Rio de Janeiro- Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City)

Brief History of Rio de Janeiro

December 1807: Napoleon started to invade Portugal.
But just before the invasion the mad queen, a corpulent and coward Portuguese crown prince, the Braganza royal family and a court of nearly 15000 men fled to Brazil. More precisely to Rio de Janeiro.
Summer 1808: Blue sky and the sun was shining.

Viewpoint Rio de Janeiro
Incredible view at Pedra Bonita

Out of nowhere suddenly an unusual event took place in Rio de Janeiro, which would mark the start of Brazil’s independence.
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean was nothing but a journey of hardship.
Imagine yourself (or not) on a ship with lack of hygiene, it was just a question of time for lice to afflict the ships. On the ship of crown princess Calota Joaquina the women had to shave their heads and throw their wigs into the ocean… Wait, it got better!
To protect their bald heads from the sun once they disembarked Rio, the women wore turbans. When the local women saw this, they assumed it has to be the latest fashion in Europe. Swiftly in order to imitate the noblewomen, they cut their hair and wore turbans, too.

John VI of Portugal started to erect public buildings, theaters and libraries were built. Besides of it the population grew rapidly.
Later Rio de Janeiro became the seat of the government.
Ports of Brazil were opened to foreign shipping. With the trading many European artists and craftsmen came to Brazil.
1821 the king and his court returned back to Portugal, but he left his son Dom Pedro back as regent in Brazil.
Not only he left his son back, but also a nation, which was ready to walk on its own two legs. At the end Portugal was not strong enough to fight against its own beloved child. Therefore in 1822 Dom Pedro declared Brazil’s Independence.

Safety in Rio de Janeiro

I was lucky enough, nothing severe happened to me in Rio de Janeiro.
But I met some Carioca (people from Rio de Janeiro), who got robbed many times. Or threatened with a gun.
I saw somebody 100 metres far away from me got robbed.
It is important to listen to your gut feelings. And although your hostel is only 5 minutes walk away, please take a Uber at night. It is cheap and it’s better to spent some bucks than to lose your phone and wallet, right?
I also avoided favelas and asked at my hostel which areas I have to avoid.
Unfortunately, Rio de Janeiro got more violent in the last years due to political and economic crisis.

Sunset at Ipanema Beach

But don’t let fear overcome your joy for this beautiful city. Within 3 days I fell head over heels in love with the Cidade Maravilhosa.
One more useful advice: Don’t run around with your phone in the hand and designer bags or suchlike. Since I am in Brazil I only go out with a gym bag, which you can order on Amazon for 4$.
I even only took a plastic bag with me once going to the beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon. Some locals bury their valuables in a plastic bag in sand and cover it with their towels.

Beach, Rio de Janeiro
At Ipanema Beach with my gym bag.
Beach, Rio de Janeiro
Beach volleyball at Ipanema/Leblon
A perfect day in Rio de Janeiro – How much money do you need for one day in Rio de Janeiro?

I made quickly friend with a girl in my hostel- Marivana.
She is such a cute, smart and happy person. Therefore I was lucky to spend some days with her. Happiness can be gained more by sharing it with other people. Like we did.

I documented all my expenses in one day in Rio while we visited all the important sightseeing.
We started our day at 9 am. I ate breakfast at the street for 10 Reais (3$).
First stop: Christ the Redeemer.
The statue is 30 metres (98 ft) tall, located at the peak of Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Have you ever heard of the New 7 World Wonders? – If not, now you know.
Among them Cristo Redentor is listed. The entrance fee (July 2017) for people under 22 years old is 41 Reais (13$), and for adults 80 Reais (25$).

We took from Botafogo (our hostel was in this area) a subway to Largo do Machado. If you getting out of the station many people want to “help” you with the transportation to the entrance gate of Cristo Redentor.
Please don’t let yourself be fooled by these guys. They wanted for EACH OF US 100 Reis (32$) for a transportation of 20 minutes!!
I mean come on, both of us looked somehow dumb but they should have tried their luck with 30-40 Reais, maybe we would have agreed.
The moral of the story: Don’t be greedy if you run a business!
So we ordered from the subway station to the Corcovado peak a Uber pool for 12 Reais, each of us paid 6 Reis (2$). And they wanted 100 Reias!!!
Jesus Christ!
The statue is wonderful, our hearts beat like hell when we got the first  glimpse of Cristo Redentor.
But all the tourists on the top giving me a feeling of becoming a claustrophobic person.

Cristo Redentor
I was so so excited, believe me.
Viewpoint Rio de Janeiro
The view at the peak of Corcovado Mountain, Christ the Redeemer.

Who is going to Rio and doesn’t go to Pão de Açúcar aka Sugarloaf?
Besides the Christ statue it is the infamous symbol of Rio de Janeiro.
A Uber from the statue to the entrance of the trail was 8 Reais (2,50$) per person.
For a long time the Sugarloaf was assumed to be unclimbable until the English mountaineer Henrietta Carstairs climbed to the top in 1817.
Women power! We decided to hike the Morro da Urca Trail, from there you can get a ride with the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf.
For children below 6 years the cable car is free, from 7-21 you have to pay 40 Reais (13$). Congratulations, everyone above 21 years old is lucky to pay the double price, 80 Reias (26$).
Getting older isn’t always great, isn’t it? We decided to contemplate the beautiful view of the sugarloaf from far away.
And low-budget as we are, guess what? We didn’t pay for the cable car to get on the Sugarloaf.
Now I have at least one reason to come back to Rio de Janeiro.
The trail is easy for sporty people and not stuffed with the crowds during the week. Amazing view on the top!

Morro da Urca, Rio de Janeiro
Morro da Urca Trail.
Monkey, Rio de Janeiro
Don’t feed the monkeys on the Morro da Urca trail. They look cute, but they can be aggressive.
Pão de Açúcar
In front of Sugarloaf Mountain aka Pão de Açúcar.

Lunch time. At a buffet restaurant in Flamengo I paid 25 Reais (8$) with a drink included. Next stop: Vista Chinesa, a beautiful belvedere in Rio. Some people even claim it is the best one.
Located on one of the roads that connect the Jardim Botânico area to the Floresta da Tijuca/ Tijuca National Park. The perfect getaway for cyclists from crazy Rio and a beautiful view over Cristo Redentor, Sugarloaf, the beaches, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas etc.
We paid 12 Reais (4$) each person with a Uber from Flamengo area to Vista Chinesa.

Vista Chinesa, Rio de Janeiro
Vista Chinesa
Viewpoint Rio de Janeiro
In real the view was much better, with an iPhone 4 you can’t expect much from the quality.

Sunset time is my favourite time of the day. Hence, to wrap up the day before starting the nightlife we went to watch the sunset at Arpoador.
Uber car pool from Vista Chinesa to Arpoador will cost you 6 Reais (2$) per person.  A small peninsula between Ipanema and Copacabana beach, with great people and vibes like in the hollywood movies. What do you want more?

Sunset Viewpoint, Rio de Janeiro
My favourite time of the day.
Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro
Best place for a sunset: Arpoador.

Food vendors lining up the beaches, so we ate tapioca.
We bargained and paid only 5 Reias (1,60 $) for one Tapioca,
usually they cost 7 Reais.
Taking the bus back to Batafogo (3,80 Reias/ 1,20$ for one ticket) I decided to go out with my Polish friend Daria and our friends from Brazil and England. I am not a party animal at all, but once you are in Rio I think going to a Samba club is a must-do. Especially if you mingle in a group, it is 99% safe.
The area people going out at night in Rio de Janeiro is called Lapa.
Lapa is so dirty, crazy and the heart of a nightlife in Rio. Therefore, you can imagine all of us had an unforgettable night dancing until the morning and forgetting the daily problems of one’s life. Uber from Botagafogo to Lapa cost 10 Reais (3,20$). A Caipirinha (300ml) in Lapa was surprisingly cheap for only 4 Reais (1,30$) and a cheap beer for 10 Reais. The samba clubs are everywhere, with no entrance fee. So we did kind of club crawling, until we ended up in a magical place and stayed there for hours. Taking a cab back to Daria’s Hotel in Lapa, which was only 7 minutes walk far away cost me frigging 10 Reais.

Of course you can do more than I did, but it gives you a rough estimation of what to do in one day in Rio.
The expenses in Rio de Janeiro is unfortunately very high, more than Germany’s capital. I was lucky enough to share the Uber with Marivana and thanks to my local friends I got to know the cheap places in Rio.
But it still doesn’t change the fact that you better bring loads of money with you, since the prices increased tremendously during and after the FIFA World Cup in 2014. This city was unfortunately a black hole for my wallet.

In total I paid roughly 48 US-Dollars for one day and a night out in Rio.
But I was saving a lot due to sharing a Uber with Marivana.
You better plan for one day in Rio at least 50$.
My crappy hostel was 10$ per night, perhaps I spent rougly 60$ per day in Rio.
One week in Rio and you and your wallet can cry in a rhythm together.
But anyway, all of it is worth it. Totally!

Girls visiting Rio
Marivana, thank you for everything.
Where else to go?
People advised me I have to go to Jardim Botânico, the botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. Entrance fee was 7,50 Reais (2,40$) for people till 21 years. Don’t underestimate the size of this garden, I ended up spending 5 hours there. But I have to admit that I was pacing around like a sloth.
Close by is Parque Large, don’t miss this beautiful park once you are in the area. It is huge and great to getaway from the hustle of the city. Entrance fee is for free, so don’t worry – just go ;).
The botanical garden is a must-visit place in Rio.
Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro
Jardim Botânico.

Botanical Garden, Rio de Janeiro.

If you don’t know it yet, but I am a big fan of the free walking tours around the world. So of course, I had to attend one in Rio.
In 3 hours we explored downtown and Lapa.
You will get to know all the insider tips and famous places will be visited like Lapa Arches, Theatro Municipal or Escadaria Selarón, a ceramic
tiles-covered stairs in Lapa.

Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
The famous Lapa Arches.

The popular and photogenic Escadaria Selarón was an art work of the artist Jorge Selarón, who was born in Chile and claimed it as “my tribute to the Brazilian people” – it took him twenty years to complete.
Like you know life can be ironical in many ways, right?
Unfortunately he was found dead on his own stairs Escadaria Selarón in 2013. Until today it is not clear if it was suicide or homicide.

Tiles Stairs
Escadaria Selarón, Lapa
Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Street art is very common in Lapa, Rio.

Another place to watch the sunset, which I can recommend is
Forte de Copacabana. At the fort you can dine while watching the sunset at one of the plenty restaurants. Maybe you just want to visit the museum of the fort? Entrance fee is 3 Reais (1$) for students and double price for non-students.

Forte, Rio de Janeiro
Forte de Copacabana
Sunset in Rio de Janeiro
Another sunset view place.

The other day I met up with friends of my friend Andre from São Paulo.
You see how easy it is to make new friends, if you are just a little bit
open-minded and self-confident enough.
Anyway, Carol and Flavia brought me to Tijuca National Park.
At Rampa de Voo Livre, we watched people doing hang gliding.
The hike up to the ramp is demandingly steep, but for a hike-lover like me no problem.
From the ramp you can take lots of pictures, I took at least 20 pictures from there. The view was breath-taking!
But for people who suffer from vertigo, please don’t stand on the ramp just for taking a picture. Or if you want to get a “Final Destination movie feeling”, go for it. So if you don’t want to get a heart attack and fall down off the ramp, don’t even think to stand on this ramp. Or face your fear. Your life, your decisions.

Rampa de Voo
Hang gliding at Rampa de Voo da Pedra Bonita.
Rampa de Voo, Rio de Janeiro
The ramp for hang gliding.

Hike the trail to Pedra Bonita, it is nearby.
An easy trail. The view on the top will floor you.
Forget the ramp at Rampa de Voo Livre, this time your breath is literally taken away once you got to see Rio de Janeiro on Pedra Bonita.
Again, for people with vertigo you might get a serious problem.
But again, face your fears. The view is worth it, I promise.

Rock in Rio de Janeiro
Stunning view.
Pedra Bonita
Pedra Bonita
Goodbye Rio, but I will come back

For me visiting Rio de Janeiro is a must-do like when you are a tourist in Paris and don’t see the Eifel Tower. To be honest, I know it’s naive and primitive, but before I came to Brazil I imagined Brazil how Rio de Janeiro is. Crazy, happy people, open-minded with a touch of machismo, always sunny, beaches, people in bikinis etc.
Now I know, Brazil might be the most diverse country I have ever been to. Not only landscape, but also people and culturalwise.

I felt Carioca men to be intrusive, maybe it is just because I lived in Asia for the last 1 1/2 years. But god damn it, I am not used to it receiving kisses and hearts in WhatsApp from strangers I just met one day before. The brazilian culture I experienced so far is very open to sexualities and some of the people I’ve met are the biggest party animals I got to know.

Anyway, Rio de Janeiro is incredible in many ways and like I said I fell in love with this Cidade Maravilhosa and also the Carioca in general are great people. The best is you convince yourself by traveling to Rio de Janeiro. You got me, Rio! You got me.

Varginha – Minais Gerais

After Rio I went to Varginha for 2 weeks doing volunteering work and I was more than lucky to stay with one of the most adorable families I have ever met in my life. Rodrigo, Cristiane and Natalia took good care of me while I helped Rodrigo’s students with English. I didn’t have much to do except sitting in his class and talking to his students in English.
They treated me in every way like a princess and it was such an easy workaway job experience. I could even made friends with some Mineiro.
Even though Varginha is a small city, but just because Rodrigo’s Family are such a likeable family, I would come back anytime.
I hope to meet them in the future again. My time in Varginha was unforgettable and never ever I would change this experience, not for a million dollars.
It would be truly my pleasure to see you all again, I will miss you a lot!
You are the best Brazilian family I know, I love you all.

PS: Minais Gerais has the best Pão de Queijo and Açaí, I might get fat here if I would have stayed more than a month.

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