CURITIBA – are we still in Brazil?

We are extremely lucky in Curitiba. Through a chain of acquaintances, we reach a friend of a friend of a friend of Ola, who sells an apartment. Because it is empty, we can live in it for as long as we want <3 (no longer than until sale 🙂 )

We take the opportunity that we have luxurious conditions and arrange an Easter Breakfast. We make easter eggs and we dress elegantly. We aren’t able to prepare traditional Polish dishes, but pineapple, mango and carrot cake also serve. I feel strange in a shirt and long trousers having worn sports shirts and shorts for two months.

Elegantly, eating Easter Breakfast
Easter eggs!

The city creates mixed feelings in us. On the one hand, there is a lot of influence of European culture on it. It’s much cleaner than in the north of Brazil, public transport has priority over private cars, and the density of luxurious apartment buildings and even villas is impressive. On the other hand, we still see a lot of addicts and homeless people sleeping on the streets, drinking the cheapest cachaca from half-liter bottles for 4 BRL. We noticed that the richer the city in Brazil is, the more visible is this problem.

In front of the catedral

A bit about architecture

The area in which we live is one of the most expensive districts in the city. This can be seen through prices in stores, the lack of any sensible places to eat, and passing people dressed in expensive, stylish clothes. In the 1990s, ‘our’ district experienced a construction boom, and the regulations regarding access to sunlight and the minimum biologically active area weren’t in force at the time. The result is a forest of skyscrapers, whose windows are only 2 meters from each other. Each building was designed independently, so we are dealing with a real architectural kaleidoscope. To make matters worse, the buildings usually don’t even have a single blade of grass or half a swing for children. However, parking spaces or underground garages are always there. Brazilians love cars, that’s for sure. The effect of this whole architectural carousel is terrible in our opinion. Fortunately, construction law similar to ours was finally introduced and nowadays, it’s not built so densely.

Beautiful architecture
Immediately after taking the picture, the house flew away on the balloons
Please note that there is a wall with windows between the blue and beige tower block!

After visiting the John Paul II Park and the Polish festival, we go to the Museum of Art designed by Oscar Niemeyer. He was a Brazilian architect who designed numerous amazing buildings not only in Brazil, but also around the world. He participated in the design of the new capital, Brasilia, built from scratch. He cooperated, among others with Le Corbusier, lived 105 years and remained professionally active until the end of his life. People commonly compare the building’s shape to the eye – but the architect’s intention was different. It is to resemble an endemic tree for the region of Parana – Araucaria (Port. pinheiro). It is a species of pine which, as it grows, rejects the lower branches. Its fruit, sustancially seeds (pinhão), can be eaten after cooking in salt water. Along the state roads there are many sellers and thanks to the kindness of one of the drivers we have the opportunity to try them. However, their taste doesn’t knock us down – it’s close to a potato.

Museum of Art in Curitiba
Araucaria and its fruit/seeds – pinhão
Niteroi Museu de Arte Contemporanea 2005-03-15.jpg
Museum of Modern Art in Niteroi CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Cathedral in Brasilia by Victor Soares/ABr. – Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 br, Link

Innovative city

In the 1970s, the mayor of Curitiba put on the sustainable development of the city. The solutions were quite revolutionary, as for those times. Waste segregation, priority for public transport, general master plan and a lot of greenery. Thanks to this, Curitiba doesn’t struggle with such large traffic jams as other Brazilian cities, the streets intersect at a right angle creating quarters, and walking every now and then, you encounter a park.

A system called Bus Rapid Transit was also introduced. It consists of a network of bus lanes, which sometimes occupy a larger part of the streets, leaving individual lanes sidestrained for individual cars. You get on two-hinged, 24 meters long buses, on characteristic tube-shaped stops. They effectively protect passengers from rain and wind. What is normal for us in Europe, here is a revolution – when you get off in the tube, you can change to the next bus at the same stop without buying another ticket. Previously, we have been struggling many times, looking for such a route, to minimize the distance on foot and reach from one end of the city to the other by one bus. Unfortunately, it’s only possible to transfer between those long ones. The rest of the buses operate in the same way as in other cities in Brazil, where only single trips are available. Don’t confuse them with single-use tickets – we don’t get any confirmation of the trip, there are no controllers, and in each bus, apart from the driver, there is a person collecting a toll and releasing the blockade of a terribly uncomfortable gate through which you only can enter with the front door. It’s extremely uncomfortable, because it significantly slows people getting on the bus. When all passengers get in, the driver accelerates with impetus without waiting for everyone to pay and go through the gate. For us, this often resulted in “dancing” with large backpacks from one side of the vehicle to the other, trying to find small nominals in the wallet.

Tube stops didn’t limit the employment of the city carrier. One or two people sit at each stop, charging for entering the tube. This gives several hundred people employed to sit all day in the tube only collecting the ticket money. It seems to us that the system functioning in Warsaw is a little more effective – both in terms of time saving and profitability.

Two-hinged bus at the tube
In the middle – bus lanes, on the sides – narrow lanes for cars

Mix of nationalities

There are many descendants of European immigrants in Curitiba and in the whole state of Parana – among others Poles, Germans, Italians, Ukrainians. Thanks to this, we can eat dishes from various cuisines, every now and then we pass the square with the name of a country, and on the street we pass many red and blond people. The largest wave of immigration in this region took place in the second half of the nineteenth century. We’ve been wondering for a long time why just then and here so many Europeans came. This was explained to us by a friend of Ola’s friend of a friend, in whose apartment we lived, drinking a beer in a German pub. Well, after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, the authorities faced the situation when there were a handful of educated white people in the country and many more black people who were just a moment ago slaves. The disaster was inevitable, so the group holding the power came out with an international campaign in which they invited Europeans to Brazil, tempting with cheap land, infinite possibilities and presenting the country as a land of milk and honey flowing. People tempted by such an image came to the New, Magnificent World with ships filled to the limit. The journey was very long and heavy, and the emigrants were usually simple peasants. Because they had very little in their countries, the perspective of receiving hectares of land in Brazil was very tempting. There was a surprise waiting for them – yes, hectares were waiting for them, but not of farmland, but only dense jungle. They had to put in a lot of work to let the land they received bring crops and spent the first years in a new home under spartan conditions.

EDIT: Our colleague, historian Filip, specializing in migrations, clarified the whole phenomenon 🙂

With this emigration caused by the abolition of slavery, this is not entirely true. The main reason for the actions of the Brazilian government were territorial disputes with Paraguay and the fact that these areas were no man’s land because there was no economy here, so it was easy for neighbors to claim that Brazil has no rights there. As they settled them with immigrants, this favored the enrichment of the state and solved the issue of border disputes. And slavery in reality functioned until the 20’s, 30’s, it was only formally abolished, so in the nineteenth century it was not a problem.


All in all it’s cool

In summary, Curitiba resembles a bustling European city. It’s no point in looking for colonial houses or amazing monuments. It has other advantages – well-kept promenades in the center, a few nice churches, lots of parks, where we lounged in the afternoons without garbage or dog droppings. There is even a zoo in one park. We felt much safer there than in Rio or Salvador – drunk homeless people aren’t very fast and able to steal. Curitiba may not make a breathtaking impression, however, we will associate it primarily with the Polish festival, which was a big event for us and with exquisite rest. Courtesy Andre, having a flat only for ourselves, we could finally slow down a bit, and spend a few days “normally” – not running and sightseeing like crazy.

Andre, Nohane – thank you again for all the help! Thanks to you, it will be sooo nice to remind our stay in Curitiba  🙂

Direction – waterfalls

We feel very comfortable in our own apartment, but it’s time to move on. Quite efficiently we reach the city on the border of three countries – Foz do Iguaçu. The goal – to see the second largest dam in the world and the miracle of nature – waterfalls on the Iguaçu River.