Friday, February 4, 2022

[OURO PRETO] Sounds Brazilian, Looks European

Realizing that I actually have around three days to spare in Minas Gerais, I decided that a side trip to one of the towns was in order, but I didn’t want it to be too far as to be exhausting. Luckily, long distance bus rides in Brazil are comfortable and very easy to book. And so, I did a little research online and found Pássaro Verde, a bus company which has many departures a day to and from Ouro Preto. I booked a roundtrip bus ticket and chose time slots convenient  to me. Off I go. Ouro Preto is two hours and a half away.

Ouro Preto means Black Gold in Portuguese. Minas Gerais, the state where Ouro Preto and Belo Horizonte are located, was named as such thanks to being pivotal to the Brazilian gold rush during the colonial period. The etymology is heavily contested, with the most simplistic interpretation being General Mines where minerals are generally mined, I suppose. Further research opens a can of worms as to what Gerais really means here. If you are that interested in history, it’s probably worth a term paper. If not, suffice it to say that this state was one of the centers where European colonizers pillaged the new world.

Ouro Preto used to be the capital of the state, then aptly named Vila Rica, reflecting its status as the town that prompted the gold rush in Portugal’s solitary colony in South America. In 1897, the capital was moved to Belo Horizonte and Ouro Preto became what most ex-capitals tend to become, a little touristy town teeming with colonial history through its preserved architecture. While Ouro Preto is not the only such town in MG, I chose it because it seems to be the most popular and most accessible from BH.

And I don’t regret having done so. Perhaps the only thing I bemoan are the steep inclines the hills of Ouro Preto pose as a challenge to those of us who are not that fit. Getting off the main bus terminal, you will immediately see Igreja de São Francisco de Paola to your right. Follow the steep cobblestoned path going down and you will end up at the town proper. The paths diverge, but the view of the town down below and up above on the other side of the hills serve as your compass as to where you should go.

I passed by a small chapel with big blue wooden doors on the way down, which I later found out to be Igreja de São José, the old imperial cathedral. Both churches were closed, so I could only take photos of the façade, which wasn’t disappointing despite the uniform motif of off-white with yellow accents. A few cartwheels down that path leads you to the town proper where the colonial houses and cobblestoned streets multiply. Wake up here with a hangover and you’ll probably think that you got transported back to Brazil of the 1600’s. Until a car hits you or someone throws an iPhone at you.

Once here, the photo ops never end. At each turn and every corner, an Instagram photo is begging to be taken. The only church that was open which you can visit with a BRL10 (~PHP100) entrance fee is the Basílica Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, a small 18th century church that reflects the opulence of the gold rush being referred to. It looks like an upscale theater with its red drapes and gold encrusted altars and adornments. I guess they chose to open this one to the public because they knew it wouldn’t disappoint both inside and outside. I was amused and perplexed by the opulence, all at the same time.

After that, my feet took me farther downtown and ended up at Praça Tiradentes where the monument at the middle of the street is complemented by the Museu de Inconfidência and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo nearby. Now this area feels so much like Europe that I kept on wondering whether I was still in Brazil. These old colonial towns just really transport you somewhere else, now, don’t they?

Anyway, I booked my return ticket to allow me a mere two-hour window for sightseeing, which felt so short. Going up and down the hills already takes a lot of time. What I would suggest is you stay in Ouro Preto for a few days, just getting lost in its cobblestoned alleys every day. Who knows, you might end up with an idea for a novel or a screenplay. It’s one of those charming little towns that give such kind of inspiration. Anyway, I saw more churches on top of the hills, but I had neither time nor energy left to explore them. For such a small town, Ouro Preto sure is obsessed with houses of worship.

0 creature(s) gave a damn:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Protected by Copyscape DMCA Copyright Detector

Theater Review

Book Review

Book Review

Book Review