Buckle up, we’re going to Ipanema
Lonely Planet mentions that the area I'm staying in, Complexo de Alemão, has been recently pacified by Rio's Police Pacification Units, notoriously violent before then. Part of that pacification process was the recent installment of a cable car, with the intention of unlocking access for its inhabitants to the rest of Rio, by connecting it with a nearby transport hub.
The cable car is very underutilized, operating at perhaps some 25% capacity and, with Rio's current plan of increasing transport fees, is feeling the pinch of the demonstrations by the Free Fare movement, who advocate not even for a price stabilization, but a complete annihilation of any charge for public transport in Rio.
Rio has the fascinating distinction of having been the only city outside Europe to have once been the capital of a European country. Of Portugal, after Napoleon invaded the Iberian peninsula and the royal family relocated to Brazil.
And, even after Brazil became independent in 1822, it remained a monarchy for some 60 years, before becoming a republic.
With an 8 hour layover in Doha, Qatar Airways was kind enough to provide a reasonably fancy suite in the local Mövenpick. The flight to São Paolo, at nearly 15 hours the longest I've ever taken, while the plane would even continue to Buenos Aires, was surprisingly filled with East Asians. My first impression was them being Chinese, but Brazil, surprise, has the largest contingent of Japanese outside of Japan.
There were also a few Portuguese speakers to be found in Doha and on my flight. And, again, the language reminded me of someone trying to speak Spanish with a mouthful of cotton balls. I suppose it shows that Portugal's distance from Rome and its location as a crossroads, more so, it seems, than Romania, has resulted in Portuguese being the most bastardized version of Latin.
As a result, I struggle to understand someone speaking Portuguese, though, that said, reading the language is mostly doable.
Brazil, like Argentina, had large economic growth in the first half of the 20th century, after a coffee boom saw the city's population rise to an astounding 800 thousand by the year 1900. As a result, the best parts of Carioca (Rio) architecture are constructs by, amongst others, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeijer, as well as an impressive array of Art Deco architecture, including Rio's landmark feature, the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
The architectural boom culminated in the creation, from the ground up, of Brasilia, to which Rio lost its status as capital in 1960.
Culturally, it appears that Rio is still the city to beat in Brazil. Even though São Paolo is more of a beast, and the largest city in the Americas, Rio, for one, was the cradle of three of Brazil's most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. Of course, Ipanema beach is perhaps the most popular stretch of sand in the country.
Getting to my hostel in Rio was a challenge. I had booked through airbnb, but the actual place I booked wasn't available, and I was given alternative space. However, I also wasn't given clear directions on getting there, while the area, at least until recently and probably still in part, was and is known for its drugs related violence.
I got my taxi voucher at the airport, but when, in the taxi, I told the driver which area I wanted to go to, he completely freaked out, in Portuguese, and refused to take me. Another taxi driver intervened and, after a good five minutes, we agreed that the area I needed to go to was ok enough for the driver to take me.
Except, I didn't know the exact address. And the phone number I had, turned out to be incorrect. So, I was stuck in a potentially dangerous favela, in a taxi, with no idea where to go, at 9:30 in the evening, with a taxi driver who was much more stressed than relaxed.
Eventually, it did all work out. I had he address of the place I had originally booked. A motorbike taxi got us there, where the son of the owner, with marginal English, drove me to the hostel I was to stay at. Where, in turn, no staff was present to take me in, one of the other guests showing me around, giving me bedding and whatnot.