May 6, 2005
The Upper City tour consisted of a short bus ride to an area often referred to as the Old City. Once we arrived in the Old City, we did the rest of the tour on foot. It has been said that Salvador da Bahia has 365 churches - one for each day of the year. One of the churches we entered was São Francisco Church which was built in the 1500's by slave labor. This church totally blew my mind. The walls, ceilings, and statues were lined with gold leaf. It was incredible. My wife had already begun taking pictures of this magnificent interior when we were told that no photography was allowed. Frankly, photos cannot capture the awe of entering this place.
Although the slaves were forced to build this church and to convert to Catholicism, they were confined to a small room in the back of the church during mass. Paula, our tour guide, showed us this room. It had plain white walls, a crucifix, and no pews. A person could not even see the altar from this slave room.
From the São Francisco Church, we went to the Afro-Brazilian Museum, where we learned about Afro-Brazilian culture, art, history, and religion. There were many wood carvings and dolls representing orixás (deities) of the Candomblé religion. Paula narrated the tour. Once again, I was impressed by her knowledge of the exhibits we were seeing in the museum. We toured the museum for about an hour.
A short walk from the museum area is Pelourinho. This used to be a place of public slave whipping. Today it is a cobble stone street full of colorful colonial-style buildings and shops. As Paula gave us a tour of the area she pointed out places worth visiting during our free time. These places included Bahian restaurants, a catholic church known for the drumming and dancing that occurs at the conclusion of Tuesday evening mass; and the rehearsal building of the popular group, Olodum.
We encountered several street hustlers while on this tour. There were guys pushing juice carts. There were people who would come up to you and try to sell you beads, jewelry, and crafts. Some of them were very persistent and annoying at times; however, they were always pleasant even if you refused to buy from them. My favorite street entrepreneurs were the three Bahian Ladies. These three ladies were dressed in tradition Bahian clothing and would pose so that you could take a picture of/with them. As soon as you took the picture, they were expecting money and they would follow you around smiling and/or flirting until you gave it to them. My wife managed to take a picture of the ladies inconspicuously.
From journal Brazil Trip - Salvador da Bahia