Wow, so that's Brazil. South America! This magnificent scenery is really compensating the journey to go there over half the globe. This view over the bay of Rio and the Sugar Loaf is undoubtedly the most famous of Brazil - and thus a first class photo-trophy for everybody's traveller album. This changes nothing of the fact that you stop breathing when you spot this view for the first time - in spite of the warm breeze on the mountain's top.
Carioca and Malandro
The inhabitants of Rio are called "Carioca". They are said to have a very relaxed (not to say: lacking discipline) way of life - together with practical creativity and smartness. At least in a stereotype view of the rather busy "Paulistanos", the people from São Paulo. But how shall one think at office when the friends are already down at the beach, playing beachsoccer...
A "malandro" is a subtype of this life-style: a man, often lacking good school education, in permanent struggle for money (mainly due to gambling), but still every day wearing a white suit and hat, skilled in charming conversation, heart-throb, reveller and known in all nightclubs of the town... Vadinho, one of the main personalities of Jorge Amado's "Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos" (Dona Flor and her Two Husbands), is personifying a perfect draw of a malandro. These days, white suits are getting rare in Brazil, but definitely not the species of "malandro".
Carnaval in Brazil means in first line: an immense chaos with electrifying rhythms, beautifully decorated cars with dancers, whistles, dancing and drinking crowds of people.
For more settled friends of Carnaval can sit down on a sort of stadium-like tribune ("Sambódromo" = Samba-Drome) - at which the never-ending stream of cars, music and dancers is flowing along. So called "dancing schools" are preparing their performance during all the year. They write new songs, stitch new costumes and tinker the embellishments of the cars. Mostly, these dancing schools stem from poorer parts of the city - but the more elaboratedly and beautifully decorated are the (sometimes quite tiny) dressies of the chorus girls.
On Ash Wednesday there's hang over mood: dark rings around the eyes, the coming back to the day by day - and under certain circumstances, nine months later the end of the dancing lesson.
As being the biggest football stadium worldwide those days, the Maracanã stadium was constructed to the football World Cup 1950. The arrounding part of town gave its name to the stadium. It hosted formerly up to 200,000 spectators, but during a security aimed reconstruction, the standing places have been replaced by just 70,000 seated places.
The stadium experienced lots of competitive finals, of which the most memorable was surely the World Cup final of 1950. Brazil lost after a nerve-wrecking match 1:2 to this Latin neighbours Uruguay.
Today, there's a small football museum in the entrance hall. It shows more nostalgic than precious objects like photos of the great worldcup winner teams, gold-plated football shoes and all kinds of imitated cups. And not to forget: the footprints of the greatest brazilian heroes (Zizinho, Pelé, Sokrates, Zico, Careca, Taffarel, Valdo, ...).
Crime and Violence
These days, reports on overflowing crime and violence in brazilian cities, especially in Rio de Janeiro, are amassing in the media. Drug dealers and other kinds of criminals have transformed the labyrinth-like slums (favelas) into "no-go-areas", that are even avoided by police officers. Informants and curious journalists have to fear their lifes - and have sometimes even to pay that price. Razzias and largely covering police campaigns are reminding at the fight of the italian police against the mafia. Although some of the wirepullers are already barred up in prison - from where they coordinate their businesses by cellphones.
Frightening is also the level of everyday's violence. A simple example are gangs of street kids that close up from all directions as soon as a "gringo" is spotted. So happened in a small beachside restaurant at Copacabana (a beach that is btw. overrated by far) - as a rot of kids literally robbed our fried fishes from the plate. But that was still a harmless situation. Other travellers reported "demands for precious objects" that have been underlined by a splintered bottleneck or a sharp knife.
All that in view, it's up to everybody to believe or not the courageously spoken statements of european interns like "we never had the least problem in Rio"...