RIO DE JANEIRO

There is so much more to Rio than suntanning in Copacabana and watching the waves from your beach chair or towel. And we’re not just saying this because the rain was as stubborn as a mule and wouldn’t leave our side. This city is absolutely gorgeous and we’re really glad it drizzled on some days and was mostly cloudy on others. 

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Christ the Redeemer, a bit wet

Nevertheless, the first day was quite hot and sunny, 36 degrees, „perfect” for our planned urban hike through the rainforest. After 45 minutes of endless steps, a lot of „looking for the monkeys“ breaks and some suave curse words, we reached Morro da Urca, the hill behind Sugarloaf. And let me tell you, we’re not the fittest people in world, so the summit did feel like an achievement. As a matter of fact, we felt kind of special. Angry about our decision to skip the cable car, sweaty and very tired, we were completely contrasting all those happy tourists stepping out of the vehicle. But before enjoying the view, I ran to the public toilets and shoved my head under the faucet, while Sergiu was making conversation with a friendly but concerned janitor, who asked if we had any friends. In Rio or in general. 

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Hiking Morro da Urca

That being said, the view is worth every single step and I can now say that the challenge made the experience! Our brilliant plan of hiking Morro da Urca and then taking a cable car to Sugarloaf was shattered in a second when we found out that the tickets could have only been bought down hill. That meant we cannot see Sugarloaf and we cannot take the cable car back down. After a short panic attack when imagining hiking down the train in bad weather, which was rapidly approaching, we were announced that if we waited until 7pm, we can go down with the cable car for free. These were great news, so we proceeded to enjoying a beer and making way to the endorphins, while watching the rain and remembering how lucky we are to be doing this.

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The view form Morro da Urca

» Rio is a sweet city. «

Figuratively but also literarily, as sugar is added to most dishes. They are selling cakes on their streets as we sell hot dogs or kebab on ours and this means one thing: the Brazilians enjoy their life and thus stopping to quickly devour a cake on the street is part of everyday life. Usually when your order a cappuccino, it comes with either a spoon of Nutella, some chocolate flavor or a lot of sugar. Mostly, I got a combination of the three. And maybe thats the reason they got so many gyms, at every corner. When it comes to food, we noticed many American fast food chains and learned about the tradition to go to a typical all-you-can-eat barbecue house once a month. The considerable quantities and variety of meat that we ate in such a place were more than enough to leave us with our bellies full and our pockets empty for almost two days. 

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The beautiful National Theatre

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Dancing on Escadaria Selaron

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Copacabana Fort

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Centro Cultural Municipal Parque das Ruínas

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Parque Lage

On the other hand, the city is filled with so many sweet sights and landmarks. The museums are also highly recommendable but maybe not worth the 3 hour long wait. Because we skipped the line at the Future Museum, we ended up sitting in a lovely Rio Cafe with a New Yorker and a local, listening to a South African band singing in French. What a night! They also have a zillion busses, which are said to be quite dangerous for tourists. Luckily, we found out that Uber is not only available in Rio but also very cheap. For a 15 minute drive, we paid around 2 Euro and were greeted each time with lolli pops and water. What a joy! The streets are also filled with Hyundai Tucson and I believe we counted around 20 of them per day.

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View from Sugarloaf

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Parliament library

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Future Museum line

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The Museum of Art

» Rio is a very green and clean city «

It is much more beautiful than you see in pictures and way less dangerous then some may want you to believe. Regarding the first statement, we were simply mesmerized during the whole cab drive from the airport. Most of the streets seemed very clean, the houses had different colors and there were so many trees! When walking down the street in Ipanema, you feel a bit like in a greenhouse. From the temperature to the humidity, light, pavement and the variety of trees and flowers, everything looked almost to perfect to be true. Go into the botanical garden or the Parque Lague and you will want to move there. Of course when you venture into the heart of the city the atmosphere changes a bit. 

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Monkeeeeey, finally!

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Sergiu loving the nature

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Niteroi view

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At the beach

Even though we avoided wandering to the favelas, never took our camera with us and didn’t go out so much at night, the otherwise beautiful bohemian neighborhood of Lapa didn’t give us the confidence we got from Copacabana and Ipanema, where every building has a nice doorman. That is why we decided to check out the hostel in Lapa before moving from our nice Airbnb apartment in Copacabana and ended up canceling the reservation the moment we left the reception. The center of the city is not the safest place to live, but it would be a pity to miss the vibrant nightlife. Not only that, but the striking Belle Epoque colonial buildings here are some of the oldest in the city. When taking shelter from the rain and enjoying a beer near Pedro do Sal, we came across a friendly New Yorker chatting with her guide about Brazilian history. We joined the conversation and ended up going together to some very nice live music bars and cachaca tasting in Lapa. The samba didn’t stop until the wee hours and we were exhausted but very happy. 

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African band concert in Lapa

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Pretty buildings in Lapa

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The Selaron steps are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from all over the world

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» When it comes to Samba… «

One of the best things about this city is the way people enjoy their everyday lives and how they manage to forget their problems by ending the day with smiles, dances and music. You can see elderly dance Samba like they were 20 and you can hear the best Bossa Nova tunes in the tiniest bars, much of them improvised. We had the opportunity to see the Brazilians rehears for the most amazing carnival in the world by attending many street parties and by going to practice halls. We witnessed how a Carnival Queen, who must represent her samba school was elected and we admired them at the Sambadrome (the samba stadium) afterwards. And it was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences we have had so far. 

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Even if we didn’t see the glamorous costumes, we managed to sneak in the parade at the Sambadrome, where we photographed all the stars and marched along the schools, dancing to the sound of drums, tambourines and whistles. More that 10.000 people sung in a single voice the legendary samba songs, while the public was cheering and trying to sing along. The Carnival is indeed a place of harmony, community and celebration, which brings together people from all lifestyles and generations and thus we felt so lucky to be a part of it. 

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NOTE: Their Caipirinha is very very stong!

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