Brazil travel blog by Mark Berman -
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A stunning setting to build a town (1698) but it's not only the setting! Ouro Preto reminds me a little of Machu Picchu but with the buildings
actually intact and people living here. Sure, it's not built by the Incas, but it's a hell of a lot better! Ouro Preto is located at 1179masl
in the beautiful mountains 2hrs from Belo Horizonte (the city with a beautiful horizon of mountains all around). Like Sao Luis in the far
north where I had recently been Ouro Preto is an UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it's historic and well-preserved Baroque architecture.
Ouro Preto was also the location of the Brazilian Gold Rush in the 18th century and many of the churches are decorated with this gold. There's
nothing shabby about Ouro Preto, this is Rich Town!
A Sea of Red-Tiled Roofs
Across the valley from the town center near the small bus terminal is where I chose
to stay after arriving in Ouro Preto from Belo Horizonte
. There are several pousadas around Church San Francisco de Paula. A sea of red-tiled
roofs, Baroque-style buildings with a fantastic backdrop of mountains with a gigantic iconic rock sticking out of the top (the peak of Itacolomy)
is just a 10min walk away!
Iconic Buildings and Museums
The first church you see as you come into the town center is the Church of Our Lady of Mercy on the right.
Beautiful open views of the valley are superb from here! Just down and across the road slightly from this church is the Astronomy Observatory - a
white building with a dome. The Museum of Science is on the corner just down on the left. The museum looks like a fort with it's bastions on the
corners of the walls. It was previously the Palace of the Governors. Looking from this point across the cobblestones of the large Plaza Tiradentes
in the center is Ouro Preto's most famous and iconic building, the museum - Museu da Inconfidencia (Conspiracy Museum) (1938). Before 1938 it
was a jail (1846), perhaps for the illegal gold trade. Church Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo stands over to the right of the Conspiracy Museum,
it has palm trees around it and some interesting flora and fauna in the gardens. Located here is the Oratorio Museum of religious art which has
163 oratories and 300 images from the 17th - 20th centuries. Across the valley upon the hilltop stands the Church of Santa Efigenia, this church
can be seen from locations all around Ouro Preto, it really stands out! The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is located beside the arts and
crafts market. This is possibly the most photographed church in Ouro Preto! The open market has ceramics and handicrafts made of soapstone,
ceramics too, this area is known for it's artistic work!
Tiradentes Square (Plaza)
Tiradentes Square (Plaza) is quite something! A tall statue of Joaquim Jose
da Silva Xaviar (Tiradentes) (1746-1792) - the leader of the Inconfidencia Mineira revolution stands prominently in the center (erected 1894).
Around the square stand assorted houses, the Passage of Misericordia, the Alpoim Set and the House of the Baroness. Together these frame one of
the most important civic squares in Brazilian history! The cobblestone streets leading off Plaza Tiradentes all have houses with iron balconies,
decorative windows and lanterns. All attractive and very well-maintained.
Self-Service Food from the Region
Continuing with the Tiradentes theme I had lunch at Restaurante
Tiradentes. This restaurant features typical food from the region and it's self-service, all you can eat without weight - fixed price! Beautiful
home-cooked food served in crock pots and hot dishes. Just like mum (or dad) makes at home!
The Blue Hour
As daylight faded and the lights in Ouro Preto
began to glow, groups of people on horses galloped through town after their day in the highlands and hills surrounding. The early-evening sky
opened up into a deep-blue shade and provided a fantastic backdrop to photograph the historic buildings with their golden lights gleaming!
Arts and Handicrafts
Arts and crafts shops are another feature of Ouro Preto! As usual in Brazil these shops have an array of small figurines dressed in
traditional clothing depicting local cultural life. The first shop I asked wouldn't allow me to make any photos but another was only too happy
to let me take a few visual souvenirs! As previously mentioned Ouro Preto has an outdoor handicrafts market.
Flowers, Carnival, Mine Tours
The early morning sun lit up the
gardens of my pousada. The flowers, shapes and colors make very pretty photos! Ouro Preto has it's annual carnival in February / March. Mine
tours are another attraction in Ouro Preto - Chico Rei Mine and the Mine of the Crossing are a couple with guided trours.
The Rich Town of Black Gold
1 day in Ouro Preto is
great but does not quite do this town of great history and the setting the justice it deserves. I recommend a stay of 2 days and 2 nights in the rich town of black gold!