When I decided to go to the Olympics I knew I wouldn’t be going just for Rio. I really wanted to explore more and to get to know this country better than a simple visit to Corcovado. But Brazil is a very big and diverse country and has so many things to offer that one can easily get lost in endless options. I would divide the attractions into 2 categories: nature and cities. And though many people on the internet were saying that true Brazil was not about cities but about stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife, my trip was mostly concentrated on the urban beauties. The reason was very simple: I didn’t have enough time to fully immerse myself into the wonders of nature, which require quite a lot of time to reach them and to explore them with guided tours. Visiting cities, however, was much easier in terms of logistics and the span of 2-3 days was also enough to enjoy the main attractions. So here is a list of places that we have chosen and a small description of why you should go there: Continue reading “What to see in Brazil?”
On my second day in Rio I had to go to volunteer accreditation center and to pick up my uniform. It was located in the Samba city (Cidade do Samba) close to the city center. I checked the map and went to “Central” metro station from where I was supposed to walk like 2km. What I found at Central was a chaos of people, vehicles and street crossings all around …it felt quite uncomfortable and intimidating to be in this mess of events (but me generally I don’t like big cities and their madness). I was afraid to take out my phone and check the route (I was expecting someone to snatch it from my hand anytime) so I went to the police and asked for help… They were no good in pointing me into the right direction, but at least in their presence I was brave enough to use my phone 😉 Continue reading “Rio de Janeiro the crazy”
First question I get asked when talking about volunteering for the Olympics is whether they pay for flight tickets and accommodation? The answer is unfortunately no. (Though for me it was only partly “no”, but I will talk about it later). In general you have to arrange your flight and accommodation yourself, which I agree, is very discouraging. But don’t close this page yet! I will try to convince you that it is still doable and worth it 😉
Olympic games and many other sport events can not be held without volunteers. In Rio in 2016 there were around 50.000 (!) volunteers and for the winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang more than 20.000 volunteers are required. Being a volunteer at such event is a life time experience and if you love sport, international community and volunteering, you should definitely try!
The application period starts very early (around 2 years in advance) and closes around 1,5 year before the games. I applied in November 2014 to volunteer in Rio in August 2016. The first step in the application process is rather easy: you need to fill out online form with basic questions about yourself and your motivation (you don’t have to write an essay, there are only couple of lines required – but be sure you try your best in expressing your genuine interest in volunteering).
I have been struggling with this post for a while because my experience of Rio was very different from other cities in Brazil. It’s easier to post nice pictures and talk about what you have seen and done as a plain tourist (hopping from one point in the sightseeing list to another), but it is much more difficult to write about something that you lived as a … lets’s say … prolonged visitor. Your experience is not linear anymore: it’s an irregular mix of events, moments and episodes and it is just hard to create a single thread of a story. In my head I have flashes of random memories that are filled with emotions and thoughts, and I don’t really know how to put it all together into one “Rio” post. Nevertheless, I will try. Maybe by starting with the simple things and telling you how I got there.
A week ago I remembered that I actually had another blog in English. It turns out that I have created it 5 years ago! Already at that time I had this idea of writing, but I never really stuck with it and published only a couple of posts. Nevertheless, in 2013 when I was doing my IAESTE internship in Istanbul, I was updating it quite regularly. I have reread my posts now and the sweet memories made me laugh =) So I decided to import the entries here and now they can be found under the istanbul tag.
The truth is, I don’t really know what to tell you about Iguazu … It just has to be seen and then all the words in the world are powerless. Unfortunately, my amateur photos will not make it justice either. But I will try! Iguazu falls are located on the border between Argentina and Brazil on the river with the same name. These falls consist of many waterfalls of different height (60 to 82 meters) and you can enjoy them over the length of 2,7 km. You can (and should) visit both sides to have a whole impression of the grandeur of this place and to decide which one you prefer better. They say Argentina owns the waterfalls, because 80% of them lie on its territory, but Brazil owns the view! For me the most spectacular side was the Brazilian one, I was fascinated and left breathless… a true wonder of nature!
“Brasilia?! Oh, there is nothing to do there unless you are very interested in modernist architecture.” – so I was told by several people. I wouldn’t say I was, but wanted to see it anyway. I wanted to see the city that was built out of nothing in 41 months, that completely followed a designed plan and that was the fullfillment of a visionary idea of a new capital for Brazil. For around 200 years Rio de Janeiro was its capital, but located in the southeast region it was too far from the rest of the country. President Juscelino Kubitschek, fulfilling the promise of his political campaign and the country’s first republican constitution of 1891 (which stated that the capital should be moved to the center of the country), has ordered the construction of Brasilia in 1956. On the 21st of April 1960 it was inagurated.
Brasilia was built by urban planner Lucia Costa and chief architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed most of the public buildings. The city’s shape, proposed by Lucia Costa, resembles an airplane or a bird. There are 2 axes: one along the fuselage of the plain and one along its wings. The first axis is called Eixo Monumental (Monumental Axis) – it is the central avenue of Brasilia where many important government buildings and monuments are located. When you do a sightseeing tour of the city you are basically moving around these avenue. The second axis is curved and it is a residential area of the city.
When I first saw those colorful pictures of Salvador I told to myself: “I have to visit this place!” When I went to read more about it on the internet I was like: “No way, I am not going there! My life is still too precious to me!” If you google world’s most dangerous cities it would be somewhere in the top 20 (together with many more Brazilian cities and the rest of Latin America). But then I went on booking.com and checked hotels’ reviews. And I thought: If thousands of tourists from different countries go there and write positive comments, then it can’t be that bad after all, right? =)
On the 25th of July we landed in sunny Salvador! We took a taxi and went to our nice hotel in the historical city center, in the district of Santo Antonio. The guy at the reception welcomed us with memorable words about his hometown:
“It’s not a paradise, it’s more like a hell. But a good hell!”
Brazil has never been on my high priority list and I don’t know how much time it would have taken me to visit the 5th largest country in the world, if it hadn’t been for the Olympics. But 2016 was the year of Rio de Janeiro and as I was going to volunteer for the first Olympic Games in South America, I decided I might as well travel around and discover the beauty of the host country. I asked my friends to join me, but no one was willing to pay sky high prices for flight tickets and hotels. I was actually ready to travel alone just by myself (and that was a scary thought!), but then I decided to check with online friends. I thought of 2 virtual friends that could have been interested in an adventure like this. And one of them, amazing Anna, said yes! I was very surprised by her prompt answer (she has even booked flight tickets before me!), but very-very happy as well that I got a chance to travel in her great company. As I said, I have never met her before in real life, but through her instagram I knew we would get along! And I was so right ) Later on another friend of her, Sasha, has joined us and we became a gang of three ready to enjoy Brazilian winter.