Retro-futurism in Brasilia

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Brasilia seems to cop a lot of hate. Everyone I met along the way, who I told that I was going to Brasilia told me not to go. It began with “Junior”, the guy from Minas Gerais who works in the ASN sports nutrition store on Oxford Street just around the corner from yoga… While purchasing my vegan cookie there one day after yoga, I mentioned to Junior that I was going to Brasilia. He was completely gobsmacked and exclaimed, “Oh my God, you can’t go there… It’s like Canberra, only much worse.” “But I want to see the famous Oscar Niemeyer buildings, Junior.” “OK, so you go there for half a day, take your pictures, upload to Instagram and then you get the hell out”, was his response. To be fair, any student who tells me they’re going to Canberra, I usually give them the same advice: Go for half a day and then get out. In Rio de Janeiro, Rodrigo from my Airbnb told me that if I wanted to see Oscar Niemeyer buildings, I should go to absolutely any other city except Brasilia. And at the very minimum, everyone seemed to say, “Well, you know in Brasilia, you’ll have to take an Uber EVERYWHERE”, as if that was the worst thing ever. And hey… If you’re a gringo, you have to take a freakin’ Uber everywhere in Brazil. Perhaps it was because of this incredibly negative build-up, but my week in Brasilia was wonderful. It’s like I had saved the best for last. Brazil is really just a state of mind in my opinion, and as a gringo, you get the same Brazilian experience in Brasilia as you do anywhere in Brazil, but without the bitter third world after taste. It’s new (ish) … The buildings aren’t dilapidated, and the streets aren’t swimming in trash and piss. What’s not to like? I feel like if Brazil was Sydney, then Brasilia would be the Upper North Shore… But hey, I spent most of my life on Sydney’s upper north shore so I’m not knocking it. Maybe I was just lucky. Afterall, travelling solo is a bit of a roll of the dice at the best of times… But I had the most fun, met the nicest people and even reconnected with an old friend from Brasilia who I hadn’t spoken to in 5 years. Maybe the theory that people in ugly cities are nicer because they feel that they have to try harder applies. Who knows?

I’ll admit… When you first arrive, Brasilia is a bit of a weird looking place. It reminds me of the Australian Outback; not that I’ve actually ever been there, but you know… Big, flat, dry, wide open spaces. Then suddenly you have these huge surreal spaceship-like concrete structures plonked down, and plonked down seemingly at random.

While the buildings themselves are impressive, there doesn’t seem to have been much thought put into how the buildings relate to each other or how the surroundings relate to the buildings. The main streets are WIDE, and I mean REALLY, REALLY wide, but they’re empty (of people), and kind of eerie and windswept and lacking any kind of vibe.

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Another thing that’s weird when you first arrive in Brasilia is that everything has been placed into sectors. There’s the hotel sector, and that sector is adjacent to the ministries sector and also the banking sector.

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I stayed in the hotel sector… It was weird staying in a designated hotel sector because there is nothing there but hotels. In other cities you would stay in a hotel surrounded by mixed-purpose buildings, shops with people living above them and cosy neighbourhood restaurants and bars. I stayed in the Saint Moritz, which was in a complex of three hotels. Like every hotel, there were a few shops downstairs on street level like a convenience store, one restaurant and a laundry, but other than that, there was nothing. When you travel, you generally want to stay in the “downtown” part of the city (as opposed to the ‘burbs) because that’s where the action tends to be. I feel though that in Brasilia, the ‘burbs are where the action is. If I were to travel to Brasilia again, I would stay in one of the satellite towns on the edge of Brasilia or in Goias.

As I said though, once you get past all of that, it’s a Brazilian city full of warm, welcoming Brazilian people, living the same Brazilian culture as anywhere else in the country, and you can find everything in Brasilia that exists in other cities, except beaches, of course. Just that you’ll probably get to know more Uber drivers in Brasilia than other cities.

The bars and clubs here are cute, at least the two bars and one club that I went to are. They feel so terribly upper-middle class though compared to the rest of Brazil. While clubs in other parts of Brazil and also Latin America can get a bit gritty, Brasilia’s ones are very nice and everyone is well groomed and polite. Imagine if Roseville or Killara had nightclubs…

And from what I could tell, Brasilia had more vegetarian restaurants compared to other cities!

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And that’s it!!

Just some more snaps before I go…

Sanctuario Dom Bosco

And some random snaps from around town:

And now off to new adventures!

2 thoughts on “Retro-futurism in Brasilia

  1. Great pix, Martin, good yarn. The images take me back to my early arch. student days when Oscar was worshiped by many. Sadly, a few still try to emulate him.

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