Mexico- DF Part 2

Just outside Mexico City is Xochimilco.  As our taxi driver reminded us, not outside DF at all, but within DF and an hours drive across part of this very large city. It felt as if it was outside because it was a different DF. We visited mid week when few other people visited and in two hours we saw only two other boats on the canals. It was very quiet and very peaceful. The boats are painted in vivid colours and punted by a fit local youngster. At weekends apparently the place is packed. In fact we knew this from our Spanish class on meetings (arranging, inviting, declining). Our fictional protagonists created by the Spanish text book decided to teach us nouns and verbs and polite methods of declining by, ironically, not meeting, at Xochimilco. The reason being; the weekend crowds. Ah the lesson we learnt that day was more than cita’s, it was the practical art of scheduling our visit from DF to the canals of Xochimilco.

Xochimilco , many boats moored but only ours being punted for two hours along a calm circular route.

Xochimilco , many boats moored but only ours being punted for two hours along a calm circular route.

Xochimilco is an area that was used by the Aztecs to grow food. Canals were dug in the boggy land and the mud and lilies used to build up garden beds that were very fertile and clearly very close to an abundant source of water. The cultivation continues to this day and I understand the cash crops to be flowers that are exported far and wide as well as the usual market garden plants. The canals themselves are transport for the farmers but their revenue stream is the tourists, such as ourselves.

We didn't take this boat. But it was the most appropriate one for Alex's birthday. ( A half century if anyone asks)

We didn’t take this boat. But it was the most appropriate one for today was Alex’s birthday. (A half century if anyone asks, which is an awful lot of living)

One more fact to be repeated without research from The Taxi Driver Wiki is that DF has more museums than any other city in the World. It most certainly has a number and we have spent a time wandering their corridors.

The Anthropological Museum was reported to us as requiring six hours of our time. No museum will take six hours of my time I reassured the family. And so it was. But we did spend two hours here which makes it a very good museum using my duration tolerance index. It is in the Bosque Chapultepec , which was also visited by our text book friends from the Spanish class (who actually don’t exist). Bosque de Chapultepec is a large park, a very large park , that delightfully breaks up the congestion of the big city.

Anthropological Museum is a lovely building in  itself. Its rooms are divided to focus upon the history of the geographical parts of Mexico. A very good primer for our journey South and East.

Anthropological Museum is a lovely building in itself. Its rooms are divided such that each focus’s upon the history of the geographical parts of Mexico. A very good primer for our journey South and East.

 

Art and left wing politics did flourish in this city and we adventured onto the subway to discover their heart one Friday. The subway itself was an experience. It was quite an inconvenient walk to get there from where we are hotelling and the destination subway station was also quite a distance from where we wanted to visit (our final destination). Nevertheless, with stout shoes,  indomitable spirit and barley sugars we set off. The metro was poorly signed but very cheap at 50 cents a ticket to go where we wished. Blind people get into the carriage accompanied not by a Labrador but by a karaoke machine, speaker and microphone. They croon along as they move through the carriage and while I recognised they were not sighted I could only speculate that this impediment was also negatively impacting their hearing. They were not the finest singers I have heard. A red plastic beaker moves from side to side ahead of them and infrequently collects coins of small denominations.

The subway was efficient and very busy. Alex and Lauren braved the Mexican gropers by not availing themselves of the mujeres carriages and stood with their family (me and Lucas, who protected them from anyone with large stomachs, greasy hair and moustaches………we know gropers when we see them!!).

We arrived at the places of intellectual political wrestling and oiled canvas in the suburb of Coyoacan. Let me say that this suburb is just delightful. The security cameras and neat houses and modern clean imported cars everywhere indicate the residents are fortunate recipients of fortunate levels of income. We spent some time wandering around this suburb after visiting the museums and really enjoyed it. Parkland, colonial churches, plazas and ice cream parlours, as expensive, and as tasty, as any in Melbourne.

We were there to see how the comrades lived. We discovered they lived very well. Until they didn’t.

The ashes of Leon Trotsky rest here together with those of his wife. Forever beneath a red flag, a hammer and a sickle.

The ashes of Leon Trotsky rest here together with those of his wife in the garden of the house where he spent his last 15 months. Forever beneath a red flag, a hammer and a sickle.

A few metres away is Trotskys study where one of Stalins Basque agents befriended Trotsky and then murdered him at this desk as discussed by The Stranglers " No More Heroes Anymore"

A few metres away is Trotskys study where one of Stalins Basque agents befriended Trotsky and then murdered him at this desk. For details of the assassination may I refer  you to the lyrics of The Stranglers ” No More Heroes Anymore”

 

Trotsky was banished from Russia and came to live in DF which was his last refuge. The banishment was orchestrated by Stalin who was a very unpleasant individual. The pictures of each the members of the 1917 Bolshevik Council in Trotsky’s house indicated the, mainly, untimely demise of each. And the ultimate survival of only one, J Stalin.

Trotsky’s  first home in DF was with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and was the next museum we visited this day, a short walk from Trotsky’s house. Frida and Diego embraced left wing ideals while living in a rather lovely house in the same rather lovely suburb of Coyoacan. I am not so keen on Diego’s work. But Frida Kahlo knocked out stuff that I preferred and had a fascinating, if tortured, life of pain and imagination. I have more time for her than him and the house was well worth a visit.

Frida Kahlo's house, now a museum and gallery of her works with a few by Diego Rivera. The queue reflects the popularity and it is the most expensive of museum entrance fees  we have encountered.

Frida Kahlo’s house, now a museum and gallery of her works with a few by Diego Rivera. The queue reflects the popularity and it is the most expensive of museum entrance fees we have encountered.

Frida Kahlo's garden. The blue theme is consistent throughout.

Frida Kahlo’s garden. The blue theme is consistent throughout.

Finally, one of the things that is annoying me about DF. Tipping and service levels. In restaurants waiting staff have seen foreigners arrive and recognised the joys of receiving a  tip for the service they provide. In my experience they have not yet recognised the joy of delivering a service that warrants the receipt of any such amounts.We arrived here from Las Vegas where service is just fabulous and I am delighted to provide a fee for such service. In Mexico City my experience of service in restaurants is that it entails delivery of food and drink within timescales the waiting staff consider appropriate and of a quality that is not appropriate.  If you have dined in Canberra you will understand poor service and have an appreciation of my experiences here. I can think of no more damning an assessment than to pull out my Canberra analogy. I shall allow my keyboard to rest at this point, on this point.

In one place we did encounter great service from people who received no financial recognition for their service and expected none. I return, as I surely must, to the theme of supermarkets. I close with two shots of the supermarket next door to our hotel. Here a superlative check out experience was experienced. The check out chicks stand at their registers, they are quick, they are efficient and they have a positive, helpful disposition. They are all the things that waiters in this city should try to copy. The supermarket has no branding that was clear to me. The plastic bags says they are Walmart, but they may simply steal their plastic bags from Walmart.

Our local supermarket. Check out chicks par excellence and a farmacia on site.

Our local supermarket. Check out chicks par excellence and a farmacia on site.

Even a small car park out front with a man who points to vacant slots and a chicken rotisserie where fat chickens revolve but Alex refuses to allow me to purchase. Perfect ( except for Alex's constraints upon me)

Even a small car park out front with a man who points to vacant slots. Also a chicken rotisserie where fat chickens revolve. Alex refuses to allow me to purchase and devour one. Perfect, except for Alex’s limits upon my purchases of hot chickens.

 

 

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Mexico-DF Part 1

Mexico City is very large. I have reasonably understood Australia to contain 22 million people. A taxi driver today told us that Mexico City holds 23 million people. I tend to quote taxi drivers as fonts of truth and I see no reason to halt that habit now. So Mexico City has around the same number of inhabitants as Australia. If you compare the two places on even the cheapest of maps, or most unreliable of search engines, you will immediately notice that Australia is bigger than Mexico City. In fact much, much, much bigger. Which makes Mexico City quite congested or Australia frighteningly spacious, depending upon your frame of reference.

The second thing to be aware of when comparing Mexico City and Australia is that Australia is consistently called Australia. Mexico City is also called DF by its residents. Distrito Federal, or something similar, I have spared myself the inconvenience of looking it up for correct spelling.

I shall try and encapsulate Mexico City, or DF as I now refer to it, in pictures and curt observations. You can assist verisimiltude in this regard and place yourself in DF by :

Sitting in your car while reading.

Placing your car in a busy street that is jammed by other cars at a particularly busy time such as rush hour where the traffic lights have ceased to function or there has been a recent accident.

Inviting four or five of your friends to sit in said jam in their own vehicles in proximity and then, on your signal…………..push on their car horns using whatever type of motion they feel most pleasing. The short sharp honk of surprise, the long lean of exhaustion, the tuneful and rhythmic. All that is important is that this become contagious while being totally ineffective at speeding the traffic. Now you have captured DF and you can read on……….

OK I am being  more than  harsh here. The ineffective overuse of the car horn is restricted to slow moving traffic. The effective and frequent use is at the location of road mergers. At those locations it compensates for an absence of road markings and an abundance of vehicles.

More big buildings and a gold angel. Same Paseo de la Reforma

More big buildings and a gold angel. Same Paseo de la Reforma

Big building with whacky knocked across element on Paseo de la Reforma

Big building with whacky knocked across element on Paseo de la Reforma

I have not seen very much graffiti, which I found odd. The  footpaths are very uneven and often lids that should cover holes for pipes or cables are not there but the hole most deeply is there. We have seen daily protest marches. One of these was by people from the country which was enormous, kilometres and kilometres long. Our favourite was the protesting circus performers who brought horses and clowns with them as well as banners and a determination to be heard.

Zocalo the centre of the old town. Its where crowds march in protest and very large flags fly from 8-00am to 6-00pm each day.

Zocalo the centre of the old town. Its where crowds march in protest and very large flags fly from 8-00am to 6-00pm each day.

The cathedral is on one side of the Zocalo

The cathedral is on one side of the Zocalo

More importantly the Palacio Nacional (Presidents place and Treasury) is on another side of Zocalo. It contains a reconstruction of the first Parliament. Reconstructed as the original burnt down.

More importantly the Palacio Nacional (Presidents place and Treasury) is on another side of Zocalo. It contains a reconstruction of the first Parliament. Reconstructed as the original burnt down.

There are places in DF where trees grow. In fact, quite a number of places. There are grand Avenidas which are lined with trees and there are a number of parks. In addition, there are a number of grand old buildings and a number of smaller Colonial buildings. All of these combine to cause you to forget that you are in a densely populated city. At the weekend, when the traffic subsides the impression of a leafy city is more calmly convincing and I began to think very positively of DF.

Parkland in the Centre of the Old City. Very nice.

Parkland in the Centre of the Old City. Very nice.

 

On one end of the park The Palacio de Bellas Artes. Has a mural by Diego Rivera commissioned by Rockefeller and destroyed by Rockefeller due to its anti capitalist sentiments. In  heroic resistance Diego Rivera painted it again here. Personally, I'm with Rockefeller in my appreciation of Diego. But Diego is a bit of a star here and I am finding my own voice of resistance to Diego swamped by the masses.

On one end of the park The Palacio de Bellas Artes. It contains a mural by Diego Rivera commissioned by Rockefeller and destroyed by Rockefeller due to its anti capitalist sentiments. In heroic resistance Diego Rivera painted it again here. Personally, I’m with Rockefeller in my appreciation of Diego. But Diego is a bit of a home town star and I am finding my own voice of resistance to Diego swamped by the local masses. We are seeing a lot of Diego’s work.

 

The original residents of  DF were the Aztecs. They settled here when they saw an eagle with a  snake in its beak atop a cactus. It was very wet then and they were much troubled by flooding and construction on the wet land was tricky. Many piles were  driven to stop things bending over. The Spaniards copied this pile driving but not so well and their buildings do lean a bit more than you expect. But back to the Aztecs. Not actually so nice to know. Their goal was to fight other peoples. A man was a hero if he killed people. An even bigger hero if he captured his enemies in order that they could be brought back to the city and have their hearts cut out in ceremonies at the Temple. The Temple has been excavated and for a price you are provided an audio recording and invited to wander around. I didn’t really think it was worth it. I was little impressed by the Aztec architecture because it wasn’t on such a grand scale and didn’t strike me as particularly well constructed. The more recent citizens of the city had shown little care by using it as a rubbish tip, retail strip and driving a “water pipe” through it. I use quotation marks as I am quoting the description on the sign. To me the “water pipe” more closely resembled a sewer. The artefacts discovered during the excavation had been removed and stored in a  museum that we visited. They struck me as crudely made and revealed to me no advanced skills in carving or pottery or metal work. They were just old and were made by a people that cut out other people’s hearts. To inject variety into their murderous Aztec escapades they impaled their captives, removed their skin and sometimes mounted their heads on sharp sticks.

My one Aztec picture. 140 stone skulls arranged on poles  . Just like the real things would have been.

My one Aztec picture. 140 stone skulls arranged on poles. Just like the real things would have been.

The Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519 with five hundred and fifty men and sixteen horses. They defeated the Aztecs in battle in 1521 when the number of Spanish had confusingly risen to 900 and no word on the volume of horses. For this battle the Spanish enlisted 100,000 locals to fight on their side. I initially thought it very odd that the locals should fight with the invaders against the Aztecs. However, understanding how the Aztecs had treated their immediate neighbours for a few hundred years I think I have the explanation. Those Aztecs should have spent a little more time in diplomacy and a little less time in removing the hearts from the living bodies of their immediate neighbours. Ah well, too late for the Aztecs, but a learning that is being ignored in many of todays political hot spots.

DF is not so hot considering its July and Northern hemisphere Summer, 24/25 degrees each day, with a tendency to rain for a couple of hours from about 5:00pm. Smog is not as bad as anticipated, the app on my phone only described half of one day of the seven we spent here as “smokey”. There is a requirement to leave your car at home one day a week depending upon the lettering of its number plate.

We have found coffee to be hot milk and food to be dull. I fear we may have looked in the wrong places. But quite attractive places such as our favourite breakfast location.

We have found  Mexican coffee to be hot milk with a light brown colouring, Mexican beer to be even more watery than the US beer and Mexican food to be dull and repetitive. I fear we may have looked in the wrong places. But we have looked in attractive places such as this, our favourite breakfast location.

 

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Central and South American Itinerary

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Las Vegas

I arrrived in Las Vegas late afternoon. I arrived at my apartment and unpacked. After the sun fell and outside was dark I wandered out to find food. My wanderings took me to the Miracle Mile shops, a short hop from my apartment.

At the Miracle Mile a miracle occurred. The darkness of early evening was banished. Day once again reigned and the sky was blue with wispy clouds. I knew I was in Las Vegas where nature tries hard, but often loses out to man’s ingenuity.

The next day the family arrived. And we joined together in a quest to discover more things created by Bugsy Siegel and those who followed him:

1. At the Bellagio we saw the water dance hourly to popular tunes and, after dark, coloured lighting added an extra dimension

2. At the Mirage a Volcano erupted hourly from 8:00pm onwards

3. We saw none of the 312 weddings that occur each day and were disappointed to see only one dwarf Elvis impersonator. We were disappointed that we only saw one impersonator in total, we were not disappointed at his size you understand. We would have been equally disappointed had we seen only one Elvis impersonator who was of average dimensions.

4. As a family we returned to the Miracle Mile for lunch. A reverse miracle was now in place, it was nightime on the Miracle Mile. Lights flashed  on and off to illuminate the darkness and excite the shoppers.

5. Just outside Las Vegas is a construction that is as great a feat of man, as any casino.

The Hoover Dam. Named after a President not a household cleaner

The Hoover Dam. Named after a President not a household cleaner

The new Bridge prevents traffic running over the top of the dam. It too is pretty impressive

The new Bridge prevents traffic running over the top of the dam. It too is pretty impressive

The combo shot. Bridge and Dam together taken atop a very tall ladder

The combo shot. Bridge and Dam together taken atop a very tall ladder

6. More prawns are consumed each day in Las Vegas than in the remainder of the US combined. All you can eat buffets are a very popular method of taking on calories from prawns and all other food varieties. A casual observation was that portion control was not controlled in any eatery we visited. As a generalisation, diners at such places took on more calories in a sitting than was wise and was many times reflected in the dimensions of those diners.

7. We were told that the Strip had enjoyed more affluent times and is still recovering from the Financial Crisis. The Strip was packed with people whenever we walked there.   It always felt to us that good times were back as we waited 30 minutes for a taxi and the same amount of time for a table in a restaurant. The  electrical output of the Hoover Dam was being used in an extraordinarily frivolous manner.

The Strip ( Las Vegas Boulevard) at night

The Strip ( Las Vegas Boulevard) at night

8. In the downtown area of Las Vegas sit the original casinos of the town. Development along the Strip has left them a less visited location getting grittier and more ignored as each year passed. To rejuvenate interest in this end of town the casinos and streets  have been covered with a big blanket and collectively renamed as the Fremont Street experience. Zip lines transport people over revellers heads beneath the blankets and a light show illuminated the underside of the blankets. It looked to me that the relaunch and rebrand was a great success. Fremont Street was very full the night we were there and was great fun. As a taxi driver said ” We have two Vegas for people to visit, the Strip and Downtown”

Fremont Street with the lights dancing on overhead blankets

Fremont Street with the lights dancing on overhead blankets

Original casinos on Fremont Street

Original casinos on Fremont Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. We walked into a supermarket ( Vons, a great name for a supermarket and indeed a great supermarket). An avenue of slot machines formed a welcome party. Milk was only available by the gallon, but the door of the fridge in our apartment had been swollen at manufacture to accommodate just such quantities.

10. The taxi driver from our apartment to the Mob Museum engaged us in inspiring conversation:

” What have you seen? ” Penn and Teller ” Oh yes, all the english, go and see that ”

The new Ferris wheel ” Oh yes, a waste of money. Why pay $40 to have a view of the employee parking lots and be sealed in a box for 30 minutes? ”

Cirque du Soleil, O, at the Bellagio. ” Oh yes, not for me. I went, but I thought it was boring”

11. A different taxi driver stopped for us on our return from Citibank to let us know that its illegal to flag a taxi in the street in Las Vegas. But he stopped because he knew we were foreigners. Specifically “One of those English or Australian’s or New Zealander’s. They all think they can just walk anywhere.” Specifically, he was correct.

He went on to explain that we were walking through the areas used by drug dealers and prostitutes. We saw none. Explanation; it was early morning, too early for drug dealers and prostitutes who I was left to assume murder and rob to a strict timetable. Another cheerful conversation enjoyed with a  taxi driver. They most certainly go out of their way to earn their tips!!

12. As for thirty minutes in a  sealed box that was considered overly expensive by the most miserable of taxi drivers. Well we found it to be none of those things. Its called naturally enough ” The High Roller” . It is,  naturally enough, the largest Ferris Wheel in the World.

The High Roller. The Worlds Largest

The High Roller. The Worlds Largest

13. The hierarchy of need is understood and catered for at Oscar’s in downtown Las Vegas.

Oscars caters to those who know what they want

Oscars caters to those who know what they want

14. The Main Street Station casino in downtown is the most olde worlde casino we visited. Pressed metal ceilings, red brick walls and old light fittings, it was really attractive. When I went to the Gents I found myself weeing on a section of the Berlin Wall. That was unexpected and completely unadvertised and inconsistent with anything else in the casino .

15. A short hispanic man gave me a set of cards on the Strip. He was one of many such men providing such cards to passers by. Inflatable balloons had similar advertisements painted on their side, as did buses that drove up and down the Strip.

All needs catered. And a twenty minute delivery time to "your room" guaranteed. Faster than pizza

All needs catered. And a twenty minute delivery time to “your room” guaranteed. Faster than pizza

16. The hispanic man and his friends were quite numerous on the Strip, all advertising a similar product (service). In the interest of balance I reflect upon two individuals with a megaphone who stood at the bottom of an escalator on the Strip. The card they handed out is reproduced below. It is around ten times the size of any of the cards given to me by the hispanic man and printed on much better quality paper.  But I was left with the impression that they were not engaging their audience. A very tough gig for them.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ? Think again !

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ? Think again !

17. This may seem quite petty. But I was very pleased. In Caesars Palace there are a number of  escalators that take you up a floor. Nothing unusual in that, except they move you upwards and in a semi circle. A first for me. You see its the simple things that impress.

We also had an unusual experience for our stay in Las Vegas . We spent three days in the company of Cindy and Steve, who had driven five hours from Phoenix to join us. And then drove a similar distance back after these three days. Not only did we have sterling company of two people with strange accents, but also we gained the enormous benefit from their local knowledge. Cindy very kindly hired and drove a car that took us to the Hoover Dam. Not only that, but she then got us to a chocolate factory and then chauffeured us to Circus Circus to see a circus act and enjoy a roller coaster ride. It was fabulous of her.

Steve had visited Las Vegas many times for work and indeed did so on this occasion also. He chose the great restaurants where we all dined and had advice, borne of many years experience, to guide the fresh travellers to the city. Indeed such was the quality of his advice and company that I have (almost) forgotten that he ate my steak at the BBQ by the pool. Almost………….. It was lovely seeing them both, we appreciated their time, the effort they took on our behalf, and their company.

I loved Las Vegas. I encourage anyone who has never visited, to go, and anyone who has visited, to go again. However, of all the impressive made man attractions of Las Vegas, we probably enjoyed, most of all,  the natural construction located just outside.

A man made conveyance

A man made conveyance

The Colorado River

To a naturally formed location, created by the Colorado River

At the base of the Grand Canyon

And at the base of the Grand Canyon

Alex's birthday present

The family on a day trip

Alex pilots us safely to the base of the Grand Canyon to celebrate  her (imminent) birthday

Alex pilots us safely to the base of the Grand Canyon to celebrate her (imminent) birthday

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Brasilia- The design oversight?

There will be no photos with this post.  The reason will become apparant.

As I have travelled through Brazil there has been a consistent issue with toilets. They are not designed to accept toilet paper. As a consequence there is a basket next to the toilet for the collection of paper.  In Australia the toilets accept paper and we are unused to using baskets.

I asked an anonymous group of Australians how they felt about the placement of paper. Turns out they felt nothing about it. They were not putting paper in the basket. To assuage their consciences they were flushing frequently. I have been using the basket as I am a culturally sensitive guy. But I am with the anonymous ones, I don’t like doing it.

So when I came to Brasilia I was confident that a town built from scrubland in the late fifties to futuristic design concepts, would most certainly have me comfortably back to my usual habits. But not so.

I am confused. Sewage systems and all the elements have existed for a long time.

The first flushing toilet was designed by John Harrington who produced two, one for himself and one for Elizabeth I , Queen of England. So we are talking a long time ago 1596 which is a long time ago. It is said the queen never used it……too noisy.

Commercial quantities of the flushing toilet originated from Twyfords in the 1870’s.

Toilet paper in its modern form was invented by Joseph Gayetty in 1857 and has grown in popularity such that Americans consume 25 kilos per person per annum.

Sewerage systems again thousands of years old. But as we know them, they were firstly built as a consequence of the industrial revolution. Population density rose and the London’s river Thames became an open sewer. Cholera and typhus needed discouragement. The first sewers being built in London from 1859.

So let me be generous and say that by the turn of the century all the modern elements of a disposal system were commonly found and utilised. Specifically, flush toilet, paper and sewerage system to connect to some method of treatment. Forward 50 years and the pencils are sketching designs for Brasilia. A modern utopian futuristic city which cannot accept paper into its toilets.

I found this strange. I have spent some time thinking why this would be and I have arrived at a distressing conclusion. The toilet and sewer system were not designed to deal with paper because:  No one on the design team thought the existing processes were a problem. At this point I stop embracing alternative cultures , I draw a line and say…..sorry ………the existing processes are not right. I don’t care how narrow you consider me to be. I don’t think it is acceptable to design a “futuristic city” where people retain soiled toilet paper inside their homes and then place it outside the home for collection and relocation to the local tip.

It is my suggestion that the design standards for Brasilia sewer pipes are altered to increase the diameter and perhaps some bigger pumps are purchased and installed. Then those in Brasilia who are able to access these new paper eating toilets will have yet another utopian feature to point at. Their superiority over all other cities and towns in their country will be (more) obvious to all.

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Brasilia- Cars rather than concrete

I need to remind of the logical shape of Brasilia.

Brasilia from above

Brasilia from above

I have previously said that its difficult to get a perspective of Brasilia except from a map, or maybe a helicopter. It is possible to view from a height of 75 metres, by climbing up to the viewing platform of the television tower. I say “climb”, but its a lift that takes you there, for my favourite price; free. From 75 metres you can see the breadth of the body of the humming bird. On each side of the central “Avenue” are two seven lane highways.

Looking East to the National Congress from the viewing platform of the television tower

Looking East to the National Congress from the viewing platform of the television tower

And looking West from the TV tower viewing platform. The TV tower was designed by Lucio Costa. No photos as its ugly and Lucio should have stuck to town planning and left the architects to architect.

And looking West from the TV tower viewing platform. The TV tower was designed by Lucio Costa. No photos as its ugly and Lucio should have stuck to town planning and left the architects to architect.

In the middle is a distance of around 200 metres of red earth and hardy grass and some short trees. Vegetation struggles because of the climate, its wet for 6 months and dry for 6 months…..well the struggle is the dry. As a consequence the trees are short. The local palm copes but others less well and at this (dry) time of the year my shoes have a coat of red dust picked up on my travels. The other feature to note is that its a long way from this tower, east, to the flagpole, about 5 k’s. I say this because I walked, in the way that people without a car walk, and the return distance is very similar. In the other direction, west, about the same 5 k’s to the military church (and again no shorter on return).

These are longish walks and tourists tend to do them to see the buildings and it is worth doing the walks. But the people you see on the walks are other tourists and very few locals. The reason is that the locals drive. The focal point for Brasilia is where east meets west and north meets south. At this point the great big highways all cross, the train station is there and the bus station is located in the same place. But it is a transport hub, not a friendly town hall square. People do go there and there are lots of them. But they go there to leave there; as quickly as they can. And there is nothing to hold them except a small shopping mall on the north side and some seedy shops on the south side.

I very much like the order and the logic that Lucio Costa created. I like the cleanliness and the quality of life that exists here that does not exist in other cities. I can see it was a grand, confident vision, for a grand, confident capital, of a grand, confident country. And I consider that it succeeded in these goals. People from Brasilia are genuinely proud of there city and they do have something of which they can be proud. If I were going to live in Brazil this place has a lot going for it. I like the feeling of equality here when compared to the extent of inequality elsewhere. I like the great buildings and the boldness of design of those and the city.

What don’t I like? Similar comments made by others and then some other thoughts:

1. It has no heart, no meeting place, no centre. Well it does have a centre but that centre is a transport hub, not a meeting place. People drive their cars through the concrete and the city consequently lacks humanity and the flare that usually accompanies that.

2. Its frozen. Brasilia is proud of its Unesco Cultural Heritage listing ( 1987). But this has been achieved for what happened over 50 years ago and it wasn’t clear to me that that spirit of innovation continues. It may have been visionary at the time, but now Brasilia basks in the memories and seems happy to stay there celebrating something that recedes deeper and  deeper into the past. The continuation of a visionary spirit was not apparent to me.

3. There is not much architectural diversity. Only Niemeyer seems to have been asked to create anything. So if you don’t like what he does with concrete then there are no works of alternative architects to appreciate. Not at the time of creation and, importantly, not since then, as far I could tell.

As a tourist I find it hard to judge how liveable is Brasilia. The locals I spoke to said “very”. I can see instantly that if you lived in Salvador then moving to Brasilia would be a positive step; well more a gargantuan positive leap than a positive step. But to move from Rio to Brasilia? That would create a longer list of pros and cons to assess.

Overall conclusion. Do visit, its worth it. I really like Brasilia. And a few more pictures:

The new stadium appropriately photographed through an envelope of concrete!

The new stadium appropriately photographed through an envelope of concrete!

The new stadium built for the World Cup. Not sure what to do with it afterwards. There is a local club. Daily Mail said inviting them to use it would be like asking Scunthorpe to play at Wembley each week!!

The new stadium built for the World Cup. Not sure what to do with it afterwards. There is a local club. Daily Mail said inviting them to use it would be like asking Scunthorpe to play at Wembley each week!!

This concrete slab was caught having a  little rest

This concrete slab was caught having a little rest

JK Bridge. A real bridge over an artificial lake

JK Bridge. A real bridge over an artificial lake

Jk Bridge. Voted as one of top 5 most beautiful sights by residents of Brasilia. It is indeed an exceedingly pleasant bridge.

Jk Bridge. Voted as one of top 5 most beautiful sights by residents of Brasilia. It is indeed an exceedingly pleasant bridge.

 

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Brasilia- My favourite pieces from the concrete

Niemeyer created the designs for a lot of buildings in Brasilia and a number are in my previous Post . My two favourites are actually churches which combine the curvy concrete with glass, The Metropolitan Cathedral and Dom Bosco’s shrine, Dom Bosco being my particularly favourite. It is not located on the West East  green body of Brasilia , but on the South wing. In fact, immediately at the end of the street I was staying. So I had the great pleasure of ambling past a few times every day.

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Dom Bosco's Shrine

Dom Bosco’s Shrine

Dom Bosco's shrine. Curvy concrete and glass combine

Dom Bosco’s shrine. Curvy concrete and glass combine

And while we are doing churches. A confession. Dom Bosco's isn't one of Niemeyer's. I confess, my favourite building is a ring in !!!! Brasilia I hope you can forgive me.

And while we are doing churches. A confession. Dom Bosco’s isn’t one of Niemeyer’s. I confess, my favourite building is a ring in !!!! Brasilia I hope you can forgive me.

 

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