WANDERLUST: THE FORGOTTEN BEAUTY OF MANAUS10:23:00
This colonial city used to be one of the richest towns on earth during the boom of caoutschouc in the early nineteenhundreds. It had a tram before Chicago and the inhabitants were so decadent, that they imported not only all of the incredibly expensive materials for the opera house (such as ebony and marble), but also all kinds of daily necessities such as food or linnen from Europe. Today Manaus remains as a ghost town, still showing it´s old beauty in some places and rocking a very shabby chic in most others. For everyone aiming to take a tour up the amazon, this is the holding point, before the trip starts. Within days you fall into the tropical semi coma that is omnipresent in this town, the stress of sightseeing or weekly travels falls off and since Manaus is quite low on attractions and nightlife you do not miss out too much if you spend the majority of the day dozing. But for me Manaus was the absolute dream town, talked about in so many of the books that made me want to go to the Amazon so bad in the first place. In Journey on the River Sea and A company of Swans the protagonist arrives in Manaus at the height of it´s success and the colourful and lively city that is described may not be today´s Manaus at all, but for me exploring the traces of this riches, was a wonderful experience.
There are flights from all major airports in Brazil for very cheap, usually you pay around 130 Euros for a roundtrip. Many amazon tour agencies offer a free trip from or to the airport, but there are also buses, that may take a while to arrive and are not super regurlarly, but get you into the city centre quickly and cheaply.
We stayed at the Hostel Manaus (not to be confused with the Manaus hostel) close to the city centre of Manaus. It has an open kitchen, a nice terrace and a big common area. The dorms and the single rooms cost the same per person so it´s ideal for couples, or if you would just like some privacy after a long time of travelling and sleeping in dorms. Make sure to reserve beforehand, because rooms are more expensive when booked on the spot. There is also a amazon tour agency inside the hostel, that is reliable and well priced. Beware of all the hoaxes around Manaus and stick to approved tour offices, that are recommended by the Lonely Planet or ask at the reception of your hostel.
Rose coloured and made up of the most expensive material this wonderful beauty throwns over the main square of Manaus. When you first step into this building you immediately forget that you are in the middle of the brazilian hinterlands, that there is only rainforest around you, hell you even forget the incredible heat outside. There is just beauty: high ceilings, painted in the most gorgeous coulours, marble pillars and floors made up from ebony and very light wood to represent the meeting of the dark Rio Negro and the Amazon river close to Manaus, a nature spectacle called the meeting of the waters. In this building I think you can first imagine the absolute wealth of this town, and the lengths to which the European settlers would go to remain their standards of living. I can highly recommend to take one of the tours here and even more to buy tickets and experience an actual show.
Palacio Rio Negro
This mansion was build by one of the richest plantation owners and shows just how much money they had. The building is huge and absolutely impressive. The look from the old terrace over the town must have been just as impressive, but today only shows the decay and how much the time has taken from this former princess of a town. Entrance is free, but there are also guided tours. In my opinion however just walking through it is enough.
Adolho Lisboa Market Hall
Here you can see the riches the Amazon has to offer and the incredible variety of fruits and vegetables, fish, herbs and sweets. It is also a very beautiful antique building with gorgeous steel decorations. I loved walking with all of the locals there and experiencing the lively conversations and hectic sales behaviour. Also a great place to go shopping for souvenirs or your dinner.