Since Carnaval will officially begin tomorrow and we are pretty clueless about what’s in store, we met up with Clarisse, a local carioca from Rio. It was incredible talking to Clarisse and trying to understand more about this culture of celebration. Carnaval is not just this massive celebration before lent but it holds a different meaning for every individual. My notion of Carnaval changed when I met Clarisse. I thought the highlight was the parade at the sambadrome but she tells us that the heart of the Carnaval lies in its blocos.
Blocos are street parties that happen all around Rio. About 500 blocos attract more than 6 million people on the streets. That sounds scary and impossible to manage. We figure that if we really want to experience a bloco we need to plan our schedule well in advance. There are bloco maps available which mark the date and time of the different blocos, happening all over the city. Party planning at its best.
Some blocos begin the night before and we decide to get a glimpse of what a Brazilian street party is actually like. As we approach this particular street party that Clarisse takes us to, I realize that it’s happening right in the middle of a children play ground with kids playing on swings and the others drinking and dancing around. There is a band playing traditional songs that everyone seems to know the words to. People are not necessarily dancing as much as singing along and being part of this crazy energy. It’s informal and fun but apparently not half as colourful and lively as bloco parties are on the days of the Carnaval. Since Carnaval begins tomorrow, the plan is to attend an early morning street party. I don’t know how early is early but I am ready for it. Can’t wait to experience the real deal!
This is the heart of Brazil. Everything that the Brazilians truly love comes together in this parade - Samba, the costumes, the gorgeous people, and a celebration of Brazilian culture. What started off as Carnaval celebrations on the streets is now this extravaganza where the best samba schools parade down this 700 meter avenue for the people of Brazil. The parade takes place over 3 days with different Samba schools competing in different groups.
It was interesting to know that each Samba school is associated to a particular favela or neighbourhood in rio and all the efforts behind the costumes and the floats are done by the passionate volunteers of all ages for whom contributing to this parade, it is a matter of immense pride. It is unbelievable to see the hard work that goes into putting all these varied elements together. Every theme that is picked by the competing samba schools resonates with the heart of the people. Right now there is nobody as happy as these guys right here. This energy is everything that they truly live for.
I felt so blessed to be witness to this extravaganza. I realize now why it is on every traveller's bucket list.
It was our last night with our mentor Brian. Clarisse took us to Pedro do Sal. This historical venue is an integral part of the story of Samba where some of the greatest Sambistas have played. It is considered as the birthplace of some of the earliest Carnaval parades. Musicians and samba enthusiasts from all over Rio flock to this place after work at night. People surround the musicians with their drinks and turn the place into a dance floor. It gets very crowded after a point and difficult to move around with tumbling revelers and spilt beer. Make sure to check the weather before you go as performances get cancelled if it rains. I loved the atmosphere at Pedro do Sal, it’s casual, relaxed and a quintessential carioca experience. I feel such a connection to the Brazilian culture by being part of it. It is a rhythm that you catch up to.