Exploring Brasilia, Brazil's 55-year-old planned capital. Yet another long entry, but there are lots of nice pictures
We flew without incident from Foz do Iguaçu, to São Paulo, then to Brasilia. Actually, there was a hairy moment, when our plane seemed to pull out of its landing coming in to São Paulo, and then it took the pilot ten minutes to tell us why, and then he only did it in Portuguese. Anyway, we arrived in the capital safely. There are probably more exciting places in Brazil, but we'd heard the architecture was great, and I was keen to experience a modern planned city.
It took all of fifteen minutes for our taxi to get to our accommodation, and we only had to stop once - to look at the map. The well-designed road network makes the entire city seem like a efficient freeway, with exit ramps and underpasses coming off the main boulevards. But planner Lucio Costa assumed that all residents would have cars, so it's not particularly pedestrian-friendly, and the public transport is a bit lacking too. Most of the residential areas are 'superquadras' of massive apartment blocks surrounded by trees and lawns.
The city is designed in the shape of an airplane, with residential and commercial areas in the 'wings' and the major government buildings in the plane's body
It started raining almost as soon as we arrived, but our Airbnb host gave us a lift to the TV tower so we could fit in some sightseeing. Unfortunately it was closed. We had a bit of a look around and returned home.
"I ♥ Brasilia"
We fitted in the bulk of our sightseeing on the Monday. The hemispherical National Museum was closed, but we had a good look at the 'crown of thorns' known as the Metropolitan Cathedral. It's even more spectacular on the inside than it is on the outside.
The National Library
The National Museum
The light, airy, beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral
Then we walked along the Esplanade of Ministries, which has row after row of functional (read: ugly) ministerial complexes. There's nice green space and plenty of food vendors at the bottom of each building though.
We ended up at the 'cockpit' of the plane, where we saw the Supreme Court and an eternal flame, representing a president-elect who died before he could assume office.
The Supreme Court
Tancredo Neves's eternal flame, with Congress in the background
Then back to the Congress building, which is a concave structure symbolising inclusiveness of all ideologies. Our tour was in Portuguese (our guide apologised, in perfect English, for not speaking any English) but she translated it into Spanish for us. It made us realise how much Spanish we know and can understand!
We saw a few ibises just hanging out near these pools
The plush blue senate assembly. The patterns near the front were made by a member of the cleaning crew with a vacuum cleaner
Then over the road (running across six lanes of traffic) to the Itamaraty Palace, the foreign affairs building. Its exterior has pleasing curves, and it's surrounded by a calm pond, but the real treat is inside. Landscaped gardens, a stunning bannister-free staircase and modern sculptures make for one pretty good entrance hall. And then on the roof is another garden, looking out over the body of the plane.
We went home via the Dom Bosco Church, another eye-catching modern work. The vast array of blue and purple stained glass is brilliant, and there was a practising orchestra when we turned up which made it even more serene.
In the evening, we took a cab across a large artificial lake (clearly a copy of Lake Burley-Griffin), walked along the shore and had dinner while masses of fairy lights lit up the path.
Tuesday was less busy, partly because of rain. We went to the banking sector in the morning, where we passed through eighty-five layers of security to get into the Bank of Brazil's money museum. There was an interesting exhibit on the development of Brazilian currency - due to inflation and a multitude of currency changes, the new real (from 1994) is worth 2.75 quintillion of the original real. And we saw an old Australian $10 note that we hadn't seen previously.
Then over to another bank, which has stained glass windows representing all of Brazil's 24 states.
Distrito Federal (Brasilia)
Then we went back to the cockpit to catch up on a couple of things that were closed the day before. First, a disappointingly brief museum near the eternal flame, then over to the Palace of Justice (the Legal Ministry's offices). There was a complete lack of signage and security staff, so we waltzed in through the front door, an entrance we're now pretty sure is reserved for foreign dignitaries.
We went looking for someone who could give us a tour, and a very patient lady who spoke no English but excellent Spanish came to our assistance. Only somehow, she didn't understand or recognise that we were tourists, and thought we must have been there for an event. After a long talk with security staff - who were obviously perplexed as to where these two sweaty VIPs were supposed to be - she finally clicked that we were just ordinary gringos. She explained that they didn't do tours (they've been suspended for more than two years, we read later) but she gave us a history of the building anyway before sending us on our way.
When we left, there were seven guards between the road and the building entrance, perhaps overcompensating after our unintentional security breach.
For dinner, we took a picnic out to the City Park, keeping our food safe from a watchful goose.
On our last day we took a walk on the weird side at the Templo do Boa Votades, set up by the cultish 'Legion of Goodwill'. It's certainly a striking building, and in the Temple of Peace you follow a spiral path, absorbing the energy of the 21kg crystal suspended in the roof above.
Don't really get it? Yeah, well, neither do we, and we were there.
Inside the Temple of Peace. You need to walk along the black spiral into the middle of the circle, and then out via the white spiral
Then over to the JK Memorial, dedicated to former president Juçelino Kubitschek, whose idea it was to build Brasilia. It housed his tomb, his library, and a museum of JK and Brasilia-related artefacts.
Then employee Guilherme gave us an unsolicited and overly comprehensive tour of the Indigenous Peoples Museum, which had some more artefacts, or "objeches".
And we got a brilliant view of the city from the TV Tower, getting some sense of the airplane layout. We had more of a view than we wanted, really, because the sole lift stopped working just as we got in it to go down. Luckily they had emergency stairs as well.
Then in the evening, our host took us out with her extremely cute 2yo to the Plaza of Crystals,
which is across the road from a extremely pleasing echoing shell structure.
Now we're off to catch an overnight bus to Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third biggest city.