Salvador is a seaside colonial city, it’s food flavored by the dende palm oil, it’s culture and music flavored by African rhythms, it’s streets graced by such an improbable number of churches that it is said there is one for every day of the year.
It is also home to it’s own unique style of Carnaval, very much different from the one we experienced in Rio. The beginnings were humble enough, three guys playing amplified music on the bed of a truck bumbling slowly down the street became known as a “trio electrico“. The name has not changed but today’s pounding multimedia moving music extravaganzas are anything but a simple threesome in a truck.
There are basically three ways to experience Carnaval in Bahia, as a spectator along the parade route, watching the trios pass by from the all inclusive comfort of a camarote (which includes all you can eat & drink plus extras like massages), or by following the huge trucks with the bands on top from within the bloco, the space inside a huge rope that is carried around and along with the huge trucks. You gain admittance to the bloco and the camarote by purchasing a T-shirt for the specific day and group, which made it easy for us to figure out where to go to parade, we just followed people wearing the same shirt as us.
We stayed in the old historic center of Salvador, which is known as the Pelourinho, which is the Portuguese name for the whipping block where offenders were publicly lashed. During Carnaval, the old cobbled streets of the centro historico were perpetually thumping with tribal rhythm drum corps and partygoers dancing the streets night and day. Staying as we did in the small, close knit community around Pelourinho, we became familiar with folks we saw day after day in our ramblings about Salvador, such as local grafitti artist Limpo whose work space is located there .
In the above picture, the church appears a little lopsided due to missing the top of one of it’s towers, but it’s not, the tower was never completed in the first place. In the typical Brasilian fashion of finding a way around anything, the second tower was intentionally left unfinished in order to avoid paying the tax that would be due on a completed church, and so it stands centuries later, not quite done.