The Capital City where Future and Past Collide

Built in 1960 for one sole purpose, the sprawling metropolis of Brasilia was inaugurated the capital of Brazil in 1960, 200 years after Rio was named capital. The city was planned entirely, most of the important buildings being designed and constructed by one Oscar Niemeyer. The lone metropolis in its own Federal District state, much like Washington D.C. in the States, lies between the states of Goiás and Minas Gerais, having been built in the shape of a bird. I wasn’t entirely aware of its shape before getting there, but I was aware how much input Mr Niemeyer was given into designing the place. When we arrived, we were greeted by an extremely large and almost Americanised airport. Although it was smaller than São Paulo’s, it was extremely easy to see that it was part of a city that had been planned meticulously. The pace was somewhat more in order than the rest of the country, and although it was still effortlessly Brazilian, the modernity of it left us pensive of what we were to see in the city centre.

Our Uber driver had quite the difficulty finding our Pousada, and we noticed as we approached the neighbourhood that names are not what were used. Every street, every neighbourhood, even the Metro stations were coded. Our nearest street was named W3 Sul, with the almost touristy commercial street seeming to not even have a name, only connecting the W3 Sul to the W1 Sul. It was almost surreal to see such a carefree country’s capital so regimented in its ways; even the Metro stations were coded. Before failing to even board the metro after there was seemingly no place to buy tickets, we saw the names were all codes, too – the station where we failed to get on the train was DF-200. This strange setup reminded us both of something out of a Cold War movie – the entire city, despite being on a different continent, unmistakably felt like a city within the Eastern Bloc. Nevertheless, we were there to see the sights: our first port of call was the PanAlto Palace, the current home of one Michel Temer, Brazil’s interim President and probably the least popular man for miles around. This was our first glimpse of Oscar Niemeyer’s harrowingly futuristic work, and it was nothing like our own Buckingham Palace or Downing Street. White, modern pillars lined the building, which was over 80 metres long, and a majestic minimalist walkway stood in the centre. It looked out upon a massive square, where some seemingly important edifices stood.

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Panalto Palace: not quite Buckingham

On the other side stood the Alvorada Palace, of similar design to the PanAlto but with its own quirks; in the middle of a manmade pond outside was a statue of two women, seated and holding their own heads, connected by one leg. Not far away stood a museum dedicated to one Tancredo Neves, a popular but tragic figurehead in post-dictatorship Brazilian politics. Although he was to be inaugurated in March of 1985, he fell ill and tragically died only 39 days later, never succeeding in taking office. His valiant work to democratise Brazil has seen him be loved by many of the people there, and so apparently it was only fitting to give him a memorial where he should have governed from: the capital. Overlooking the entire square opposite the museum, however, is what little many people will have seen on postcards and pictures from this city: the National Congress. Two large towers soar above all of the other official buildings in the area, while next lies a dome that rises out of the ground; on the other side of the two is a bowl-shaped edifice. All three are connected to each other, and both the dome and the bowl have the two different parts of congress inside: in one, the Federal Senate, and in the other, the Chamber of Deputies. Brazil’s governmental system is somewhat similar to the USA’s, but of course each country’s has their own flair – this one being the building’s utterly futuristic charm.

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Brasilia’s Cathedral: not your average church

Our walk up the avenue in which all the departments of government reside led us to the strangely modern cathedral Brasilia had to offer. Stained glass windows alternate with pillars that rise and curve away from the main construction. Over the altar inside, three angels are suspended from steel cables, giving a sense of awe anew to this wonderfully odd place of worship. We soldiered on further, eventually ending up at the foot of Brasilia’s TV Tower. Tours are offered every half an hour, and the view from the top is said to give a perfect view down the biggest avenue of the city, where the entire country is run from. However, bad luck seemed to finally catch up with us: a rainstorm came out of nowhere, battering us with the coldest water we’d felt since arriving in Brazil and rendering us trapped for the time being. After it cleared somewhat, we decided to cut our losses and grab an Uber home before the next cloud came upon us, and so we missed the TV Tower tour; but the view isn’t so bad from the bottom of the Tower either.

Our last night before nearing the jungle had us sitting at a strange, Simpsons themed restaurant that actually served pretty good meat. My friend’s French came in handy for a family from the European country, who were getting lost in translation with the waiters, and after a couple of beers we headed home to bed, ready for our flight the next morning to Manaus: the gateway to the Amazon.

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