Brasilia - Day 66
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
On the Bus
The bus was absolutely freezing last night due to the air conditioning being turned too the Antarctic setting. I had a jumper but I was wearing shorts, a school boy error I know, was shivering all night, felt like I was back in the mountains. Think I may have hypothermia!!
I arrived in Brasilia's rather tatty concrete 1960's long distance bus station at 6.30am. I bought myself another bus ticket to Cuiaba, one of the gateway towns to the Pantanal, Brazil's diverse wetlands. The 18 hour bus journey doesn't begin until 5.30pm, so I have a full day of sightseeing in Brasilia.
Brasilia really interest's me for some reason, I can remember years ago reading an article about Brazil's capital being build from nothing in a remote area of the country in 3 years, with ultra-modern 1960's architecture and design. I defiantly wanted to see the capital and I think a day should allow me to see the more interesting pieces of modernist architecture. After dropping my backpack off at the luggage store in the station I caught a local bus to the city centre. The first thing I noticed about the city was the 6 lane highways, the designers obviously didn't want any congestion problems in their brand new capital. All the tarmac gives the place a bit of a clinical feel through, there's plenty of green space around but it's flat with long grass and only a few trees scattered around, there's no real landscaping of any description, but I'm sure this was the intentions of the designers. Minimal is defiantly a good way of describing the general layout and feel. The city was certainly designed for the automobile, no alternative transport system such as trains, metro or trams and life is pretty difficult for the pedestrian too. Try crossing a 6 lane road when there's no pedestrian crossing. It's like playing a game of chicken. This is sort of understandable for the 1960's, the car was becoming more affordable so becoming more widely used. The Architect's sort of got it right in a way. I'm not letting them off the hook though, they should of considered more public transport options. Buses are the only option but that's the same across most of Brazil.
Brasilia's design was based on an Aeroplane with the fuselage being the heart of the city where the parliament, government buildings, cathedral and museums are located. The wings contain shops, hotels and residential areas. Today I just explored the fuselage where most of the interesting pieces of 1960's architecture is located. Brasilia is definitely a bit of a concrete jungle and it's starting to crumble in places. It's beginning to look a bit rough and tatty around the edges. When the city was first build it must of been quite a sight for the times, it's still impressive today but back then, it probably looked almost alien.
There are some real architectural gems in the city, the museum and cathedral are really impressive buildings and my favourites. The views from high on the TV tower really demonstrate the thought given to this massive project, the city layout is symmetrical and the roads curve creating some beautiful geometric shapes. The city is defiantly best viewed from above, it's easier to understand the overall design from the vantage point high on the TV tower.
There are no Gringo tourists in Brasilia, didn't see one all day, it's well and truly off the backpacker trail. Nobody comes here and that's what my friends in Rio said, but that's what the Ozzies say about Canberra too and I really liked the Australian capital which is another planned city. Ok these cities don't have the history, atmosphere and the culture of older cities but I find them fascinating and certainly worth a curious visit.
I must of walked 15km today, a much needed exercise after a month of laziness. I walked back to the bus station in the afternoon and jumped on the bus to Cuiaba, another night sleeping upright, at least I'm saving some cash on accommodation! Just realised, I haven't slept in a bed for nearly two weeks, was sleeping on the floor in Rio and I've been sleeping on buses the rest of the time. Cuiaba is defiantly going to the place where I sleep in a bed again, really looking forward to it!