Belem, Brazil

On Sunday, February 26 we came to Belem (Bethlehem), a city of a couple of million located on the Rio Para, southernmost branch of the mouth of the Amazon.  Founded in 1616, Belem was the financial clearinghouse for the rubber industry that dominated the Amazon region in the late 19th & early 20th centuries.

34 Belem

Our ship was anchored a few miles down river, and the tenders dropped us at the village of Icoaraci.  Village it may be, but it had a (rather tumbledown) public library!

01 River boats at port of Icoaraci 30 Mary by Biblioteca at Icoaraci

We were driven into Belem by a shuttle bus, & dropped off at an old warehouse complex on the water that has been converted into shops & restaurants.  It was a rainy day, but there were nice views of the flowing river from behind the complex.

02 Rio Para (or Amazonas) 03 Rio Para (or Amazonas)

From there we walked to the Mercado Ver-o-Peso (“verify the weight market”).  Begun in 1688, the name reflects the strict Portuguese taxes on everything entering or leaving Amazonia.  In the market were live chickens, ducks & goats, as well as colorful fruits we had never seen before.

04 Mary in Mercado Ver-o-peso 05 Mercado Ver-o-peso

09 Chickens & ducks at Mercado 08 Mercado Ver-o-peso

26 Fruit cart at Mercado

Not far away was the old port, which was crowded with the ubiquitous Amazon river boats, on which people live, sleeping in hammocks.  Vultures & egrets patrol the port.  The fourth picture below is a painting near the port, not a street.

11 Vulture & boats at old port 25 Street near old port

12 Egret on river boat 13 Faux street painting

Of course Belem has an elaborate cathedral, built in 1755, and there was a clocktower that does not look like Big Ben (but this time there was no claim that it does). 

15 Catedral De Se 14 Clock tower in Praca Dom Pedro II

We visited the Forte de Presepio, built in 1616 as the first building in Belem, but did not tour it since the signs are all in Portuguese.  Here, and at many other places in Brazil, there were vendors selling coconuts, which must be very popular.

18 Rick by cannon at Forte Do Belem 20 View of Mercado from Forte Do Belem

19 View from Forte Do Belem 17 Coconut vendors in Praca Brandao

Finally, there were several interesting mosaic sidewalks, quite different from what we saw in Rio.

22 Mosaic sidewalk 23 Mosaic sidewalk

28 mosaic sidewalk 29 mosaic sidewalk

It was Sunday in Belem, so a lot was closed & there weren’t a lot of people out & about.  We started to walk to the theater, about a third of a mile away, but we found ourselves on empty streets, which made Mary uncomfortable, so we went back to the shuttle bus.  We found out there that a woman from our shipped had been attacked not far from the warehouse restaurants by a woman with a knife (who, we were told, had been sniffing glue, a problem in this city apparently).  A couple of other passengers have been mugged in other cities (one right outside the dock in Recife).  So, maybe turning back from the empty streets was the correct move.

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