Friday, June 13, 2008

Curitiba - A City with a Case of the Mondays

We arrived in Curitiba, Brazil after a brief 7-hour night bus from Sao Paolo. I was pumped to see the city, which is upheld as a model of urban planning, innovative transportation, and creative solutions to the myriad problems growing South American cities face. Of course, leaving the bus station, we ended up in a cab out to our hostel which was out in the suburbs. The hostel, Curitiba Eco Hostel, was among the nicest we've stayed at. Unfortunately, it was rather far outside of the city center. After checking in, we took a little nap, and caught a bus (just like any other bus, in any other city) into the center.

After a quick lunch, we took our first ride on the vaunted Bus Rapid Transit. Here's how it works: you pay in order to enter the tube, which means that the bus can run faster, by loading and unloading more quickly at each step. From the tube, you enter at the level of the bus floor, and the buses are HUGE. The BRT runs double-articulated buses capable of carrying 270 people. So, we waited a while, and caught the bus out to the Botanical Garden.

Botanical Garden - very nice. Cool greenhouse.

Great views of the city.

On the way back, we decided to hit the tourist office to see what else we could see in Curitiba. Here is where we encountered a little problem. Being a Monday, all the museums were closed. Unfortunately, the tourist bus line that connects all of the sites and almost all of the sites were also closed. So, with only a day in Curitiba, we were left with little to see.

So, we went to a Niemeyer museum!

After, we walked into the center, which was nice and had a most enjoyable pedestrian core. After the bustle and excitement of Brazil's big cities, Curitiba was quite a change. We found some good eats at a Pinhao (some weird fruit/nut thing) Festival - the Brazilian pulled pork sandwiches were a hit as was the mulled wine and chocolates.

After a couple of beers, we headed home in a heavy downpour for a good night's rest. In the morning, we were up early to head into town to catch an 8:15 train to Morretes, a small town to the east of Curitiba. The train route crossed the Serra Verde mountains, and is billed as the most scenic train route in all of Brazil.

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