|View from the TV Tower. Notice how symmetrical the city design is.|
Brazil is a huge country, the fifth largest in the world both in area and population. There are five distinct regions: the north (Amazon), Northeast (poorest region), Southeast (most populated), South (wealthiest), and Central-West (where the capital is). Tomorrow, I will be traveling to Teresina, a city in the northeast, for a week.
Brasilia is a strange place. It is a planned city - construction was completed in 1960. The buildings remind me of some of the World's Fair structures in Seattle (completed in 1962). They were intended to look futuristic and there is a big emphasis on concrete. Almost every building seems to be designed by Oscar Niemeyer, who is currently 104 years old. He is considered a sort of national hero here. He uses a lot of curves in his buildings and as I mentioned above, a lot of concrete. He also helped design the UN headquarters in New York.
Brasilia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - the only city built in the 20th century with that designation. It feels like an aging city; many of the buildings look dated and feel like they opened in 1960. Some have compared it to the Epcot Center at Disney World.
The master plan has the city organized into "superblocs." A superbloc contains housing, a church, a park, and often a shopping street. Everything is coded with numbers and letters. Some of the apartment buildings were originally designated for government officials, bank employees, or other specific groups of people. Today, Brasilia is very expensive. A 3 bedroom apartment will cost $1500 to $1800 a month or will sell for $500 million USD. That is a lot when the average income in Brazil is about $800 a month (many civil servants and professional make much more than this of course). Minimum wage here is about $300 a month.
|The "Blue Church"|
|Sign in a Super Bloc|
I learned most of what I now know about Brasilia from our tour guide, Roberto (r is pronounced with an h sound). He is a native of Brasilia and has given us an honest interpretation of his city's history. He acknowledges that many find Brasilia cold, but points out that most visitors never go into the neighborhoods. They often just visit government and office buildings. I have to say, by my 4th day here, the city is growing on me. Maybe it's the weather (upper 70s and sunny EVERY day) or maybe it's the people (very welcoming).
|A church in a superbloc.|
|The National Cathedral|
|The National Cathedral's ceiling.|
|The Congress building.|
|The source of my refreshing coco water.|
|Roberto doing his thing.|
|The new World Cup stadium under construction.|
|Ready to go to the U.S. Embassy and the Congress.|