Multiple romances of Rio de Janerio
January 1, 1970
by Fanny Ulfberg Larsson
Falling for the marvelous city
” Don’t forget this is the greatest city, he whispered in my ear, before the heavy metal door closed in between us. In a last glimpse I saw he pointing with a smile portraying his face, because I was walking in the wrong direction…”
They call it the marvelous city and for those who not yet experience Rio would not know that this city leaves none untouched.
I will now present my multiple romances of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil in four steps for falling deeply.
The first contact
I first arrived here on a Monday morning, from an airport bus window I laid my eyes on Rio for the first time. I watched the city waking up, the citizens walking the streets, with fast steps and heads slightly bend down, on the way to work or whatever daily importance they had that winter morning. Everything was unfamiliar again, oh what I love that feeling. Arriving somewhere new with a lack of knowledge and expectations, no clue where you are or where you are going. Little did I know that soon Rio would cause my heart to crack open again and again and little did I know that soon I would call this home.
I have to confess that in the beginning I didn’t get to impressed. I was struggling to see why people call it marvelous. I just didn’t get it, what made Rio so perfect? But I was intrigued to find out. I would stay one month, because I heard that is a good amount of time for one to get to know a place well enough.
Exploring each other
Botafogo was the first area I stayed in. I could summon up Botafogo as an in-betweener, some people call it bohemian, but there is nothing bohemian about it, believe me. Except the continuously honking cars and running people through the whole day, there is some nice bars and restaurants. Itaú is a nice cinema, definitely get lost in the world of books at the Blooks store before the movie.
Overall it left me with a bit of a headache. But cons! There is a stunning view from the beach over the Sugarloaf mountains and also a beautiful walk all the way to Flamengo beach; other than that it is not recommended to swim!
Copacabana. Welcome to the real city life. C is everything you can imagine a city would offer and you will immediately be a part of it, surrounded by clothing shops, tons of havaianas stores, fancy restaurants and vibrating bossanova bars. Stretching all the way to an overcrowded but enjoyable beach where building sandcastles and drinking fresh coconut is a must. (I never build a sandcastle in my life.) If you are a sushi lover, ask for a “choose your own sheet” and a bottle of sake. Copacabana is a pleasure with lots of entertainment.
But I had to set my sails again, yet I had not found my place, since I found myself surrounded by everything I once wanted to leave, the shallowness of big cities.
Chapéu Mangueira. Located close to Leme beach is one of Rio’s many favelas with its neighbor: Babilônia. Living in the favela was different. I was in the middle of what for many people is the reality of the marvelous city, and I fell in love. In the narrow labyrinths streets with no names, the crying cats outside my window, the Brazilian funk music that was played by the neighbors on the fullest volume every afternoon became the soundtrack of my life. The old man in the bread shop who served my morning and afternoon coffee and the children playing on the streets calling out the few English words they knew.
The best about the favela was the disconnection from the rest of the world, it was here and now, and most of the times I used to climb to the top of a magical place called Morro da Babilônia and look down at the busy streets and far away lights from the city. Up there everything became quiet, and the sunsets is breathtaking. Don’t miss a pizza and beer while different events at the bar Estrelas da Babilonia, a large terrace under the edge of the jungle with a nice view over Copacabana.
Lapa. Is my current home, what brought me to move was work, which I don’t regret even if I miss the favela. Lapa is famous for its nightlife and that is very understandable. With its diverse people and intense nightlife, it is truly a fun place to experience. Normally you can find me under the Arcos da Lapa dancing samba with the locals on the streets. Don’t miss a stroll up to Santa Teresa, a really cute neighborhood up the hill from Lapa, stay for a beer or Pão de queijo in one of their very cool restaurants and see the sun set. Or spend some time sitting in the Escadaria Selarón, watch people taking selfies or enjoy the person bringing music to the place.
Rio has a special way to invite you to its adventurous, just like being asked out! Once you step out the door you can never know what will happen even if you’re just going to the supermarket and back. (Maybe that is a bit exaggerated.) But it is a place in a perfect balance between busy streets, beaches, forest and mountains. which make not only a great result of nature but also unnumbered amazing viewpoints and not to talk about sunsets. Don’t miss my favorite from Pedra Bonita!
Samba nights. For being a fan of Salsa I was struggling to understand the deal with samba. First of all, no one seems to know the steps and there is not an easy rhythm, but once you get a hold of it, it is something else. Slightly intoxicated of caipirinhas my samba moves shows of and keeps me on the streets all night long. Do like me, buy a tambourine and bring it to then Bar da cachaça in Lapa, you will be surprised how quickly you can bring people together, the Brazilians knows about who to create a united happiness over just one instrument.
Becoming friends. I see beauty in all the people, in a homeless man living outside the door of the building, at evenings he usually writes with a pen on a card box, sometimes he asks me for some change but most of the times he just smiles when I walk by. I feel like all I could do is to sometimes give him paper, some change or a hug, I can give him the tools for creating, which for now is enough. I made many friends like this, never forget that even the smallest things are of meaning and receiving and giving love is everything.
So one day I decided to stay. Because the marvelous city had find its way into my heart. I was happy and I had one mission; to give back the love I received from Rio. And just like that one month became now half a year living in Rio de Janeiro.