Salvador is a must on every tourist´ agenda for many reasons. Firstly it hosts the second largest Carnival in Brazil, secondly for its old colonial historic centre, the Pelourinho and above all, its unique cultural background. Nowhere in the Americas have the descendants of African slaves preserved their culture more strongly than here! It is obvious in the music, the cuisine, the religion or types of dance of this Bahia town – at times we almost forgot that we were in Brazil!
Given the fact that the tourists only gather in the relatively small area of the Pelourinho, it will come across as what it is – Brazil’s second most visited tourist destination. The Pelo is full of restaurants, artisan shops selling paintings, clothes, Brazil paraphernalia … and Rastafarian artists selling their earrings and necklaces. But do not be scared off by this, it is a great place to visit, besides you can turn it into a totally different experience.
Many people who stayed at our Pousada attended Samba or percussion classes or took Capoeira lessons. In the evening they would cook together, later hit the bars together or with their teachers. We stayed in the Nega Maluca Guesthouse which we can highly recommend. It has the cosiest atmosphere with a terrace overlooking the neighbourhood and a lounge area with free Internet and kitchen use. Although it was not our age group we felt absolutely at home there and kept coming back after we had to leave, since the only two individual rooms were booked and our dorm days are over!
What gives the Pelo an almost hilarious touch is the omnipresent “Tourist Military Police”: they are positioned on every corner, look bored and chat with each other or the shopkeepers. The most serious incident we observed during our 3 days there was an obviously crazy elderly man throwing stones. He was then followed by two MPs … at one point during his leisurely flight he took his shorts off, his only clothing! After this climax we abandoned the crime scene … Another incident with the MP we experienced was when we tried to walk down a street that runs parallel to the main tourist drag in broad daylight. We were stopped by the whistle of an MP telling us to stay on the main street because of “ladrones” or robbers. Many Brazilians who observed this scene commented on it – we can only guess what they said!
We are not saying that safety is not an issue in the Pelourinho, but all this seemed a bit too much. We personally watched a guy trying to get the flashy golden necklace of a tourist and he was stopped by some locals who simply told her to take it off. Luckily we were informed about begging techniques at the Pousada Nega Maluca, because in Salvador beggars go beyond what we have seen or experienced so far and so we were prepared. At this point we would say no matter how horrible the story you hear seems: do not give money but eventually support the organisations that try to help the many homeless and drug addicts in Salvador.