Friday, March 10, 2017

Fortaleza, Brazil

4 March 2017 - posted on 10 March in Manaus

We stopped in Fortaleza for a day, Brazil’s fifth largest city, located on the northern coast of Brazil just past that bulge into the ocean.  Fortaleza means “fortress” in Portuguese, so the city is named for the large fort that once dominated the skyline.  The original fort was built by the Dutch in 1649, but was surrendered to the Portuguese in 1654 and renamed.  The old fort has been remodeled, so it no longer looks like an historic old fort – the exterior looks more like some traditional old colonial building full of windows, painted sort of a peach color.  The fort is also still used as a military site, and was full of young soldiers in green, complete with scary-looking automatic weapons.  We peeked in, but skipped going through the fort with a military guide. 

There’s also a huge old cathedral in the central square, diagonally across from the fort.  The cathedral looks like the usual Gothic style, except it’s made from cement, marking it as fairly modern.  According to the cruise info guide, building the cathedral began in 1939, but it wasn’t completed until 1978 – forty years to build! 

I tried to visit the beach near the port terminal, but a guard stopped me.  And we were told in town that all of the beaches were closed to the public.  We don’t know what was going on – if there was some kind of contamination in the water, or on the sand, or if maybe there had been some problems on the beaches such as certain crimes.  I tried asking the guard at the port, but couldn’t understand his reply in Portuguese.  So we never made it to the beach. 

The port terminal had interesting murals painted on the building, though, just black-on-white images in a very folk-art style.

We also browsed the craft market in town, set up in the former jail building.  Always interesting, but we’re not in the market to buy much of anything.  However, there were a bunch of cats hanging out in the market, and a cute young black kitty was happy to be held, pet, cuddled, and snuggled right up to me.  My kitty therapy!

We found a café in the central park that had wifi, although it was really slow and we weren’t able to do much.  Couldn’t even post a blog, so our cone of silence continues. 

And that was sort of it for Fortaleza.  It seemed like a rather sad city to me, economically depressed and parts were really run down.  Also, this was the first time we saw people begging on the streets – always sad, and it makes me feel so unable to make any kind of social change to help people in need.

We’re now at sea again, heading to the Amazon River delta, where we can enter the river system at high tide.  Our ship is considered small, with room for “only” 1300 passengers – this is why we’re able to cruise along the Amazon, while most cruise ships are much larger and unable to cruise any rivers, even one as huge as the Amazon.

I’ll end with photos of the mural opposite the port terminal in Rio.  This mural is huge, painted on a block-long building.  The title is “Etnicos,” which I’m assuming means something like “Ethnicities” or people representing various ethnic groups around the world.  There are huge faces, small maps, and geometric quilt-like designs in the background.  The artist signed his work with his name “Kobra” which may or may not be his real name.  But the work is riveting, and really needs no further explanation – the mural speaks for itself.

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