As Brasil's Independence Day approached on September 7, we decided the three-day weekend would be the perfect chance to make the trip. Lucky for us, Gol had a sale on flights there. Of course, then their website wouldn't work. And by the time we got tickets purchased there was only one seat available at the sale price. So we ended up putting Eric on an overnight bus on Friday night, and then Gabriela and I took the early Saturday morning flight.
We stayed at the Bristol Hotel, which is far from fancy, but was clean, comfortable, and spacious and located in a convenient location for sightseeing. But then again, most of the hotels are located in the "Hotel Sector" of the highly planned city, so location isn't really all that unique in Brasília. But they had a good weekend rate and looked decent, so we stayed there. (You might notice that is sort of a recurring theme with us. We love to travel every chance we get, but our budget doesn't really allow for extravagant spending. So as the designated family travel agent, I've gotten pretty good at hunting down airline sales and finding discounted hotel rooms. And if all else fails, well, I just send my husband by bus. hehe)
Since we are talking about the nation's capital, I feel a little history lesson is in order:
Brasília is the third capital of Brasil. The capital was originally located in Salvador and then moved to Rio de Janeiro. Apparently, since Brasil's colonial days, there had been talks about moving the capital to a more centrally located region of the country. But it wasn't until 1956, when Juscelino Kubitschek was president, that the idea was thoroughly developed. 41 months later, on April 21, 1960, Brasília had been designed, built, and inaugurated. And that was the fastest anything has ever been accomplished in Brasil, I'm sure of it! ;)
Brasília has received mixed reviews from the Brasilians all along. The concept was to create a capital somewhere more centrally located, despite that the Southeast and coastal regions of Brasil are home to an enormous majority of the country's inhabitants. It was thought that building a capital in a less inhabited part of the country would bring more residents to the area and increase the standard of living for the surrounding region. And all of that has happened. But it was an incredibly expensive venture (to build an entire city in the middle of nowhere in 41 months) and I suppose that now there is the ongoing expense of getting all the politicians back and forth - since few of them are actually from the region. I would compare it to the USA deciding to build a brand new capital in an Iowa cornfield. Lovely idea, as it would be equal distances from the east and west coasts that way . . . but seriously, in Iowa? I can't imagine the concept of Brasília was considered much different.
But it is what it is, and it is where it is, and we were there last month. The End. Okay, not really.
A map view of the city resembles an airplane. With the main government/memorial region being the fuselage and then the wings extending to both sides being the residential, hotel, restaurants, etc. sectors of the city. And on a map it is all neat and pretty, and the maps make it appear that the airplane is heading south and everything is nice and linear in a Cardinal-direction sort of way. And then you notice that the North arrow is quite askew and what you think is North after glancing at the map is actually very northwest and then you and your husband end up arguing about where things lie in relation to one another because you are thinking in terms of the map and you firmly believe that North should be straight up and decide to refer to things on the ground as if North is up on the map. Meanwhile your husband, being quite the precise engineer type, keeps misunderstanding you since he is thinking in terms of actual compass directions and not the way something was portrayed on a map. And then at some point during day 3 of perusing the city and arguing with your husband which way you are heading and realizing that there isn't a single road in the city which runs East to West or North to South, you throw your hands in the air and shout, "Oh good grief, for the love of all that is good and holy, if they were going to go through the trouble of building a city in the middle of nowhere, why on earth couldn't they just make the dadgum thing line up with a compass!!!" Except you might not have used such nice of language. And now seems like a good time to just show some pictures . . .
The TV Tower is probably main feature of Brasília's planned landscape. You can ride an elevator to the observation desk and get great views of the city. (It is located towards the tail of the "plane".)
From the TV Tower observation deck, looking towards the cockpit of the plane. (Notice I'm not even going to mention compass directions here.) Most all of the monuments and government building are located along this strip, called Eixo Monumental.
The National Cathedral (which was under construction - like a large portion of the city. No doubt they are trying to spruce things up for the 50 year anniversary of the city in 2010.)
Hanging out in the really comfy leather chairs inside the National Congress building after a guided tour (and hoping that they have plans to replace the bile-green indoor/outdoor carpet in that reception area - ICK!)
The Don Bosco Sanctuary in Brasília. From the outside, the building isn't all that spectacular.
But step inside and you are engulfed in a sea of blue. Walls are all covered from floor to ceiling with blue and purple stained glass.
Early that afternoon, we decided to hop a city bus and go out to the airport where we rented a car for 16 hours so that we could check out some of the "further out" sights. (Since we needed to leave for the airport at 5:00 am Tuesday morning and didn't want to take a bus at that hour, and since taxis were rather expensive, given the distance to the airport, having a rental car worked out great and didn't cost us much more than a taxi the next morning would have!)
1. took the jogging stroller with the bicycle tires instead of the "mall" stroller,
2. chose to walk the Eixo Monumental instead of doing a bus tour - saw so much more!, and
3. rented a car for one day to see all the further out sights as the bus system was alright, but it would have taken forever to see everything by bus.
In my humble opinion, it doesn't even come close to comparing to Washington, D.C. though. I love Washington, D.C., although I think maybe it's the historical factor as much as anything. And can you believe Eric has never even been there?!? He is more ready than ever to rectify that situation now though. As soon as we get moved back to the US we will be watching for on-sale flights to our nation's capital! (Besides getting her father fully cultured, it is important for Gabriela to see the capital cities of both of her "home" countries too!)