By Giselle Norões
Brazilian carnival isn’t all about samba. The “Carnival of Olinda”, in Pernambuco, is where frevo, maracatu, samba, coco and afoxé come together in a contagious rhythm.
It is no wonder that Olinda is a tourist destination chosen by people from all over the world during Carnival. Four intense days of celebration, with giant puppets parading through the streets, a myriad of street blocos(*) with all kinds of people wearing the most creative costumes. It’s not just any carnival! It is a great cultural feast, where “having fun” is taken very seriously.
The party takes place on the streets; therefore, it is a carnival accessible to all. Joining the blocos is free of charge. The crowd is big and the heat is intense. Light clothes, sneakers, sunscreen, a hat and a lot of water are indispensable items for those who want to venture through the steep streets of Olinda – and there are a lot of them! The blocos will be going up and down the streets non-stop. When one bloco stops parading, there’s another one ready to start. You won’t even notice how quickly time goes by. The blocos start parading early in the morning and continue throughout the night.
*Blocos are the free street parties that take place around Carnival throughout the city.
The blocos you gotta know:
Enquanto isso na sala de justiça: Irreverent and playful. People dress in superhero costumes. The climax is when Spider-Man rappels off the top of the tallest building on the street.
Patusco (photo): It is all about drumming and percussion. It is time for the real samba to set the pace on the streets of Olinda.
D’Brek: It is a samba club right in the heart of Olinda with a similar style to that of Patusco’s.
Eu acho é pouco: One of the most contagious blocos. The band is followed by a giant dragon.
OLINDA BEYOND CARNIVAL
One of the best times of the year to visit the city is two to three months before Carnival starts to enjoy the famous “previews” performed by local blocos. There are daily parties and rehearsals of the blocos that will be parading in the streets of Olinda during Carnival.
Alto da Sé offers a panoramic view of Olinda and Recife. You can also buy regional arts and crafts while enjoying the best street foods. For a more sophisticated cuisine with regional flavours, a great place to eat is Beijupirá restaurant. Preto Velho restaurant features occasional rehearsals of maracatu and samba batucadas dancing.
Another great attraction is the beaches. In the Bairro de Casa Caiada, in front of the military base (it is about 3km from the Historic Centre of Olinda) boats, windsurfing boards and stand-up paddles can be rented. The waters are calm and the winds make it possible to practice water sports.
3 Places to Visit
THE LIGHTHOUSE OF OLINDA (photo)
Location: Amaro Branco.
Originally built on Fortim Montenegro, the Olinda Lighthouse was first lit in 1872. The current lighthouse can be seen as far as 12 miles away and was built on the Serapião Hill and inaugurated in 1941. It has become one of the main landmarks in the city.
MUSEUM OF MAMULENGO
Address: Rua de São Bento, 344.
It is the first museum dedicated to puppets in Latin America. The museum has a collection of more 1,200 pieces representing popular figures in everyday urban or rural situations, some dated from the 18th century.
REGIONAL MUSEUM OF OLINDA
Address: Rua do Amparo, 128 – Amparo
The museum is housed in the former residence of the Bishop of Olinda that was built in the 18th century and retains its original features. The Regional Museum of Olinda was founded in 1935. Its collection contains 217 pieces such as furniture, images, panels and pieces of great historical value.
How to get there
CANADA – Recife (8.4km from Olinda)
Airline: AIR CANADA, stopover in São Paulo.
Roundtrip (average price):$1,400 (lower fares may be found on decolar.com)
$55 (daily rate / couple / low season)
$926 (Carnival Vacation package / couple / 5 days with breakfast)