Rio de Janeiro offered plenty to keep us busy our whole trip, but we still decided to make a small 3-day side trip to the Cidade Imperial – Petrópolis, the home of Brazilian emperors, and a charming city in the mountains with a German feel to it thanks to Rhineland farmers invited to settle.
Thanks to airbnb we stayed in a nice, huge house right by the centre of the city! Like, really, we were barely a block away – well, a block downhill, as our house was located up a cute street on one of the city's hills.
Also, funnily, this was one of the hottest winters on record (remember, seasons are the opposite down there), so we had really sunny, warm days instead of cold, fondue appropriate weather! LOL
We had nice walks around the town, looking at the flowers in the Summer Palace, the early 20th century architecture, the German touches...
And there was also Stefan Zweig's house! Wow! A simple, unassuming building on a hill, with small windows, and a copy of Stefan Zweig's farewell letter. We read the strong, moving words, sitting in the same room from which he would look out to the street, to the new land he was living in, and in which he'd commit suicide a few hours after penning that letter...
"Day after day I learned to love it more and nowhere else I would have preferred to build a new life now that the world of my language has disappeared for me and that my spiritual land, Europe, has self destroyed."
(Mit jedem Tage habe ich dies Land mehr lieben gelernt und nirgends hätte ich mir mein Leben lieber vom Grunde aus neu aufgebaut, nachdem die Welt meiner eigenen Sprache für mich untergegangen ist und meine geistige Heimat Europa sich selber vernichtet.)
There was also a small but nice exhibition of Brazil's Ambassador to France during the Holocaust, Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas, who saved numerous European citizens – countless of them Jewish, needless to say – by granting visas, risking both his position and life.
Of course, when in Rome... have some German sausages! I couldn't resist. The setting was perfect, the food authentic, and the hunger big after all the walking!
And in my exploration of Brazilian cuisine we also had to try a typical Brazilian buffet - a ridiculous diversity of things to eat from, including meats, vegetables, pulses, desserts... Then again, you pay by weight, so you do need to be careful with what your eyes tell you to eat! We accompanied our buffet meal with the local beer, aptly called Bohemia and served super well chilled. Good.
One of the most interesting thing of Petrópolis was its canals and the red bridges crossing them. Especially on Av. Koeller, full of gorgeous palaces and mansions (one of them turned into a bank – it was fantastic looking at people withdrawing money from an ATM in a palace!).
And then, at the end of the avenue, the Catedral São Pedro de Alcântara. What a combination, eh? The canal, the palm trees, the Neogothic style of the cathedral?
With so much time in our hands to explore, we also went for a night stroll, enjoying some local snacks at the Praça da Liberdade at the beginning of the avenue and looking at the reflection of the cathedral in the water.
But that was not all there was to do in Petrópolis. Nope. We also went hiking! But that's the next post.