This place is nuts. Like a little replica Bavarian town. Full of gift shops, hotels and restaurants and, err, bugger all else. I didn’t really know it at the time, but I could quite easily have skipped the getting-a-hotel thing, and just found a place to dump my backpack at the bus station, had a whizz around the town and buggered off again. The hotel that sounded cheap and decent in the Rough Guide seems not to exist any more, so I had a little walk around and looked for one that didn’t look too fancy or too shitty. Three hours after arriving I had checked in, had a shower, seen the whole of the town centre, walked to Lago Negro (Black Lake), got the stink eye from some swans, and I was more than ready to leave. Had I not already paid for the hotel room, I’d've just gone straight back to Porto Alegre to get a bus further south. But I had paid for the room, so I had a nap. One of those naps where you wake up with your arm all full of pins and needles. Here’s some snaps of Gramado.
Looks like a fairly regular main street from this angle…
… but it’s all Alps-y.
A classy gift shop.
Outside a chocolate shop.
Some pointy bits.
A couple more things.
Lago Negro. A lake, yes; black, no.
Some nice flowers, some bark, and a butterfly.
A pedal boat that looks like a swan. What will they think of next?
Taking my life into my hands, I was, just to get this picture.
The evening brought one heck of a thunder storm. There was a good five minute period where there was no gap in the sound of thunder. And the sky kinda did this sort of thing. (It’s an animated GIF, so may take a moment or two to load.)
After the rain stopped, I ventured out to go and eat. It was only 9pm and the town was deserted. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s because it’s the arse-end of the tourist season, but there was nothing open. A couple of bars with employees stood around looking bored, and one Italian place which, unsurprisingly, is where I ate. It was called Tarantino, and seemed quite a fancy place, a bit on the steep side, but the waiter was friendly. He was an AC Milan fan, so, noting my LIverpool shirt, we had a chat about our Champions League victories and defeats. Every now and then, he seemed to remember he was a waiter in a fancy restaurant, and withdrew a little, like he suddenly felt like he should leave me alone. But in this freaky town, talking about football was the most normal moment of the day.
So, if all goes to plan and I get the bus I want to get, I’ll be heading over the border today. After six weeks in Brazil, I’m going to a country where I can say “No hablo español” instead of “Não falla português.”
Brazil is amazing. It’s best country I’ve ever been to. All the things I’ve mentioned before: the people, the food, the weather. And there’s a difficult-to-describe feeling in the air. Life here seems to be for living. Cliche, I know. I’ve seen so little of this place, but I’ve seen more than I planned to. I will be returning after Uruguay and Argentina, though. I need to see more of Brazil. I need to see Rio de Janiero. I need to see Bahia. I wanna see the Amazon. But I get the feeling that I could stay in Brazil for a year and still not feel like I’ve done more than scratch the surface.
Before I leave, though, I want to say thank you, a massive thank you, to my friend Juliana. She invited me to stay on her sofa in São Paulo; she showed me the sights; she took me to wonderful bars and restaurants; she introduced me to lots of nice people; she organised her trip to Brasilia to coincide with me being here; I was invited to stay at her family’s home there and was treated like a king; her brother-in-law went out of his way to help me buy a new camera; her father treated me to a wonderful churrasco; she drove me around to the outskirts of the town just so I could see some great views of the city from afar; she introduced me to Bob’s ovomaltine milkshake; she helped out getting an eye test and new glasses; and she hooked me up with people to hang out with in Curitiba and Florianópolis. Were it not for Juliana, my time in Brazil would not have been so much fun. A better friend I could not wish for. Just goes to show how cool the Internet can be, that you can exchange a couple of emails and a few years later be the best of friends.
I’m a bit sad to be leaving Brazil behind, but I know that once I get on the bus, and it reverses out of its bay at the bus station and starts trundling down the road; once I slip my headphones on, empty my mind, and just stare out of the window, then it will change; and I’ll feel fireworks of joy in my belly at being on the road again, heading off into Uruguay to see what lies there for me.