By Simon Steele
A cross between former Eastern Europe and the United States” is how a friend of mine described Curitiba after his first visit. Rather apt I thought!
The ecological capital of Latin America, the city prides itself on offering one of the best standards of living in Brazil. With a population of approximately 1.7 million and growing rapidly, the city tends to be forgotten on the tourist trail, as it lays &rsquot;somewhere&rsquot; between Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis. Admittedly there is not a great deal for tourists to do here, but I feel it does warrant at least a couple of days stay. Let me tell you a little about the city.
The Curitibanos are mainly of European descent, German, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian and very proud of the fact they are too. Ask any Curitibano if they are Brazilian, they say “yes” swiftly followed by “but my grand-parents/great grandparents were from xxxxxxxxx” The Curitibanos have a reputation of being cold, and after having lived here for just over four years, I have to agree. From my Brazilian friends, none of them are from here, all mainly from São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul or other parts of Paran.
The city itself is comparatively well organised, the public transport system is very efficient, and I am pleased to say that drivers do tend to obey the traffic lights! At night, people are a little more wary of stopping, but do take care when jumping the red signal. Crime is comparatively low, and people do walk on the streets at night time. The city offers an abundance of “shopping centers” (maybe the American part of the city that my friend referred to!) although along one of the main arteries “15th November Street” there are shops for all tastes. Curitiba is a very green city, offering several large and very enjoyable parks. The locals take great advantage of these both during the week, for their pre or post-work jogging sessions, and at weekends, when family and friends congregate for a leisurely stroll or to enjoy the Brazilian ritual of Barbecue! On ascending the Brasil Telecom tower, in the Merces neighbourhood, one can fully appreciate how green the city is.
Alas Curitiba lacks the enjoyment of a beach. The nearest beaches are about 1.5 hours drive from the city, and do not represent the best of the Brazilian coastline. If you are happy to drive another 1.5 hours then you will arrive in Florianopolis, which offers beaches for every taste.
There is a magnificent train journey that departs from the Rodoferroviaria (Bus Station) descending through the Mata Atlantica, and offers some spectacular views of the lush vegetation. Passengers can either disembark at Morretes, a small colonial type town nestled in between the mountains, and sample the local dish “Bareada” (a type of meat stew) served with bananas, or continue the journey to Paranagu, the main port of Parana. (I recommend the first stop, as have never found Paranagu particularly interesting.) The journey takes 3 hours each way, and gives you just enough time to have a lunch and wander a little before returning to the city.
Gastronomically speaking, Curitiba is very well equipped, with restaurants for every taste. From the very up-market French restaurants, such as Table de France (Avenida Iguassu) to the more humble environs of Casa da Belle (Dom Pedro II). Museums are also available for those more culturally minded, including the Parana Museum displaying local culture, to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum that has exhibitions from around the world. Theatre-goers are also well provided for, although mostly in small venues, there are some very enjoyable shows to be seen both during the week and at weekend.
The climate does leave a lot to be desired, and it is generally accepted that Curitiba can offer four seasons in one day. If you decide to come here (even in Summer) make sure you pack a brolly and at least one warmer article of clothing. Generally speaking, the temperature rarely rises above 30C and has been known to fall to -5C in the winter.
So, I hope that this will give you a small insight into the city that I chose to be my home in this wonderful, wonderful country.
Simon describes himself as a Brit that fell in love with Brazil, and is now battling to survive… and not doing too badly he&rsquot;s happy to say!!“