17.11.2015 - 17.11.2015
The lovely ladies from Australia joined me at breakfast today. They told me they were very fascinated by our nature here in Scandinavia and that a few of them had visited Sweden among other countries. One of them even had the opportunity to see our royal Family live out on the streets in Stockholm, and was completely amazed by that. Yes well, unfortunately that will become rarer now due to change and increased terror threats in the World etc. They also said Anthony told them that the Amazon state tries to introduce diseases which the Amazon Native Indians are not immune to, just to remove them out of the Amazon Rainforest. All this because the state found Uranium out in the Amazon Jungle they want to break and sell. And all this is made with high secrecy so the rest of the world won’t find out. If this is true, it is just horrible. I mean, why? There must be other ways. The gathering was at 11am for the transfer back to Manaus again. First a canoe ride to a floating bridge in the outskirts of Manaus. Then a ride in a warm minibus on bumpy borderline whiplash provoking asphalt roads back to Manaus and the hotel I stayed at just a few days ago – Hotel Go Inn Manaus.
I checked in and my guide Jorge Leal de Souza approached me and introduced himself. He is known from many different TV- channels as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, CNN among others, so that felt a little special knowing he would guide me at a private tour in Manaus.
The city and municipality of Manaus is located in north Brazil and is capitol city of the Amazon state, also known as the Heart of the Amazon. Manaus is located in the middle of Amazon Rainforest and easiest to access by boat or airplane. Thanks to its isolated geographic location its nature as well as culture heritage has been preserved and most certainly protected the Native Brazilian Tribes. When the city was founded in 1693 it was at first a small oasis in the rainforest where Rio Negro falls into the Amazon River. The rubber boom was blooming during late 19th century and Manaus became the richest city in South America and eventually got the nickname Paris of the Tropics. Many wealthy European families settled in Manaus and brought with them their love for sophisticated European art, architecture and culture.
We took a taxi to Rio Negro Palace which was built by Karl Waldemar Scholz, German baron who imported most things for his palace from Europe. Furniture, clocks and other furnishings in luxury style. A tour in this magnificent palace was included in my tour with an English-speaking guide. I was pretty impressed by many of the art work hanging on the walls. Probably imported from Europe as well.
The development bubble led to installation of street lighting, waterworks, drainage and a tram system and also wide tree-lined avenues were built. Bear in mind that these mega-rich families were overloaded with money and even sent their laundry to be done in Paris, France. The barons erected Mercado Municipal which was strongly inspired by the famous market halls Les Halles in Paris and the arts center Palácio Rio Negro located in the towns Portuguese district with fascinating facades. We walked to the Mercado Municipal and I got to try a local dish for lunch – Pirarucú – fish (Arapaima Gigas) with rice and spaghetti. Good taste, even though I’m picky when it comes to food. When walking around on the streets you couldn’t help noticing the majority of the cars had sunscreen on every window, even the front window. I just had to ask Jorge, if that wasn’t illegal. Oh, yes, he answered. But if you get pulled over by the police you just pay some money and they will let you go without fixing it.
They even built a replica of Grand Opera de Paris – Teatro Amazonas – a luxurious opera house with room for an audience of 700 people. Extravagant gilded balconies, French glass, Italian marble and European brick made the perfect shrine for Manaus active culture elite. A visit in this magnificent theater was included in my tour. The chairs in the saloon are nowadays dressed in silk and they installed air-conditioning already in 1925, after a famous French ballet dancer refused to perform due to the heat. The stage curtain itself is one big painting that moves up towards the ceiling in one piece without being folded or pulled aside.
In the saloon is a gigantic ceiling painting giving the visitors the impression of sitting underneath the Eifel tower. Upstairs is a debutant hall where 16-year-old girls danced to celebrate the step into adult life in becoming a woman. Huge marble pillars, Mahogany tiled floor mixed with lighter colored woods gave a luxury impression.
Even here is a ceiling painting spectacular in its way, since the ceiling is vaulted and gives the impression that the persons in the painting are looking at you everywhere you go in the hall.
The streets nearby the opera house were covered with rubber preventing noise from passing carriages outside to interrupt during performances. Today the opera house accommodates opera seasons but also theater productions and jazz festivals, and a part of the rubber street is still present outside. I just had to walk over there to experience walking on it. It was a strange feeling, but I totally understand how it reduced various noises from the traffic. The Amazonas State Government has since 2001 sponsored the Amazonas Film Festival, which annually takes place in November, to revitalize the opera house and art scene of Manaus.
When the rubber boom burst, the wealthy families abandoned the area and the city got into an economic crises. To attract foreign enterprises during 1970-ies Manaus became a foreign trade zone. Today Manaus is the largest city in Amazonas region with its 2 million inhabitants and does export nuts, rubber, timber, crocodile skin and cacao among other things. The harbor is the most important trading center for all trading in Manaus, both regionally, nationally and internationally. Many of the world’s rubber factories are here in Manaus, which 11 produces only motorcycle tires. Many of the famous brands like GoodYear, Bridgestone etc. were founded here.
After my private tour, which had been very giving and interesting, I could rest until dinner at the hotel restaurant. Dared to try a local white wine, but it wasn’t that good unfortunately.