Salvador da Bahia enchants visitors with Afro-Brazilian heritage and Baroque Architecture naturally surrounded by tropical beaches. One guide book begins its introduction to the city by saying that Salvador is safe in the knowledge that is a very special city. We will not argue. Bahia is way of life.
Americo Vespucci boldly went where no man had gone before when he landed at the mouth of the Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay) on Nov 01, 1501. Almost half a century later the first Governor General landed here to establish the first city in Brazil in 1549, establishing a fortified city that was to be the seat of political, economical and administrative power until Rio de Janeiro became the nation’s capital in 1763.
Up to this date Salvador was the most important city after Lisbon in the vast Portuguese empire, ideally situated in a safe, sheltered harbor, aided by the trade winds, a corner of the expansion of the New World. The major Portuguese legacy is the famous Pelourinho historical district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a maize of narrow, cobbled streets lined with fine colonial houses painted in pastel shades, all testament to the city’s golden era of the 18th century.
Standout attractions are many but one that excels is the spectacularly ornate church of Sao Francisco, without doubt the finest example of Baroque churches in Brazil with is stunning gold leafed nave and altars. It’s difficult not to fall into the trap of saying that Salvador is a city of contrasts but the evidence is overpowering: the Upper City, site of the Pelourinho, towering above the bustling banking and shipping section it the Lower City; the mix of European and African bloodlines; the open South Atlantic ocean and the calm sparkling waters of the glorious bay.
These contrasts can be continued to include religious beliefs of Catholicism and candomblé. There are few cities comparable to Salvador. While not a spectacular as Rio de Janeiro to the south, Salvador is to be enjoyed by a process of infusion, time taken to soak in the atmosphere is rewarded with subtle pleasures that will linger. Locals still have time to talk to each other in this town; they also have time to talk to visitors, albeit often in sign language. It has been said that you can learn to speak Portuguese in a week using your hands, feet and smile. There is never a shortage of those willing to help you in the process.