If you’re wondering "What’s Brazil like?", I have a small part of your answer. It’s a big country, and I was only in one city – Curitiba – for seven days. But I’ll give you some ideas for at least a segment of any future trip to Brazil.
Brazil in a Word: Stylish
From the way people dress to the architecture to the dining, Brazil – if it matches Curitiba – is stylish. There’s a European flair to the architecture and streets with the occasional outburst of wild modern architecture and abundance of cool cobblestones.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about slums in other cities. Well, I don’t know what is going on in Curitiba, but it also has a prosperous flair and a very safe vibe. I roamed the streets all hours of the day. People aren’t as quick to make eye contact or say hello as in, say, Australia. But they don’t bother each other, either.
You can get some detailed notes about Curitiba in my earlier post about the city. It’ll tell you all about some great highlights like the craft beer scene (I’d go as far as to call it the Portland of Brazil just based on the regional craft beer).
Things to Remember
Just one city in seven days makes me even less-than-qualified to answer "What’s Brazil Like?". But I can say with authority that Curitiba has a lot going for it. It makes me think Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are getting too high a billing as Brazil’s highlights.
Before traveling to Brazil, you might want to think about hepatitis B and typhoid vaccines, but I skipped the yellow fever vaccines since it wasn’t recommended for travel to Curitiba at the time.
This afternoon, Germany just gave Brazil a 7-1 hiding in the 2014 World Cup semifinal. I can only imagine the anguish in Brazil right now – especially since I just had the chance to visit Brazil during the Group Stages.
So it’s a great moment to share a few of the great things I saw at the World Cup during my time in Curitiba, Brazil before the World Cup comes to a close.
Post-match Scarf Trading
I thought for sure I was about to see the 2014 World Cup go wrong. Nigeria and Iran had just battled to a goalless draw. The Arena de Baixada was starting to clear out. That’s when an Iran fan ran right up into the face of a group of Nigerians. But -- it turns out he wanted to trade his Iran scarf for a Nigerian fan’s scarf. Everyone visibly relaxed, and all was well as they traded. Very cool!
Nationalism Without Antagonism
During the first week, only Iran, Nigeria, Ecuador and Honduras would play in Curitiba. But sure enough, I saw people in colors from the United States, Japan, Australia, Mexico and too many other nations to count. All the fans, though, were good about supporting their own teams without riling fans from other nations.
Four live matches, a heated televised Mexico-Brazil match at the FIFA FanFest, too many other televised matches at bars and restaurants to remember. And not a single fight. Nothing. Sure, a few stumbling fans who had a few too many beers. Still, I didn’t see a single punch thrown, not so much as a minor scuffle.
A World Cup-crazed Septuagenarian
I eavesdropped a bit at the FIFA FanFest when Brazil played Mexico. I overheard interviews with a woman in her 70s who gave her family the slip to attend 2014 World Cup festivities. I only understand a sliver of Portuguese, so I didn’t catch very many details. Why didn’t they just go with her? Bottom line, she was there, and the press was crazy about her – along with other fans who lined up to take photos with her.
The World Cup put Curitiba on the rest of the world’s radar. Many of us just think of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo – for better or worse. I went into Curitiba with few expectations – I didn’t really have enough information to form any. And the blogosphere let me down. It seems even travel bloggers hadn’t probed Curitiba.
So consider me your probe -- as awkward as that sounds. And let me share someÂ things to know about Curitiba.
First of all, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong.
The letter "t" in Curitaba (and in many other places, like the word quality) is pronounced like a "ch." So, say "Coo Dee Cheeba." A Brazilian friend mentioned a guy named "Peach." It took me a second to realize she meant our mutual acquaintance "Pete." Yeah, someone got a new nickname out of that.
You will have no shortage of wood-fired pizza and gelato.
You won’t be stuck eating anything exotic if you don’t want to. I’m in a hotel on a street called Dom Pedro II, and there are at least four wood-fired pizza joints on the street. And I found gelato in walking distance.
Speaking of tasty things, craft beer is alive and well in Brazil.
You can find high-end beers in Curitiba. Club Do Malte has a smoked porter and an IPA (called Chicago Blues and Underground, respectively) as their house draft beers. Also, they have an excellent brownie, in addition to top-flight bottled beers from Scotland, Norway and the US.
Most importantly, the staff knows their beers. They can recommend some Brazilian stuff that will hit your tastebuds nicely. My favorite might’ve been the Way Beer Cream Porter, which is brewed in Curitiba. Eu guste moito!
Even if you drink all the beer, you’ll be parched most of the time.
Everyone says the tap water is safe to drink, but nobody drinks it. You don’t get a glass of water at restaurants. This confounds desert people like me, and drives us into a state of permanent near-dehydration.
I’ve taken advantage of a water cooler in the fitness center, filling my Vapor collapsible bottle as often as possible.
Sustainability fans will like all the recycling.
Curitiba is all about recycling. The presence of bins for an array of disposables surprised me. Some people asked me about the city’s rapid transit. Honestly, I haven’t experience it, so that’s a wash. But it at least tries.
It’s also virtually litter-free – and not just near the stadium.
Dining out in Curitiba.
Rather than leaving groups of friends to puzzle over the bill, some restaurants and barsÂ give each visitor a numbered or named card. The server uses it to keep track of what you had. You take it to the cashier at the end and pay up for what you have.
Why American businesses freak out about separate checks when they could just do this is beyond me. Good thinking, Brazil!
Speaking of cool, it gets downright cold here.
I spent some days wearing my super-handy First Ascent PrimaLoft jacket. I carried my Marmot Mica jacket the entire day just in case the rain started to pour. This ain’t the perma-warm climate of Rio – one of the things to know about Curitiba is that you shouldn’t roll in here expecting a climate that allows you to spend your holiday wearing a Borat thong. Pack accordingly.