Backpacking: São Paulo, Curitiba, Ponta Grossa

After spending almost two weeks in the unforgettable little town Paraty, we have gotten on the bus to São Paulo - Brazil's biggest city. There we had Steve and Patricia waiting for us to stay on their sofa and it was our debut in Couchsurfing :)

We walked around São Paulo all day long, visiting parks and museums. It seemed that the city is all about the offices (the Avenue Paulista is a sky-scraper jungle with thousands of people elegantly walking around in suits and ties when it's 35 C outside) and museums (we "met" some cool guys in the art gallery - Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Raphael and others...).

The fact that street art is legal in Brazil, and apparently the people there are very arty, they paint walls in small streets and the so-called Batman Alley in São Paulo has become an open street-art gallery.

After leaving São Paulo, we stopped for a short break to have some rest in Curitiba and continued to Ponta Grossa - a rather small town in the state of Paraná. It has a population of about 300 000 people and because of some of its' features, reminded us a lot of a city in Lithuania - Kaunas. The population is about the same size, and these cities have a lot of things in common:

1. Ponta Grossa has a lot of state and private universities, Kaunas does too.

2. Ponta Grossa has a strategic railway passing through, Kaunas does too.

3. In Ponta Grossa, there are very many new and used car dealerships concentrated in one place, in Kaunas there is a huge used-car market.

4. In Ponta Grossa, the central church (the Cathedral) is located above the rest of the city with nice panoramic views, in Kaunas the most famous church (Prisikėlimo bažnyčia) is also located high above the old town.

5. Ponta Grossa has a lot of industry and factories around it (we saw factories of DAF trucks, Heineken beer, Makita tools, Continental tires and many others), Kaunas does have a lot of industry in it's region too.

But the best thing about Ponta Grossa was our friends who lived there. We just didn't know that we had friends in Ponta Grossa before we visited them :) A lovely young couple Tatyla and Filipe hosted us in their apartment throughout the weekend and made that weekend unforgettable!

They took us to the rock-formation park Vila Velha, showed us a cave called Buraco do Padre (they even took us hiking to the top of the cave which was very exciting and probably not included in the plans for the visitors of the National Park... :) ), they took us hiking to the waterfall of Mariquinha and showed us the Twin Furnas (the formation of caves in the (rock) ground with the opening on the top). We had great evenings together, discussing life in Brazil and in Europe. They made us traditional dishes of Southern Brazil and introduced a new vegetable into our lives - cassava (they call it mandioka in Brazil). Tatyla even baked a traditional Brazilian Cornmeal and Fennel Seed Cake for breakfast! While Linas made his "personal-trademark" desert "Tinginys", which then together we called "Preguiça" in Portuguese :)

Another interesting fact that we found out during our stay in Ponta Grossa, is that many small towns and villages have their "countries of origin" - for example the population in Ponta Grossa is composed of many different ethnicities. In the earlier days, it was made up of explorers and distinguished families coming mainly from São Paulo. From the beginning of the twentieth century on, numerous Slavic (Russians, Poles and Ukrainians) and German families settled in the city, along with Dutch, Italian, Lebanese and Japanese immigrants. Germans and Slavs are the most numerous ones today. We even met a family with Ukrainian origins while visiting the park of Vila Velha - they spoke Ukrainian to us :) Meanwhile smaller towns, as we were explained, can have only one specific country the locals originate from - for example Prudentopolis is a Ukrainian community - even the architecture there reminds of Ukraine! By the way, some private wooden houses in Ponta Grossa also has Ukrainian decorative elements on them, which really looked strange to our eyes, while we are here in Brazil :)

Since we still do not have a photo-camera, we continue making short videos of our adventures, so here is one from the weekend with Tatyla and Filipe. Guys, if you are reading this - thank you soooooooo much for the experience! It was really amazing!!!

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