Joy and shame of Brazilian Carnaval

To be in Brazil in February and not to feel Carnaval – impossible. In different ways.
How I experienced the Carnaval 2012 and what I think about it – in this post.

This is how it started…

Two weeks before the Carnaval the Civil police of Salvador claimed a strike. While policemen stayed at home, waiting for the government to claim bigger salary and additional payments, thieves and bandits went on roads, having almost unlimited possibilities to get some profit. Without claiming anything.

Salvador still had Policia Militar – Military police. But these guys, who all the time carry heavy guns in state of readiness, are not so numerous, and definitely not enough to provide safety for citizens in all parts of the city.

As long as police was absent, busses were attacted and people robbed on place. Most of districts of Salvador, not very safe in peaceful time too, became extremely dangerous. Bandits from poor areas went to the beaches, creating mass assaults. By the way, that’s not a rare thing even when the Police is present.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdkFzTJoxjY (arrestao em praia de Ipanema)

We heard that thieves went in groups to shopping centres and dragged everything that was under their hand.

I could hardly believe that.
Anyway, in 4 days after the strike started, we went to Shopping Barra. Suddenly people started to run and cry:
- Arrestao! (Assault!)
We ran a bit too. But near the escalator stopped and waited for action. But nothing happened. People continued to escape Shopping, others stayed, discussing vividly what happened. Or, better say, what they think, happened.
That evening we spent in a heavy traffic jam near the Shopping centre…

After that a joke was born:
- Lets go to a supermarket and shout: “Arrestao!” All people will run away and the whole store will be only for us.
Not funny unfortunately. News claimed that there were more than 130 people killed in days of strike.

These events led to cancellations of tours and flights to the Carnaval. Even locals hurried up to leave Salvador (and not only those who hate Carnaval that is big percentage).

Anyway, the strike came to the end and the Carnaval couldn’t but come too.

How it went…

The Carnaval in Salvador is more about music, as in Rio more about show. Main feature is trialeticos – huge cargo cars that carry bands through streets of the city. They are also called “blocos”. The most popular are of Timbalada, Olodum, Daniela Mercury, Ivete.
Not only artists participate in show here. People can buy tickets to get inside the block. There are two ways:

  • to walk behing the trialetico car. Stuff holds the rope to mark the territory of the block. Inside it is much safer and more space than in frenzy of the street.
  • to go on top of another trialetico that carries guests. This includes free drinks, much space and access to the bathroom.

Another variant to watch Carnaval in safer place – camarote – huge tribunes on sides of the roads. VIP-zone there also include free drinks. Moreover, they have bathrooms available.
All trialetics pass in front of camarotes that are built all around the city: Campo Grande, Barra. Ondina.

Through friends we got tickets to both: camarote and block of Chimbalada. Gathered in the evening in the house to have some beers and adjust T-shirts.

Inside block everyone wears T-shirts of the same design. This is our ticket. And the way for the stuff to define us and let us in and out the rope and the car whenever we want.
The difficulty is that all T-shirts are of the same size and pretty awful design. For me as Russian is hard to imagine that any girl could wish to show up on a party in a clumsy and ridiculous T-shirt. But it’s “must wear” and cost much money (as a ticket). So girls and guys cut them and tie them in different ways to look more fashionable.

Chimbalada had a crazy colourful T-shirt with eye-popped fish on it, Camarote Central – just green.

People in the block of Olodum. It had been raining much, but it's more a relief to party people than trouble.

After all preparations were finshed we rushed out to the quay of Barra, where the party passed.

Well, that was completely different Salvador. Many people walking in the middle of streets, some of roads closed for cars, those that are not – stuck in traffic jams.

Soon we crossed with many people in T-shirts of the same colour. Our block is close! We entered the quay and passed beneath the rope that many young people carried, separating block from the street.
From the top of the car we saw a big crowd of our block that went by foot in front of trialetico. The pavements of the road were not so crowded – it was just Thursday, the first day of Carnaval and officially not a day-off as Monday and Tuesday.
On main days, Rafael told, there’re so many people on the sides of the road that it’s impossible to move. Then it’s better to choose the right position – on crossings of big streets or squares. Then there’s a space to step apart, when the block comes and squeezes the crowd on a street.

During the Carnaval you can be easily robbed. Or kissed. Both is not very pleasant. While me and Lari were passing through the crowd, got many creepy suggestions. And dirty offer is the least annoying thing that can happen.

Close to Ondina we left our block, gave our t-shirts to random pedestrians and rushed to the camarote Central. This part I already don’t remember very well : )

Resume

What can I say about carnaval – loud, messy, dirty and drunk. That’s it. Definitely not “must visit”. Don’t believe travel magazines.

So…after 2 days of recovering health we left to Chapada Diamantina, amazing national park on the west of Bahia. By the way, this time there was almost no solitude, the surroundings were full of “Carnaval refugees” like we were, mostly – locals.

The district of Barra after carnaval 2012

To be fair, I need to say that there’re many people who love Carnaval, espesially in Bahia. For those who love parties without borders and non-stop, Salvador in the middle of February is a right place. ]

For me one day of Carnaval was more than enough. Probably, for the rest of my life : )

Some posts about magnificent Chapada are already here:

Don’t miss more stories from Chapada Diamantina in my next posts ; )

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