Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ouro Preto this week . . .

This week is passing too quickly. We're staying at Pouso do Chico Rei, a small 18th Century colonial inn where Pablo Neruda once slept, in a small town, once a gold mining center, now a tourist destination and national treasure. The first days here, I could hardly believe we truly were in the same place, the same room. I hear echoes of Neruda's poems and dream.

We've wandered these cobblestoned streets, up and down hills, visiting churches and museums. Today we visited an Oratorio Museum full of Baroque religious art and sculpture by Aleijadinho, nicknamed "the little cripple" because he couldn't use his hands to sculpt in stone and so asked his assistants to tie on his mallet and hammers. He taught himself how to paint and sculpt, studying pictures by Michelangelo. We'll go tomorrow to see his famous prophets in the nearby town of Congongas, about 14 kilometers away. It turns out there's controversy about whether Aleijadinho really lived at all; he may have been a myth, yet these fabulous sculptures remain.

I hope this slide show gives you a sense of some of what we've seen, much like the red ribbon hanging down from a saint's statue that connects you directly!


Ouro Preto is also a college town about the size of Corvallis. Its 8,000 students live in dormitories called republicas, some public and some private. As they ready for Carnival, we can hear their clubs practicing for the great processions. Think samba music, drums beating complex rhythms, and crowds singing all under a warm starry night.

Yes, we also found a laundry, and I've drunk sweet Brazilian coffee with scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream mixed in. Someone told me sugar is added when the coffee is made, but I don't believe it. The coffee beans are simply fresher here. And I do feel guilty, waking up and seeing this vista out of our two large windows, another sunny day, no reason to work except on writing; it begins to feel like a honeymoon, an interlude, an exploration, an adventure, a beginning.

1 comment:

Gordon Mason said...

Great photos and words. Carnaval is a great time and as you say the practice that goes into it can be just as atmospheric as the real days.