Didem Doğan

Salvador de Bahia: streets, squares, churches, music

In order to get a true sense of Brazil’s first capital Salvador de Bahia, it is recommendable to stay in the heart of the old town ‘Centro Histórico’. The Bahiacafé hotel which is located on the Praça da Sé (Se Square) is a two floor colonial style building with rooms made of wooden floors and high ceilings, the percussion sound coming from outside makes us feel we are now in Bahia. During day and night you’ll hear music on the streets of Salvador’s old town, percussion groups made of children and adults play the batucada, the sound of the percussion with multiple drum melodies. Salvador, the birth of Afro-Brazilian beats is one of the places where the African culture is still alive with music, belief system, ceremonies and candomblé.

The importance of Salvador also comes from its architectural heritage. The streets of the old town are lined with buildings built in typical 17th century Portuguese style; most important of them are churches.

As we start walking from Praça da Sé we find the Cathedral of Salvador at the corner, also the house of Archbishop. The square in front of the cathedral is the Largo Terreiro de Jesus, we continue walking and we come to another church far at the end of the square. The Church and Convent of São Francisco de Assis is maybe the most grandiose of the churches here in Salvador due to the gold work in its interior; all of its walls, pillars, the wooden carvings, every little detail is covered with gold. The 17th-18th century Baroque style Church is followed by another smaller church on the narrow street next to it. An elegant façade with green doors, our favourite church Igreja de Ordem Terceira Secular de São Francisco is located on this cobble stone street.

As you will follow this narrow road you’ll see all these little side streets lead to Largo de Pelourinho, the biggest square of the old town; it is where the Fundação Jorge Amado is. The blue house that faces the square from the top is dedicated to Brazil’s famous author Jorge Amado, maybe Latin America’s second most famous author after Gabriel Garcia Marque who told the stories of Bahian people and showed the sociological structure of a postcolonial country with injustices and tragedies. If you walk down Largo de Pelourinho you will find on your right the blue church Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, which was the place where the brotherhood of African slaves used to gather and pray.

You then cross the street and across to Largo de Carmo a slight slope that takes you to another two churches. The first one on the left is situated at the end of a stair passage, this picturesque place is like taken out of movies. And indeed it is. The Brazilian director Anselmo Duartes’ movie O Pagador de Promessas that had won the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1962 was shooted here. As we walk till the end of the street we arrive at Igreja de Carmo, next to it Pestana Convento de Carmo, Salvador’s stylish boutique hotel.

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