Most tourists who visit Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia in Brazil, only visit Pelourinho, the refurbished and spruced-up historical center. There, most of the old Portuguese houses have received a colorful new layer of paint, the streets have been repaired, and plenty of police are around to make the tourists feel safe. Foreigners who stay longer usually settle down in Barra, the area around the lighthouse and along the beach promenade.
I am lucky that I moved to an area next to the historical center, to Nazaré. It has similar architecture to Pelourinho, but many houses look like nothing has been repaired anymore since the Portuguese left.
This is the view from my balcony.
This is in the center of Salvador, a city of 3.3 million people, yet many of the neighbors’ houses are deserted or falling apart. Even the vegetation is reclaiming part of the city again. And this is only a few minutes away from the touristic center, where you see the church towers in the distance. Great view, but unfortunately this means that I have to listen to the music performances, samba festivals and drums every day and every night.
Let me take you on a tour around my neighborhood. It may not always remain strictly within the municipal limits of Nazaré but cross into other neighborhoods a little.
This is the street in which I live, Rua da Poeira.
This is the neighbors’ house.
I may have to point out that this is not a favela or a slum. This is a centrally located, working-class neighborhood. It doesn’t strike me as dangerous, although in some of these abandoned houses there may be drug-trafficking going on. In the house above, you see the makeshift door, but at times this is removed and young men are spending some time there or sit in front of the house in some office chairs.
In the street in which the car is parked, you sometimes find teenage barbers. You can sit down on a block of concrete and they will cut your hair. Maybe I will ask one of them to take off my beard, which is a burden to carry around in this heat.
Many of the houses here are for sale.
Even more houses are just up for grabs.
In other streets, there is an interesting combination of old and modern.
To show you that this is not some dubious part of town, here is one of the main courts, just a few minutes from my home. It’s a very interesting and friendly place, and everybody there answers my questions (if I find someone who speaks English), but more on that in a separate story.
And the beautiful Center for Portuguese Literature, the park in front of which is more of a sleeping place for homeless people, particularly after around 6 pm.
Of course there are also plenty of churches of varying age, style, denomination and state of activity or decay.
The Historical Society also has a beautiful tower.
This cinema however is closed for now, it seems.
The city looks empty on my photos because I am usually careful to avoid photographing people without their consent, but in reality, it’s very crowded and busy. And noisy! Many of the market vendors scream out their promotions, and some of the shops put up huge loudspeakers, thinking that this would attract customers.
And in between the busy markets and the shops selling clothes which often can hardly be called clothes, there is suddenly a building like a palace. The iron gate is rusty and locked with a chain, the staircase looks like nobody has walked it up or down for decades. Only later at night did I see light in some of the windows on the top floor. The inscription says that it’s a home run by Franciscans, but I don’t know if that is what it is being used for now. In any case, these religious orders surely got a lot of donations if they could build places like these.
I will leave you with a few more random expressions captured on my walks around my neighborhood.
Oh, and you really have to see the fire station which looks like a castle in Disneyland.
Some people have commented that this part of Salvador reminds them of Havana in Cuba. After a few days of walking around, I noticed what it really reminds me of: Mogadishu in Somalia, particularly the small streets like the one I live in, the old colonial style mansions, the sounds and the smells.