Salvador da Bahia, Brazil - Built on a large peninsula jutting down along the Atlantic coast at about 13 degrees from the equator, it lays at the mouth of the largest bay in Brazil.


Bahia deTodos os Santos was named according to tradition, on November 1, 1501 (All Saints Day) when the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci first explored these waters.

As the colonial capital of Brazil from 1549 until 1763, it developed rapidly. By 1550 the city, built strategically on a cliff overlooking the sea, was surrounded by a high wall and was very defensible. This area, now called the upper city, is today connected to the port by a huge elevator system. After Lisbon it was the second city of the Portuguese Empire. Gold and diamonds from interior Bahia provided prosperity that inspired opulent Baroque architecture. The entire city is cobblestoned with many parks and squares surrounded by magnificent churches and other structures, hundreds of years old.

Sugar and tobacco export fueled the economy of Bahia and of course this was sustained by the slave trade. The fast growing port was a terminal for goods brought to and from villages around the bay and up the rivers that flow into it. All of this traffic was done in small sailing vessels called Saveiros, of which there may be twenty still in service.

The port itself was defended by the citadel above as well as a fort encircling the island that forms the inner harbor. In addition there are a series of forts built on prominent points beginning at the tip of the peninsula. As it happens, our youngest daughter Kristi was enrolled in the Silvestre Dance Technique Intensive in Salvador, Brazil, studying Afro Brazilian Orixa Dance. While making her travel arrangements she learned that just ten days after the program ended was Carnival, the biggest in the world. She asked me if she should stay, not sure what she would be doing for ten days. I said "Stay, your mother and I will come down. If you don't have anything else going on you can hang with us." Taking the opportunity, we went down to see her perform.

We arrived mid-day Friday after an all night flight. Kristi had arranged that we stay at the Pousada Noa Noa in the Barra district near the tip of the peninsula.

Pousada Noa Noa

Our accommodations were across the street from the first beach on the bay side of the point.

After settling in we visited the fort on this point which included the oldest lighthouse in South America.

Farol da Barra housed inside Forte de Santo Antonio da Barra, built in 1534

It was opened to visitors and contained an impressive maritime museum.

Next it was off to the Pelourinho. This is the historic district in the center of the upper city, where the dance school is located just off the main square. We got to watch the program's final rehearsal and had dinner with Kristi's friends, an eclectic group from South America and around the world.

The next morning, we awakened refreshed and ready to embrace our first full day in Brazil. We walked the short distance across to the first beach on the Atlantic side. Here we enjoyed the morning sun in our beach chairs under an umbrella. Watching the surfers and beach goers, we felt a long way from home. Next we went to see Kristi's dance performance and afterwards stopped by where she lives.


She had told me of the many schooners you could see in the port from her house. When I saw them, of course I said "Can we go there", and we did.

Kristi, already accustomed to the art of negotiating and somewhat able to communicate in Portuguese, quickly arranged to hire one of the local boats for a harbor tour.

Schooner riggged for awnings not sail

Our tour of the schooners was disappointing as they were not rigged for sail. Though their hulls looked like Yansa their masts were shorter and they only flew an awning.

On our harbor tour we had seen several interesting single masted sailing vessels along the docks. I turned my attention to these smaller craft. They were Saveiros, the same traditional vessels that have transported all manner of goods in Bahia for the past five centuries.

To get to them we had to enter a secure area. As we passed through the tall steel gates we were immediately met by uniformed guards. Determined to get through I kept repeating "Saveiro, Saveiro" and they passed us through.

Saveiros at the dock

While admiring the boats I had the good fortune to meet Gustavo Lenz, a gemologist, who moved to Brazil thirty years ago. He had fallen in love with these Saveiros and ultimately purchased one. He told me his vessel had recently arrived from her home port of Maragojipe to participate in one of five very important annual races to be held the next day and by the way, did I want to come along?

With exciting plans set for the next day we said goodbye to our first full day in Brazil!

We'll get to carnival eventually.