Recife, Brazil

January 16, 2012

Recife (pronounced Ray-SEE-fay) is located on the coast at the furthest east point of Brazil, and is the first place settled by the Portuguese.  The location allowed us to dock.   Recife is the capital of the state of Pernambuco.  The original capital, Olinda, which is nearby, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Recife is a thriving city that looks to the future, and shows little of the poverty of Belém.  At the time of our visit, they were in the process of building a new commercial port 45 kilometers south of the current port.  The current port will be available to cruise ships and the buildings will be converted into a shopping mall.  The city is located at the confluence of two major rivers, the Beberibe River (named for the sloth) and the Capibaribe River (named for the capybara, a very large rodent).  The rivers, with all their bridges, have caused people to call the city the Brazilian Venice.

The tour we chose was called ‘Recife and Historic Olinda’.  Our first stop was at the beach, which seemed very nice until you read the sign that says “Danger of Shark Attack”

There are plenty of large hotels across the street from the beach, and it is apparently a popular place, despite the fact that it isn’t safe to go swimming.  From the beach we drove to see the Ø Kilometer Mark, the point from which the entire settlement has radiated.  

It is from this point that one can observe what is affectionately known as the city’s ‘monument to Viagra’, a sculpture designed by Recife native Francisco Brennand.

Our next stop was the Jewish Quarter, where we saw the outside of the first synagogue built in the Americas, along with an archeological site related to Jewish life.  

We also crossed the bridge located on the site of the first bridge built in the Americas on our way to the Casa da Cultura, a craft market located in an old prison building.  Each of the former cells is now a shop for a crafter.  The design of the building is wonderful, so it is nice that they were able to repurpose it in such a creative way.

Our tour took us next to Olinda.  On the way we passed the Governor’s Palace, a very beautiful building.  If you notice the sidewalks, the designs and construction are very much like what we saw in Lisbon, Portugal.  Apparently the stones used for paving the walkways were originally used for ballast for ships, then recycled as paving stones.  The paving stones are a feature we saw in each of the Brazilian cities we visited.  They are a clear tie to Brazil’s origins in Portugal.

Olinda is a beautiful town, with well maintained buildings of the original style of the area.  The brightly colored buildings were the first thing we saw as we drove into town.  Olinda’s streets cannot accommodate large tour buses, so for this part of the tour we transferred to minivans.  They were comfortable, but one we were in had tinted windows that made good photography impossible.

The main places we saw in Olinda were the churches.  The first one we visited, Mosteiro de São Bento (Monastery of St. Benedict), which is very ornate inside.  The date 1671 carved onto the façade indicates the last time the building was refurbished.

The second church we visited, Igreja do Carmo (Church of Carmo), was plain in comparison.

However, the view of the harbor from in front of the church was unmatched anywhere:

From Igreja do Carmo we walked to the point where we would meet up with our vans, transfer back to our buses, and drive back to the harbor.

Once back on board the Amsterdam, we went up onto the aft Lido deck to take photos of the harbor and surroundings.  From the ship we were able to get a view of Olinda, so we could see where we had just been.

Recife and Olinda are both interesting places to visit.  It would be nice to be able to visit again and see some of the other things the city has to offer.

There are a lot of additional photos in this album.

                                                                Recife, from the beach

© Susan L. Stone 2015