Time for hammock, beer and relaxation in Rio de Janeiro state
You could be forgiven for thinking the delights of Rio de Janeiro – synonymous with sun, sea, sand and samba – are confined to the city and its beaches.
Travel a few hours north, however, and it’s like entering a divergent world, like the curtains have been drawn on the Cidade Maravilhosa.
It’s late summer in Brazil. This is an oppressively hot and humid time in the country. Temperatures in Rio de Janeiro can reach 50ºC.
The satisfying sound of a can being opened grabs my attention. It’s a cold chopp beer. I ask for one. Taking a long gulp gives succour from the heat.
I glance at the can and, almost immediately, the frail, greying cervejeiro from the chopperia informs me we are only six miles from Itaipava. Itaipava, of course, is the name of the beer in my hand, refreshing me to the core. “But it’s brewed here in Petrópolis”, he adds with an intonation of pride. (It is actually brewed not far from Petrópolis, in a town called Pedra do Rio.)
In summer, Petrópolis – a picturesque 40 mile journey north of Rio city in Rio de Janeiro state – becomes an idyllic escape for cariocas from Rio’s heat, noise and commotion. It could almost be Europe.
Several more beers follow, and my appreciation of the mountainous surrounds of The Imperial City heightens. The pinnacle of any trip to Petrópolis – bar the agreeable climate – is the imperial museum.
The museum is housed in the former summer palace of the emperor Dom Pedro II (1831 – 1889), built in 1845, and exhibitions include tapestries, antique furniture, and jewels. The crown jewels – steady! – can also be seen; a splendid 1.7kg imperial crown with over 600 diamonds and 77 pearls.
From way back when to the here and now. Or June and July to be precise. Just over an hours drive from The Imperial City is Teresópolis – home of the Seleção, the Brazil national football team.
Located in a stunning mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state called Região Serrana, the city hosts the Brazilian Football Confederation’s national training centre. It is here, in a few months from now, that the heroes of this football-crazy country will train and prepare for the World Cup on home soil.
The Brazilian imperial family was much impressed by the natural beauty and climate of the region, so much so that the city was named Teresópolis after empress Dona Teresa Cristina, wife of emperor Dom Pedro II.
They would have been hugely impressed by the topography of the area. The city is surrounded by numerous summits and peaks, and is known as the national capital of mountaineering.
Although Dedo de Deus (God’s Finger) is the most famous, the most spectacular view of the city is arguably to be had from the peak of the 2,263 metre Pedra do Sino (Stone Bell). It is truly breathtaking, and certainly a highlight of Rio de Janeiro state.
After all that, another Itaipava is sought and, as I dutifully sip away, I’m already reminiscing about the splendour and tranquility of the oft-dismissed towns of Rio de Janeiro state.