The arrival in Salvador can be few promising - first a totally undercooled airport, outside it's already dark, the asphalt plains wet of rain. Then stepping outside to search the shuttle bus: muggy and sultry air. The bus trip is similarly 'auspicious' - a young man is explaining in detail how he got aggressed and robbed just fifteen minutes ago. It's now just a natural reflex to put off the wrist-watch and to drop it into the backpack.

Decorations during the 'Festa de São João'
Decorations during the
"Festa de São João"

Festa de São João

But how much changed Salvador to welcome us! While searching an accommodation, we closed up the town centre - a street festivity seems to be going on. The warm wind is carrying sparks of music through the streets. The closer we get to the spectacle, the more people are strolling in the streets. Finally we enter the central place between two churches, the streets are decorated with numberless small and coloured flaggs (banderinhas) and lampions, the old town is crowded with people, music and eatings at every corner, bars and restaurants with open doors and windows.

The name if the festival was "Festa de São João" - it gets celebrated every year from June 21 to 24. With a closer look it quickly gets obvious that it's not everything just wonderful and relaxed. The local police ordered groups of policemen at every street corner, to ensure the safety of the many tourists (gringos as well as Brasilians). Being tourist it's getting a strange taste to know that one can "enjoy" the festivity only under permanent protection of police.

In the light of the morning sun, the decorated streets emit a very different kind of charme. Most of the inhabitants are still sleeping because they must have celebrated and drunk until late in the night. That way, hardly anybody is already awake - except some men cleaning the traces of the eve, others go to bakeries to take some fresh bread.

Colonial-style building
Colonial-style building

World Heritage Site

The old town of Salvador is declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Since the late years of 80ies, more than 850 colonial buildings got refurbished. Now they are shining in their various original colours (rose, light blue, light yellow, light green), with bright white window frames and patterned ceramic tiles on the facade. Of course, one should not forget that the colonial rulers owed the beauty of their houses very often just the labour force of slaves.

Historically burdened is also the well known square "Pelourinho" - in colonial times, slaves have been whipped there in public. Nowadays, it's just a small commemorative plaque that remembers that dark chapter in history. Instead of that, the admittedly picturesque square along the church "Nossa Senhora do Rósario dos Pretos" can be found on every picture post card.

Outside the refurbished town centre, complete lines of houses remain broken down. The buildings desperately await paint brush and shovel. These streets emit the strange charm of former prosperity, now lost and broken down. Small trees grow up on roofs, some windows are barricaded with wooden boards, faded torn placards at the walls, iron grills of windows and doors covered with rust, tiles fallen out of the facades. But one still can feel the erstwhile wealth and beauty of old Salvador.


Salvador is the capital of the federal state of Bahia (BA). With more than two million inhabitants, Salvador is one of the important cities of Brazil. The local university is also known. Baianos, the people from Bahia, mostly have african roots. In colonial times, numberless africans have been sent on portuguese ships as slaves to the New World.

Thus, the religious roots of african beliefs mingled with christianity. One of the resulting mixed religions is "Candomblé" - in which christian saints got replaced one by one by figures of the african religions.


"Capoeira", a mixture of martial art and dance, is ubiquitous in Bahia. The fighters/dancers wear a pair of white linen trousers, and keep the upper part of the body free. The exercises get accompagnied by music of Berimbau, a typically Bahian string instrument. This sport is very popular, on beaches you frequently can see small groups of athletic blacks that perform, one after the other, their artistic exercises.