If I told you that I spent 3 days drinking beer, eating Apfelstrudel, and snapping photos of beautiful Bavarian architecture, you would surely think that I had been to Germany for a long weekend, right?
But the truth is I did all of this without ever leaving Brazil!
When I found out that there was a national Brazilian holiday coming up and that my classes in Florianópolis would be postponed for a few days, I decided to do my favourite thing: go explore somewhere new. I began researching places nearby, and found out that I could visit a whole new culture, without even leaving the state of Santa Catarina!
Only 130km away from Floripa is the city of Blumenau; founded by German immigrants in 1850, and home to the one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the world. And just a short bus ride away, you can find Pomerode; known as the most German city in Brazil. Continue reading for more details on my time in each of these magical locations, accompanied by lots of my photos in my usual style (big, bright, and colourful) that will hopefully give you a good idea of what these places were like.
Arriving in Blumenau
After a three hour bus journey, (a.k.a three hour incredible nap) I arrived in the city of Blumenau. Once acquainted with my lovely accommodation, Hostel Blau House, I ventured out to spend the afternoon ambling around the city.
Because I arrived on the day of the Corpus Christi national holiday, most things were closed, so walking the main streets of Blumenau felt a bit like wandering around a ghost town. Everywhere I looked I could see such a strange mix of architectural styles; nestled amongst ‘normal’ buildings, every so often I would see and a beautiful, half-timbered German building housing something so mundane like an opticians, bank, or post office! Including the prettiest Santander I have ever seen!
Combined with the fact that no one else was around, exploring such an unlikely but beautiful place all on my own felt quite eery, but equally magical.
Of course, all that exploring made me hungry, so by the recommendation of my Blau Hause host, I ate my evening meal at Thapyoka Restaurante e Choperia (Restaurant and Tavern.) Although I’ve travelled ‘on my own’ so to speak, I’ve never really eaten at restaurants all alone; I thought it would be awkward or depressing. It turns out it was an experience I rather enjoyed and found quite liberating. Then, after a huge steak (I’ll return to vegetarianism when I get back to England…) and a Devassa red ale (this restaurant was literally next door to the beer museum, and had so many to choose from, I couldn’t go there and not drink beer!) I was definitely ready for bed.
The Vila Germânica Park
My second day in Blumenau included visits to many of the city’s interesting museums, which I will summarise later, but the highlight by far was a trip to the Parque Vila Germânica…
As well as being a huge event centre for conventions and festivals, the Park is also home to a charming ‘German Village’ which is comprised of two little streets of German buildings that house delicatessens, bars, restaurants, and shops that sell everything from traditional German costumes to Oktoberfest souvenirs. Even when the rest of Blumenau seemed to be so quiet, the German village was brimming with people and a lovely bustling atmosphere; it felt like Christmas at Birmingham’s German market!
I spent a good hour or so there in my own little world, exploring each shop, buying magnets, and taste-testing various strange flavours of liquor. Then I stayed for lunch at Bier Vila, the restaurant within the Vila Germânica that, in my opinion, has the best atmosphere of them all. The whole place is decorated with timbers and German flags, and there is live music while you sit outside and enjoy your beer (or in my case, suco de abacaxi e hortelã!) It was a strange experience to eat my delicious prawn & pesto pasta whilst listening to some men in Lederhosen yodelling away, but it was a strange experience that I really enjoyed.
Exploring Blumenau’s Many Museums
- Glaspark Museu do Cristal (Glass Museum): A small museum about the process of making glass and a glasswares shop. The best part of this museum is that you can enter the glass factory itself and stand on a little platform watching the glassmakers at work, going to and from the furnaces and creating stunning glass sculptures.
- Museu de Cerveja (Beer Museum): A little look into the world of beer and how it’s made, including many a strange beer-making machine or contraption, but, disappointingly, no free beer samples.
- Museu de Habitos e Costumes: An interesting museum full to the brim with examples of fashion through the ages as well as recreated rooms to show the ways in which people used to live. My favourite was the exhibition upstairs showcasing the dresses and sashes of beauty pageant contestants, including ‘Miss Blumenau’ and ‘Miss Brazil.’ (Where I awarded myself the slightly tragic title of ‘Miss Museu’)
- Museu do Familia Colonial: A small but well thought out museum, which allows visitors to take a tour around the restored house(s) of the founding family of Blumenau, with audio that provides interesting information about the lifestyle of the first German immigrants to settle in Blumenau. (I also visited the nearby ‘cat cemetery’ and I’m not sure why…)
An English Pub, in a German City, in Brazil?
For my evening meal, (did I mention that I did a lot of eating on this trip?) I decided to try out The Basement, a so-called traditional English pub. And while it’s ‘Spicy’ burger could definitely do with some tabasco sauce, it was a lovely place to have a meal and a beer, and its cave-like tavern feel did remind me of an evening in a good old British pub.
A day trip to Pomerode
While staying nearby in Blumenau, I thought it would only be right to take a day trip to the ‘most German’ place in all of Brazil. And it’s German-ness was obvious from the beginning!
The gates to Pomerode were beautiful, with German timbers and lovely flowerbeds. Inside there was a lady dressed in an authentic costume waiting to greet me and tell me everything I needed to know about the town, and upstairs there was a shop packed to the rafters with German artisanal crafts and other goodies.
After passing through the gates, I spent the morning strolling down the high street, in love with all of the little houses. I also took a trip to the teeny-tiny Museum of Pomerode, where they informed me that the horse & carriage ride around the town, that I so desperately wanted to do, was cancelled for the day! So, naturally, I decided to medicate my disappointment with food, and headed over to Restaurante Siedertal, a typical German restaurant with an all you can eat buffet! After a lot of meat and some delicious apple strudel, I tried to embark on a jeep tour around the Rota do Enxaimel, the 16km dirt track road that takes visitors to all of the oldest colonial houses- as seen on Michael Palin in Brazil. But guess what? That was cancelled too!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I had loved what I’d seen of Pomerode so far, but with the horse & carriage ride cancelled, and now the jeep tour as well, both of the things I had most wanted to do weren’t available anymore, so I was feeling a little down.
So what did I do? I decided to forget about everything and just spend the afternoon at the Zoo! Although I don’t really like the concept of Zoos, I do really enjoy seeing some animal friends; animals make me so happy. And for the equivalent of only £3, I saw almost every type of animal I know! Who couldn’t be cheered up after seeing some of these little fellows? (Especially the giraffe trying to eat)
It was a little strange that I had come all the way to Pomerode to enjoy its German culture, and then ended up spending hours at the Zoo, but nevertheless I was quite content. When suddenly, upon exiting the Zoo, there it was! A horse & carriage waiting there just for me- the tours weren’t cancelled after all! Happy as a clam I climbed into that carriage and I must’ve looked crazy because I couldn’t stop smiling like a child as it took me all around the town. Bumpy as it was, it was so lovely to see the whole town just as someone back in the colonial times would have, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t spend at least a few minutes pretending that I was a princess.
I ended a nice day by stopping at Nugali, which I heard was the best chocolate shop in town, famous for the quality of its goodies. I munched everything I bought there on the bus journey home and it definitely lived up to its reputation!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to this unlikely part of Brazil, please feel free to leave a comment! 🙂
P.S. I’m not sure how relevant this is but it is so exciting that I just have to share it! While in Blumenau, I found a shop that sells Tyrell’s crisps! I haven’t eaten any of those in about 10 months, so I was really happy!
The Tyrell’s stand caught my eye from outside the shop and I walked up to it with such conviction and a smile on my face that was so huge I must’ve looked crazy! And I must really be crazy, because I paid the equivalent of about £4 for a bag out of sheer desperation; but when I tasted that delicious mature cheddar and chive flavour, it was all worth it.