Aug 17, 2010

History, culture and art in the colonial town of Olinda

by Antonella Kann / photos AK and Maria Donato

Only 10 kilometers away from Recife, Pernambuco´s capital, on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, lies Olinda, a small and charming little town which dates from colonial times. More precisely, from 1535.

In Portuguese, the word Olinda is an exclamation by itself, and means “oh, beautiful!” . You´ll agree with me that this place deserves its name.

Nowadays it's a World Heritage Site and attracts many visitors due to its colonial architecture and for being a very important artistic hub. Art in all shape and forms is spread along colorful façades. The most famous street is the Rua do Amparo. Try number 224 for primitive sculptures and number 91 for a typical drink, the Pau-do-Indio. During the weekends, in the Alto da Sé, you can also shop for souvenirs among several outdoor vendors.

In November and December, in order to show their work, many artists open the doors of their ateliers to the public. Usually, it also happens to be their own home. During this period of the year, art is literally dripping in every corner of Olinda.

In the meantime, if you are passionate about the authentic “way of life”, you´ll enjoy strolling along the streets paved with irregular stones, and browse into the narrow alleys. On the way, you´ll also spot a few well kept churches which date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The entrance is free.

Olinda retains a nostalgic feel which will make you smack your lips in delight.

Be prepared to find good restaurants, regional food and exhibitions shown even inside the premises. But beware about the central market, a kind of tourist trap with not much to buy. On the other hand, don´t miss the Museu do Mamulengo, ( Giant Puppet Museum) a very peculiar and unique museum with exhibits of the giant puppets created specially for the Carnival parade. During this event, Olinda falls under the spell of the “frevo”, a frenetical rhythm which is highly contagious…and involves everyone who happens to be in town.

An typical "portrait" carved in wood.

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