Posted by: Alex MacGregor | September 6, 2013

Belo Horizonte–and Home

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We chose as our departure point from Brazil the sprawling capital of the Minas state–Belo Horizonte–which is convenient to the colonial mining towns.

centro

In a lot of ways, Belo Horizonte is similar to Atlanta. It has about 5 million people, grew up as a regional trading hub during the 20th Century, and therefore lacks many of the historical buildings and attractions you might expect for a city of its size.

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Like Atlanta, what few historical buildings it does have are interspersed with modern highrises.

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Our first activity in BH was a stroll through the municipal park.

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Unfortunately, this park just didn’t do it for us. We visited at 4PM (around the time when the centers of many-a-Brazilian city start to shut down), and things seemed decidedly sketchy. It was mostly desolate, with the occasional group of guys hanging around and not a police officer in sight. I’m not sure why, exactly, but this was by far the most worried we were about getting attacked during our whole trip–we both agreed on this separately after strolling around for a few minutes in uncomfortable silence. I’m sure we were in more danger in Rio or, especially, Salvador, but this felt worse. I quickly consulted the map to find the best route back to the streets.

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We eventually found the cops, all in a perfectly useless clump attending to their myriad horses.

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We decided to head south to the posh Savassi neighborhood for dinner. If BH is like Atlanta, then Savassi is its Buckhead.

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At least in the sidewalk cafe districts we didn’t feel much worry about getting mugged!

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I couldn’t tell exactly what this store sells, but it looks way cooler than your typical Buckhead boutique.

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Protest-related flyers around town.

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BH is surprisingly expensive, so we resorted to staying in a neighborhood called Santa Teresa, just across the train tracks from the Centro. Travel between Centro and Santa Teresa requires a stroll down this viaduct, which was fascinating for the antiquated industrial blight that it overlooks, and unnerving for the isolated stairways plunging from the viaduct down into said blight.

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No, Santa Teresa BH doesn’t have the endless charm and appeal of Rio’s Santa Teresa–the Santa Teresa, a hillside neighborhood steeped in rugged charm. (We didn’t even get a chance to properly blog about Rio’s Santa Teresa–next trip!)

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But BH’s take on Santa Teresa does have its Boheiman elements scattered here and there.

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The main tourist attraction in BH is Pampulha, a mini-Brasilia of modern architecture set by a nice lake. The buildings in the area are designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the man who largely made Brazil synonymous with modern architecture.

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The Igreja de São Francisco, one of his most celebrated buildings.

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Pictures weren’t allowed inside, so this is as well as I could do taking a picture through the glass. Interesting architecture and art, to be sure.

pampulha

Running low on time, we soon realized how isolated a place Pampulha is. This is the same great criticism of Brasilia: that its attractions are extremely sparse and not easily navigated on foot.

Eventually, our expectations narrowed, as our evening departure time drew nearer. We went from wanting to see another building to simply wanting lunch. When it became clear that no restaurants were to be found, we decided we just wanted a bathroom. That, too, was too much of ask of Pampulha, so we settled for a bus stop and headed back to Centro.

pampulhacaro

For future visitors, I would highly suggest planning some form of transport besides your own two feet. A bike would be great!

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And, after an unfathomably long bus ride into the countryside, our Brazil adventure ended at the Belo Horizonte airport.

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Future visitors will be reassured to know that their Small Claims needs can be handled conveniently at the airport…just in case.

Ciao, Brasil!

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Responses

  1. Enjoyed the new photos. 🙂

  2. […] State Plaza may lack any creations of the famed Oscar Niemeyer, but I’m afraid it beats Pampulha, Belo Horizonte as far as an accessible way to see some cool modern […]


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