn All About Che Guevara?

Painting of Che Guevara on Plaza de la Cooperation, Rosario (1997).

Painting of Che Guevara on Plaza de la Cooperation, Rosario (1997).

Truth be said, before coming to South America I didn’t know much about Che Guevara. Some kind of revolutionary guy, right? But what exactly had he done in Cuba and Bolivia? And ‘Che’, what kind of name is that, anyway? And no, I had not read his Motorcycle Diaries, or seen the movie that followed.

All that changed when we reached Argentina. When we visited Rosario, near Buenos Aires, we stumbled upon two interesting things. First, it was Flag Day. Second, Che Guevara was born here. It was time to learn a bit more about this guy. Continue reading