Salvador da Bahia (Portuguese pronunciation: [sawvaˈdoʁ], Savior; historic name: São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos, in English: “Holy Savior of All Saints’ Bay”) is the second largest-city on the northeast coast of Brazil (after Recife) and the capital of the Northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. Salvador is also known as Brazil’s capital of happiness due to its easygoing population and countless popular outdoor parties, including its street carnival. The first colonial capital of Brazil, the city is one of the oldest in the country and in the New World. For a long time, it was simply known as Bahia, and appears under that name (or as Salvador da Bahia, Salvador of Bahia so as to differentiate it from other Brazilian cities of the same name) on many maps and books from before the mid-20th century. Salvador is the third most populous Brazilian city, after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and it is the ninth most populous city in Latin America.
The city of Salvador is notable in Brazil for its cuisine, music and architecture, and its metropolitan area is the wealthiest in Brazil’s Northeast, its poorest region. Over 80% of the population of metropolitan region of Salvador has Black African ancestry, the African influence in many cultural aspects of the city makes it the center of Afro-Brazilian culture and this reflects in turn a curious situation in which African-associated cultural practices are celebrated, but Black Bahians due to their low income are apart from most of the city life options. The historical center of Salvador, frequently called the Pelourinho, is renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture with historical monuments dating from the 17th through the 19th centuries and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Salvador is located on a small, roughly triangular peninsula that separates Todos os Santos Bay from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The bay, which gets its name from having been discovered on All Saints’ Day forms a natural harbor. Salvador is a major export port, lying at the heart of the Recôncavo Baiano, a rich agricultural and industrial region encompassing the northern portion of coastal Bahia. The local terrain is diverse ranging from flat to rolling to hills and low mountains.
A particularly notable feature is the escarpment that divides Salvador into the Cidade Alta (“Upper Town” – rest of the city) and the Cidade Baixa (“Lower Town” – northwest region of the city), the former some 85 m (279 ft) above the latter, with the city’s cathedral and most administrative buildings standing on the higher ground. An elevator (the first installed in Brazil), known as Elevador Lacerda, has connected the two sections since 1873, having since undergone several upgrades.
Ok, now that you have had the history lesson on Salvador da Bahia we will continue. Actually knowing a little history of this city is important to being able to appreciate some of my photographs.
When we arrived this morning and pulled alongside the dock, Kay and I were on our Veranda and had a most interesting Kodak moment before us. There was a large building, mostly glass, just across from where we docked. The sun was rising from the opposite side of the ship and we had a magnificent reflection of the ship in the building. I took a photograph but it really doesn’t do justice to the scene as we witnessed it.
The harbor is beautiful, and no photos can convey its beauty and majesty. It is easy to see how this location became one of the first major cities on the South American Continent.
Salvador is a beautiful colonial city and is rich in history. We didn’t have a scheduled “tour” today so we walked the few blocks from the dock to the Lacerda, the elevator. Along the way we encountered street vendors with many colorful wares.
And many of the vendors themselves were colorful!
It cost $0.15 Reals (about 0.09 cents) to ride the elevator and lifts you over 200 feet in a little over 20 seconds. This is much quicker and safer than walking the narrow, winding streets to reach the upper level.
A view of the elevator from the bottom
The Elevator from the top
At Upper town, it is a very pleasant area to walk along the old cobblestone streets and sidewalks. There are many beautiful buildings which exhibit 17th and 18th century architecture. Below are a number of examples.
At the top we admired not only the old buildings but also some modern art.
Our mission was to reach the 16th century Igreja de Sao Francisco, one of the oldest and most ornate Cathedrals in Salvador. By the way, Salvador has almost 400 churches and Cathedrals. The following is a description of Igreja de São Francisco, as provided by Lyle, a fellow passenger on our ship. Lyle over the past several months leading up to our cruise provided the Cruise Critic forum with over 100 pages of useful information about various ports we would be visiting. The work is a result of his more than 80 previous cruises. Thank you Lyle.
Convent and Church of São Francisco (Igreja de São Francisco) At a time when Salvador was the biggest port in South America and Portugal still vied with Spain and Holland for the title of world’s richest empire, the sugar barons of Salvador decided to splurge a little and let folks know that their colony had arrived. Beginning in 1708 and continuing until 1723, they took more than 100 kilograms of gold and slathered it over every available knob and curlicue in the richly carved interior of this high-baroque church. The result could hardly be called beautiful, but by God, it’s impressive. The inside fairly gleams; on nights when the doors are open it casts a yellow sheen all the way up to Terreiro de Jesus. Open 8am-5:30pm. Admission R$3.
(The admission has increased to R$5)
Outside the Cathedral in the square
This is an entire wall, and there are dozens of walls made with these tile mosaics
100 Kilograms of gold is about 220 pounds of solid gold. That will cover a lot of area!
The image of St. Anthony was paid by the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel until 1903. I am sure there is a good story behind this. This information was on a handout given by the Church on admission.
While the girls were in a shop we guys were approached by these lovely ladies, who for a price would allow you to take their photograph. They are dressed in the “traditional dress of the colonial period”
We have heard mixed stories regarding how safe the streets in Salvador are. It appears that at one time there was a fairly large problem with petty thief and pick-pockets. We actually felt comfortable, but we stayed in populated areas and there was a very visible presence of police.
Overall, everyone agreed that Salvador was a beautiful and most enjoyable stop. After having read The River of Doubt (thank your Roy for the recommendation), watching the movie The Mission and then traveling the Amazon and finally seeing Salvador, I have a real feeling for what it must have been like in this area from the colonial period through the early 20th century. This is a stop I am glad I did not miss.
For those of you who asked… You know who you are. Here are a few photos of dinner last night.
I can’t remember the fancy name, but I know Kay doesn’t cook this for me at home! It is spinach and goat cheese stuffed quail, served with smoked corn risotto and snow peas. It was very good….
Several had the less exciting but nevertheless fantastic surf and turf
We all had our own idea what the ideal dessert was, so here is our assortment. We all enjoyed.
One more photograph. This was actually taken in Maceio a couple of days ago. Just as we were leaving port, the sun fell through the clouds to land on this ship and I though the effect was beautiful. It lasted only for about a minute, but I had time to get a couple of shots. I hope you enjoy.
We will be in Ilheus tomorrow.