On my second morning in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I awoke to the sight of a huge, half naked and disturbingly hairy Brazilian sleeping on the bunk next door to me and emitting rattling snores. I took this as a sign to get up, and padded upstairs to grab some of the hostel’s free breakfast. Armed with my trusty map that the English backpacker had given me the previous day, I spread it open, and began deciding which location I wanted to spend the day exploring…
I decided on a place called Republica; it didn’t look like it was too far from where we were staying, and despite the Hostel receptionist’s questioning glance when Tom and I said we were going to walk, we pressed on. An hour into our journey, our tummy’s began growling – obviously the hostels’ free toast just hadn’t done the trick. We dived into a café to grab an early lunch, and after the waiter sat as down and handed us the menu, I thought we’d get at least a moment’s grace to look over the selection, but no such luck; he stood right in front of us, pen and paper poised – no time to spare. In his rush to order, Tom picked a meal and only later realised that he’d chosen the most expensive item on the whole menu….
An hour later (after a little detour to checkout a “statue” of an angel which turned out to be a human dressed up) we were at Republica.
We headed off to check out the official government buildings – there were so many of them – all big, imposing, yet beautiful constructs. We eventually came across Republica’s cathedral – it was simply stunning. It was set before a paved square fringed with tall, lush palm trees.
Cathedral at Republica, Brazil
Inside, the cathedral was silent; harrowing. Its huge stained glass windows tinged the light with a reddish hue and bathed the cathedral in a red-black darkness.
At the far end of the church, there was a graphic 3D wall hanging of Christ on the cross, along with sporadic droplets of plastic blood. Beneath this wall hanging was a glass coffin with a wax figure inside. People were kneeling before the figures, heads bowed, touching crosses on their bodies; it was a somewhat eerie scene.
That evening, we headed out to dinner and had a rather embarrassing experience. After being seated at a beautiful Italian restaurant we opened our menus, only to find that there was no English translation and we were unable to decipher any of the choices. When the waiter came to take our order we apologised, and told him “No entiendo” (I don’t understand). We made to leave, but the waiter sat us back down and swooped onto a group of diners who were sat next to us, asking if any of them spoke English. One older gentleman raised his hand nervously, unsure of what he was getting himself into.
The waiter motioned for the elderly gentleman to come over to Tom and I and explain the menu to us, which he did. Unfortunately, his English wasn’t much better than our Portuguese, and so we politely smiled and nodded, and ended up pointing to a random dish from the menu when the waiter came back to take our order. As it turned out, we’d picked the spaghetti bolognaise – and it was the best bolognaise I’d ever tasted!