28.02.2012 - 01.03.2012
Brasilia was created in the 50's and was specifically designed to be the capital of brazil. We'd heard that it had been designed to be futuristic so we weren't really sure what to expect.
We were staying at a campsite behind a hostel as accommodation in the city is very expensive. We arrived mid afternoon to be faced with a hostel that looked like some kind of mental institute. A horrible yellow concrete building with no character just outside of the city. The camping being a field at the back with little shade and pretty rubbish facilities.
I felt like we were a million miles from the city but it turns out that everything in the city is a drive away, you can't live here without a car as you need to drive everywhere and the public transport system is pretty poor.
For this reason we spent the evening at the campsite which was fairly dull. There's only so much you can do in an empty field when it's roasting hot.
The next morning we were meeting billy our guide who would take us on a tour of the city. He explained to us that there was a competition to design the layout of the city an the person who won had come up with the design of a cross, with the business areas on the vertical line and the residential areas on the horizontal. They realised that the residential areas needed to be bigger, so he made the horizontal areas wider and the layout quickly became like that of an aeroplane. With the wings being residential and the body of the aircraft being businesses.
At the front of the body of the aircraft lies the government buildings. At the back some more official buildings and the area in the middle near the wings the hotel and entertainment districts. It's all a little bit too organised and uniform.
As we drove around the city billy showed us the layout of the residential area, which is also very uniform owing to the strict building rules in the city. The buildings must be an exact size with six stories and must be built on stilts. The idea of the stilts was that you can walk through the buildings rather than having to walk around but was also to give the idea of space. The blocks basically look like 1950's flats. Some with tiny tiny windows. If the designers want to build balconies they have to set back the inner walls as the blocks have to be fixed size with nothing outside. They all look pretty boring to me.
Four of these blocks makes up a superblock, each of which has a set of shops, church, school, recreational activity (pool or playground etc), healthcare centre, play school, library and cinema. There's very little need to leave your superblock, which is just as well considering how hard it is to get around this over populated city.
None of the streets have road names, instead each block has a number, odd on one side of the wings and even on the other. As the city has developed little suburbs have developed outside of the city with less building regulations, with real houses which are much more affordable, but does require a long commute into the city each day.
We visited a number of the churches, each of which were pretty cool. The first being really tiny and the congregation has to sit outside. The second was huge with really high ceilings and all four walls made up of blue stained glass that started darker and faded to light to give perspective of night and day inside. This one was very modern with clear glass confession boxes. The final one was built underground with the most amazing roof and bell tower that can be seen from outside.
We drove around past the national theatre with its amazing exterior walls, the done museum and the government buildings. All the of the buildings are very modern looking but much classier and picturesque than I had expected.
Our final stop was the bridge which is pretty special. We sat there at the side of the river looking at it for a whole before we all got distracted by a playground and all of a sudden this more a little more interesting.
We dropped billy off and then parked the truck to give everyone time to explore the city. We were all starving so raced to the shopping centre which was like any other shopping centre you've ever been to. Some people went to explore but most of us were done. It was interesting to see the city but it wasn't designed for tourists and was too spread out to go back and see anything again. Sarah and I hung out in the air conditioned shopping centre eating frozen yoghurt which is everywhere in brazil, until it was time to head back.
We went back into the city once the sun had gone down to see everything lit up. It was very pretty to see, everything always looks better at night.
We left the following morning to head to alto paraiso which is by the chapada de valdeiros national park which was much more up my street, I was looking forward to some hiking and waterfall time. This was going to be good....