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Olinda 20 February 2006

Posted by Paul Cronk in Carnival.
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10km north of Brazil´s third biggest city, Olinda sits on a hill. It was settled by both the Dutch and the Portuguese and has some 22 churches and monasteries dating back to the beginning of the sixteenth century.

It´s ridiculously pretty with late C19th buildings on cobbled, curving streets, and heady views over Recife and the coast to the south.

It´s been on the Unesco list since 1982. There are a few formal `sites´ of tiled churches and grand, rotting buildings, but the main appeal is atmosphere and allegedly the best carnival in Brazil.

Arriving in the late evening the taxi hooted through parading blocos, and pavements lined with people selling drinks from large polystyrene ice boxes.

From the hotel we joined a small group shuffling up the streets. These blocos are small community groups, this one was a local college; the mix of people in them is quite astonishing. Little attempt at costumes: a simple banner, a group t-short and a small marching band towing a amp on wheels. The group would distribute streamers, confetti and song books, and move up the hills shuffling rather than dancing. The song – from I could work out – were about carnival and celebrated Olinda. The songs are often shared between the blocos to the extent that we could pick up the tunes and even some words.

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