Manaus, Brazil (day 1)

In the early morning of Thursday, March 1 we sailed into Manaus.  This is a city of almost 2 million people located almost 1000 miles up the Amazon River.

01 Manaus, Brazil

02 Manaus from ship, with cathedral 03 Customs House (Alfandega) from ship

I don’t know about you, but this is not what I would have expected in the interior of the Amazon.  Manaus was founded in 1669, but really hit its stride in the second half of the 19th century as the center of the rubber boom, when huge amounts of money flowed through.  Rubber trees are native only to the Amazon region, so this area had a monopoly on rubber (one of the essential ingredients to the industrial revolution), and there were strong laws to protect that monopoly.  Natives were ruthlessly exploited as laborers to go through the rainforest where the trees were scattered & tap out the latex.  However, in 1876 a fellow named Henry Wickham smuggled 70,000 rubber tree seeds to England, where they were grown into trees in Kew Gardens in London & transferred to British possessions in Asia, where most rubber comes from today.  Wickham was branded a criminal & traitor in Brazil, but was knighted in England.

However, during the height of the rubber boom, local rubber barons built fabulous mansions & even an opera house.  The famous Teatro Amazonas (trust me, its famous even though you and I had never heard of it before) is an elaborate pink & white structure, all of which was imported from Europe.  Even the wood floors & seats, made of Brazilian wood, were manufactured in Europe & then sent here.  It took 15 years to build & was opened in 1896, and has hosted many world-class performers (there are no highways here, so the only way for performers & the components of the building to get to Manaus was by boat, & now by plane).

89 Front facade of Teatro Amazonas 10 Mary near Teatro Amazonas

56 Dome of Teatro 49 Mary looking over railing at Teatro

We took a tour of the Teatro.  The orchestra was rehearsing on stage, and the concert hall was quite elaborate (remember, every bit was imported from Europe & shipped up the river). It was very rainy that morning (this is a rainforest, after all), so that is why Mary looks a little soggy in these pictures.

12 Orchestra rehearsing on stage of Teatro Amazonas 16 Gallery facade of Teatro

17 Verdi facade 26 Mary in Teatro upper gallery

19 Ceiling of Teatro 20 Mary in Teatro

Upstairs were several salons, with inlaid wood floors, painted ceilings and a porch with statues on the corners.  We had to put slippers over our shoes to protect (and help polish) the floors.

 34 Ceiling of salon in Teatro 36 Ceiling of salon in Teatro

 35 Painting in salon of Teatro 45 pile of slippers upstairs at Teatro

37 slippered feet on floor of Teatro salon 30 Manaus from porch of Teatro

There was also a lego model of the Teatro on prominent display in the front corridor.

48 Lego model of Teatro Amazonas 48 Lego model of Teatro Amazonas

Next to the Teatro is the Palacio da Justica.  The woman with the umbrella in the first picture is the orchestra’s concertmistress.

51 Palacia da Justica 50 Rick at Teatro in front of Palacio da Justica

We went to see the Cathedral, officially the Nossa Senhora Conceicao Catedral, which was nice & not overly elaborate.

07 Nossa Senhora Conceicao Catedral 06 Inside of Nossa Senhora Conceicao Catedral

There were some nice mosaic sidewalks near the Teatro, reminiscent of Copacabana in Rio, and we passed the clock tower & many vendors’ stands.

64 Mary & sidewalk near Teatro

08 Clock Tower 05 Fruit & vegetable stand in area below cathedral

We visited a building called the Palacio Rio Negro, which was originally a rubber baron’s mansion, but is now a cultural center.  Inside were some beautiful wooden stairs & rooms (presumably made in Europe too) & some unusual paintings, including one depicting Amazon women warriors attacking the Teatro with flights of angels descending.  Another showed the first flight of a Brazilian named (I think) Dumont, who they claim invented the airplane before the Wright Brothers (a claim not accepted by anyone outside Brazil, as far as I can tell).  Just looking at that thing you can tell that it could never achieve  controlled flight.

66 Palacio Rio Negro Cultural Center 69 Palacio Rio Negro

70 Staircase in Palacio Rio Negro 71 Immortality - painting in Palacio Rio Negro

73 First Flight of Dumont (1906) - painting in Palacio Rio Negro 75 Manaus from porch of Palacio Rio Negro

78 painting of parrots in Palacio Rio Negro 77 Rick by courtyard of Palacio Rio Negro

Of course, we found the Biblioteca Municipal (although it seemed too small to be the central library of such a large city), and we also walked by the old Customs House, which was built in England, then disassembled and transported here piece by piece.

85 Mary in front of Biblioteca Municipal 87 Biblioteca Municipal

92 Alfandega (Customs House) 97 Customs House

The dock area of Manaus is particularly interesting.  The river’s height varies by some 40 feet from the dry season to the wet season (we are about halfway through the wet season now so there is still quite a bit of rising yet to come).  So they have built floating docks, which rise & fall with the river.  Also near the dock are the ruins of a block of old buildings, reduced now to their interesting facades with vines & trees growing through the openings.

04 Manaous floating dock 99 Floating Dock

93 Overgrown bldg facades near port 95 Overgrown bldg facades near port

We had a beautiful sunset, then that night we had a Folklorico show on board the ship, depicting Amazonian dancing from the Indians through the Samba.  The pictures are pretty fuzzy, but they give you an idea.  After that we went to bed, having had a very full day & needing to get up early the next day.

104 Sunset

115 Amazonia Folklorico show 117 Amazonia Folklorico show

120 Amazonia Folklorico show 128 Amazonia Folklorico show

124 Amazonia Folklorico show

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