Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Petropolis in the mountains of Brazil

To understand Petropolis, you must know a little of the history of Brazil. In the interest of brevity, we'll just mention a few "nuggets" to remind us of it's origins.
Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese explorers in 1500 and became known as Brazil because of the highly prized red wood, pau brazil or brazilwood, valued in Europe for its red dye properties. Later, in 1533, Portugal began to colonize Brazil. Slaves were imported from Africa; the French arrived in 1555 and departed within 2 years. The Portuguese colony grew and was rich with coffee, sugar cane, gold and minerals.
In 1807 Napoleon conquered Portugal and the royal family, Prince Regent Joao VI fled to Brazil and in this process made the Brazilian colony the seat of government for the mother country. The Regent Joao and his family remained exiled in Brazil until 1821, when he reluctantly returned to Portugal. (Portugal was a bit tired of having it's monarchy reside in the lovely tropical country and requested that the ruler come home)
Before returning to Portugal, Joao named his son Dom Pedro as regent and head of the Brazilian Government (Dom Pedro was under the tropical influence of Brazil and did not wish to go home!). Dom Pedro, recognizing that liberty for the Brazilian colony was iminent, declared independence from Portugal for Brazil on September 7, 1822, creating the Brazilian Empire and the first monarchy in the Americas.

It was Dom Pedro who originally purchased the land in the Serra Fluminense mountains to create his summer palace, but it was his son Pedro II who constructed the refuge from the intense summer heat of Rio, and the charming town surrounding it, thusly naming it Petropolis, honoring both Pedros. Temperatures in the mountains and Petropolis are refreshingly cool and pleasant; a welcome respite from Rio.

The town is distinctly Alpine and Bavarian flavored, with many rose-colored and Alemana influenced homes, which were once summer dwellings for members of the royal family, lining the quaint streets. Pedro's Summer Palace, now called the Imperial Museu, is open to the public for tours. It is a pleasant step back in time to wander through the residence and imagine the rulers of Portugal and Brazil enjoying their summer "cottage".
The Imperial Museum (Summer Palace of Pedro II)

As to the Bavarian influence; in the 1850's, after slavery was banned, the imperial government invited European immigration in order to help rebuild the labor force. The first arrivals were German and Swiss farmers who settled mostly in the areas where the soil and climate were most similar to their home country. Today you see many remnants of this influence: Alpine-style homes and buildings, knockwurst and bratwurst on menus, and cuckoo-clocks for sale.

Our first stop after climbing the mountain on the Petropolis Highway was the Cafe do Alamao, for, yes, you guessed it....bratwurst and knockwurst and horseradish mustard on brochen!! and of course, apple struedel for dessert! Yum Yum!!! (again!) It was almost as good as those that I loved so much, many years ago in Germany!!!

We had another delightful and interesting day touring Petropolis, then visiting a local "pottery factory", an Orchid Farm, and Funghi d Oro (The Mushroom Restaurant). More about these sidetrips later!

Sorry, if you find the background of Petropolis boring, but this is my diary, and you know that I like to know the "why" and the "how" 'bout most everything, soooo it's all in here!!
Tchau and love to all!

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