Sunday, February 11, 2018

Class of Brazil - 3rd Lesson: It is a Hellish Path to a Heavenly Place

They say that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, I don't know about that, but I know that a hellish trip can take you to a heavenly place.

Tunga - Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
View across one of the beautiful lakes at the "Galeria True Rouge" where on of the strongest works by Brazilian artist Tunga is exhibited. Tunga's work was one of the first purchases for Inhotim.

Tunga - Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
This is what's inside: "True Rouge" looks like an assembly of giant hearts - and not the Valentine-kind of hearts.

Although this weekend the Carnival is in full swing in Rio, I decided to take a trip to Belo Horizonte in order to visit Inhotim; according to my schedule it was the only chance to see it on this trip.

Weekend Trip to Minas Gerais

So on Friday, I packed a little bag and left Dona I. for three days. My flight was only in the early afternoon, enough time to stroll a bit around in the Centro - a rather commercial neighborhood, but with many homeless people squatting around and the smell of excrements and vomit lingering through the side alleys. Not to compare with the middle class neighborhood I'm staying at - way different! Seems like I know very little about life in Rio yet.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Although the 'Real Gabinete Portugues de Leiture' - the Royal Cabinet of Portuguese Literature - at Rio's Centro is a charming colonial building, its surroundings are not royal at all - even not bourgeois.

Arrival in Belo Horizonte - at an airport about 30 km / 19 miles from the city.
Inconvenient, yes, but there are several buses. I took the one going to the main bus station - being the most conveniently located stop.

Flying Latam in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Tchau, Rio, I'll be back on Sunday.

Good thinking, but it is also the stop where the simple folks go. Hence it was a bus that stopped at every street corner, getting blocked in traffic - it took forever, the journey was not exactly scenic, and I ended up in one of the most run down parts of Belo Horizonte; which in general seems to be a very run down city.

Belo Horizonte Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The only pleasant scene worth photographing in Belo Horizonte was this police man conducting a group of young drummers (although he looks like threatening to beat them up)

It's quite shocking how many people are homeless in Brazil. Although I know that some people from the lower middle class do live in Favelas, too, I thought that the poorest of the poor have their homes there. But obviously the poorest of the poor don't have a home at all or their home is a very dirty blanket on a sidewalk. Like I said, shocking.

I don't like Belo Horizonte. It's not just that it's run down - it has an unpleasant vibe to it. I cannot explain it any other way, I feel alienated there, not comfortable at all.
I began to doubt my weekend plans. Was it worth all the money and the effort to come to this hellhole?
Well, one never knows before one knows.

After a short, nervous night at an ok hotel I hopped on the bus to Brumadinho - knowing I would like it since already the name is cute. But its strongest suite lies in the outskirts: Inhotim.


So by now you probably would like to know what this Inhotim thing is that I'm obsessing about.

Inhotim is the name of a botanic garden spread over about 1 square kilometer / about 0,4 square miles located north of Brumadinho, a miner's town about 60 km / 37 miles from Belo Horizonte. It is a garden Eden with an indescribably variety of different species of extraordinary plants. The number of different palm trees alone...I think there is no plant on earth that's not represented in Inhotim; well, I think I haven't seen daisies.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Just look at all these different palm trees. The colorful concrete blocks are one of the mostly photographed work: "Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe" by Hélio Oiticica 

This paradisaic plantation alone would make every trip to Inhotim worth the effort. However, the lush gardens are just a rich setting for an exquisite collection of the most outstanding modern art: about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists alike (from about 30 different countries) are on display; the collection, however, consists  of over 1.300 works pieces.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Outdoorsy art by Edgard De Souza.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Jorge Macchi's "Piscina" ran out of Ns.
The pools - this one outdoors and the indoor pool at Galeria Cosmococa - can be actually used by the visitors.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
"Wait", the weather god said "Chris Burdon's "Beam Drop Inhotim" looks even more dramatic in the backdrop of dark clouds."

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
At Adriana Verjao's pavilion it's all about tiles: Here the harmless version of monumental Azulejos.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
You should have never had the guts to smash that wall.
Gut-filled tiled wall - also by Adriana Verjao.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Visitors can be excellent extras: Two hipsters photographing Adriana Verjao's tiles.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The installation of sculptures by Czech artist Dominik Lang are like a three dimensional painting by Joan Miró.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
It's not by accident that Swiss born photographer Claudia Andujar has one of the largest galleries all to herself: Although her photographs are less flashy and spectacular than some of the other works, her pictures of the Yanomami indios are extremely powerful.

Although Inhotim was founded already in 2002, after four years of opening its gates exclusively to certain groups, it was made accessible to the general public in 2006 and has since then been visited by about 2 million guests.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The combination of nature and art inspires also visitors to be creative: Here I'm standing in Dan Graham's "Bisected Triangle" taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view. 

Everything there is special and beautiful and caring and welcoming: whether it's the repellent that every visitor can use for free or the little cars that take guests from gallery to gallery - even if you don't mind walking: the space is really copious.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Usually I don't tend to take pictures of repellent, but I think it's such a great service to offer it to the visitors.

Of course there is free WiFi, but what's as important and convenient is the high number of sockets you find all over the place to recharge your phone or camera whenever you need it.
There are water faucets at the visitor's disposal and a many clean bathroom - smelling of lemon grass!
They have an - by Brazilian standards - expensive, fancy restaurant (an excellent all you can eat buffet for 20 bucks - I know, for us it's cheap) and a cheaper, also buffet style restaurants that's also good, but more like a cafeteria.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Even the cheaper cafeteria is set up really nicely and with the vertical blades it's like outdoor eating with a great view.

In addition, there are a couple of snack and fast food stands.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Some of the water faucets might be already occupied, but don't worry, the next one won't be far.

Some shady places - and at a botanic garden like this you find a lot of shady places - are equipped with extraordinary seats made of raw wood.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
In front of this humongous tree the bench does not look too big, but believe me: it's huge!

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
If you are ambitious to learn more about all the exotic plants, just let an expert guide you through this Garden Eden.

You can easily spend the entire day there. And that's what I did.
I'm telling you, this place is the forecourt to heaven!

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Lush plants, cool puddles - beauty attracts all sort of creatures, not just visitors from out of town.

Yes, it was worth the money for the flight, it was worth the two hours on a terrible bus, it was worth schlepping my heavy bag across dull Belo Horizonte. It was even worth getting a light sun burn on my face in the morning and arriving soaked through and through at my guesthouse because in the afternoon a heavy rain came down.
It was worth it all!

Founders with Great Fortunes and Great Taste

I did enjoy Henry E. Huntington's Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino/Pasadena a lot. I was impressed by Knud W. Jensen's Louisiana North of Copenhagen. But even these places full of nature's and artists' treasures cannot compete with Inhomit, so its founder Bernardo de Mello Paz takes the cake.

Inhotim in Brazil: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
That's how it all started: "Deleite" by Tunga

Too bad I cannot give it to him: currently he's doing time for money laundry - although he's pleading innocent.
However, this little fun fact adds a very South American twist to this story.

Wanna know what happened before? Here are the previous lessons:

Class of Brazil - 1st Lesson: We Have it Good

Class of Brazil - 2nd Lesson: Danger Seems Closer from Afar

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while travelling, I'll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.

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  1. This surprised me.. I didn't expect the end destination to be a botanical garden, and I certainly didn't expect the art galleries. Quite a juxtaposistion within a single day! The gardens remind me of the forest in Hawaii quite a bit. Glad it turned into a lovely day!

  2. Kudos to you for such a detailed write up on Brazil.
    I am intrigued to know about Inhotim would love to explore it some. Very noce artworks, I specially liked that gut filled wall.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the place is just out of this world. I totally get you on the gut filled wall - it definitely takes some ingenuity to create something like this...🤢 And since it's a tiled wall, it's like the butcher just stuffed all the leftovers in there....

  3. Wooow this is soo beautiful :) loving the blog. Keep up the good work.

  4. Glad you got out of a hellish place and ended up in one you enjoyed! It does seem beautiful and the greenery of the place is just nice! Hope to visit Brazil one day. Seems like a vibrant places despite the dangerous areas it may have.

  5. The bench under that tree looks so inviting! I'm so glad things ended up okay and you had such a lovely end to your trip :)

  6. What a fascinating place to visit! that wall with the guts inside - eek! Very bizarre and interesting! Sometimes difficult journeys can lead to great places though - I'm glad things ended up okay for you!

  7. Looks like a great place! The sort of place I could wander all day


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