By Tricia L Chaves, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – One of the most fascinating things about Rio de Janeiro is just how much culture is compacted into one space. Traveling just 136 kilometers from the city (via car or a 2 hour bus ride), you can visit Nova Friburgo, which was named after its first settlers: immigrants from Switzerland’s canton of Fribourg.
The area was chosen specifically for development because of its resemblance to the weather and mountainous Swiss terrain. Later, it was where the first of Brazil’s German immigrants lived. Its location in the Serra Fluminense mountains creates a temperate climate that averages in the 70s in the summer and the 50s in the winter.
Nova Friburgo encompasses a great deal of Brazil’s nature-made wonders, with a whopping ten waterfalls, and a natural rock formation that resembles a sitting dog, aptly named Parque Cão Sentado (R$6 admission), where you can also enjoy lunch or dinner in the park’s restaurant Restaurante Véu das Noivas (See Our Brides Restaurant), open Friday through Sunday and on select holidays.
Like other Rio ecological sanctuaries (Ilha Grande, for example), the park bears a sign with the charming phrase, “In this place nothing is taken away except photos, nothing is left except footprints, and nothing is killed but time.”
In addition to much Swiss-inspired architecture, a cheese and chocolate shop, and a German restaurant that boasts Brazil’s largest beer selection are just two of a handful of European-inspired eateries.
The Sabor Mury tourist district has a variety of international dining choices, lodging and shopping, including Brazilian lingerie, which the area is specifically known for. If you visit the Circuito Moda Íntima de Olaria, with more than 75 undergarment retailers, you won’t question why Nova Friburgo is called Brazil’s capital of intimate fashion.
This city is not the capital of underwear alone but trout too, where visitors and residents consume a whopping two tons a month as well as supplying much of the region’s demand for the fish. Expect to see more than one offering of trout dishes in some of the city’s higher-end restaurants.
Much of the town was designed to be tourist-friendly, specifically on foot. The center of the city has planned shopping, dining, entertainment and hotel zones. Information booths and guides in the downtown area can provide literature and information about getting around and things to do. Picturesque city squares and park-like settings create the perfect opportunity for a leisurely stroll to explore and take photographs.
The song “Lumiar” by Brazilian artist Beto Guedes was an ode to the district, 35 kilometers from the city center. It’s home of the Igreja de São Sebastian (Church of Saint Sebastian), built in 1901 and named for the city’s patron saint. Often visitors make a stop at another popular district called São Pedro da Serra, that is just 5 kilometers away from Lumiar. If you are traveling by bus, there’s no need to worry – a bus tour leaves from Nova Friburgo stopping in Sabor Mury, Lumiar and São Pedro.
Tricia Chaves lives in Rio de Janeiro and writes a blog called Move to Brazil with information in English about traveling, living or investing in Brazil, and writes about her daily life in Rio at Post Cards from Brasil.