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Jan 25, 2018


Summer in Terezópolis

By Harold Emert

It is raining with lightning bolts sparkling in the sky at 3pm on a summer day in Teresopolis, the mountains of Rio de Janeiro state, as I write this sitting in a swaying hammock.Here as no other place I know except Porto Alegre, southern Brazil, and I guess London,is a city where one must always look to the the skies and carry an umbrella , especially on summer afternoons.

And the conversations always center on "what's the weather like?"

Since I first set foot in this delightfully provincial city named after Teresa Cristina , the wife of Emperor Pedro II , and known for its symbol , the pointed mountains which resemble " finger of God," it was love at first sight .

Despite the native Carioca--and New Yorker's-- complaints that " there is nothing to do" in what many call 'Eretzopolis' (Eretz for ' land' in Hebrew), ,on a closer look ,there Is plenty to do here especially if you are a painter, sculptor, writer, musician or composer.The tranquillity, peace and quiet are the perfect companions and stimulants for someone wishing to try to be an 'artist.' And I cannot recall a more picturesque place to go for a swim than with a close range view of the 'Dedo de Deus' ( "Finger of God" peak, photo below).



Minus the Metro and multitudes,the pace is slower than the big city.No rush .The lights and electricity always seem to be going out and the lifestyle in many positive ways is old fashioned , although Internet and cellphone messaging and habitual scanning have for better worse come to these mountains named after Teresa.
Actually' Eretzopolis' always reminds me of the Catskill mountains of New York , where my father, a New York City police detective, would rent a bungalow in the summer for our family to escape the scorching heat of New York City.Known as the ' borscht belt, ' after the famous Jewish/ Russian beverage made from beets, the Catskills in summers attracted not only New Yorkers but others from many parts of the Eastern coast of the USA seeking swimming,good dining and the pleasure on a hot summer night in Chicago , Philadelphia and New York to sleep in the mountains under a blanket .

And despite the distance between Teresopolis and the Catskills, the a Brazilian version brings back many memories like as a child going berry picking with Grandma, playing the piano as an adolescent at a small hotel and sitting outside on a summer day practicing then my saxophone ( my first musical instrument).
The Comary Club sports complex with many summer idlers taking in the sun , swimming or playing pool or cards as well reminds me of ..summer in the Catskills.
All of which sounds like reasons to spend the summer in Teresopolis. (As for winter ,cold , rainy, foggy and stomy,there are many hidden pleasures including fondues,fireplaces and lembrancas of past centuries but winter in Teresopolis IS not for everyone.)

The pine trees , fresh fruit and vegetables, hot full wheat bread found in Teresopolis all remind me of some of the pleasures of Ellenville, Monticello and other parts of the Catskills.

The Alpina/Alpine restaurant in the centre of Teresopolis with its roast beef , potato salad and apelstrudel and Higinio condomium in the Alto section are a part of old Austria similar to Grossinger' s , a once famous hotel in New York state.The Imperial bakery downtown still has the best coffee with milk and pćo manteiga ( buttered bread) I have ever encountered, and the Sesc library is an intelkectual island of peace and quiet with daily newspapers, books in paper(!) and the free usr of computers.Numerous events from theatre to music and lessons in Arts and crafts are part of Sesc's heritage.

If it were located in the United States (before the age of Trump and his assaults on national resources) Teresopolises National Park with its superb hiking, natural pools and picnic area and it's panoramic view of the 'Fingers of God 'would be a national and international treasure.Brazil ,I feel it ,hasn't promotef and appreciated enough such natural treasures as it's Parc Nacional.

Despite the lack of enough cinemas in a city-- which once upon a time hosted glamorous film festivals--and the scarcity of concerts in the same city which once a hosted a summer music festival featuring international musicians, there are various activities and festivals always brewing in these mountains , whether it be summer or winter .I write after going downtown to seek a book at the Book Fair on the Calcadao de Fama ( Sidewalk of Fame) .And I like to read the small but chock full of hot gossip local Diario of Teresopolis newspaper accompanied by a good glass of the local beer (Terezopolis).

One year passes and another one comes in and the Mayors and other local politicians either seem to be absconding with public funds or are accused of robbing the public till .Rather than having become an issue to raise ire, the constant irregularities and robberies almost become jokes, almost accepted by local residents
There is a famous play called ' Our Town" by American playwright Thorton Wilder.Although located far away from North America,Teresopolis could very well be that town, Wilder is describing where everyone knows everyone, cordiality is the rule and the rest of world seems to be unimportant in comparison.Yet many things seem to happen in the provinces.

There are many unforgettable characters in Teresopolis including : the Barber of Teresopolis,the local Literary Academy with its provincial immortals, the crusading-against-corruption editor of the the ( often) ten page Diario newspaper, the shrink who has an office in Leblon Rio and weekends in Teresopolis when he is not writing a column for the Diario, and last but not least the local taxi drivers, who must be descendants of drivers of horse-drawn carriages which existed when Teresopolis was first settled by Englishmen.

Look and you shall find.I have also discovered : a Gourmet club which meets regularly to sample dishes from various internarionalcuisines, a video club which features concerts, ballets and fine films at a local hotel, and the Pro Arte/ Unifeso (university) concert series, where I have often soloed with chamber music groups and the Rio Camerata Orchestra with Israel Menezes conducting .

Musically there are also saraus or concert evenings in many homes, a chorinho society, a chorus and occasionally concerts in the local Catholic church as well as a full orchestra at the Baptist church and a series of cultural events at the local synagogue during Carnaval.Rio's Villa Lobos music school now has a wing established in 2017 in the city.

Theatre and dance should be prospering here but somehow not but I recall enjoying some years ago during Carnaval an amateur theatrical at the City Hall reviving the classics of Noel Rosa .

The region is also full of artistic painters filling their landscapes with their versions of local beauty and the Casa de Cultura--which press mogul Adolfo Bloch bequeathed to the city, has courses in artistic modelling , ballet dancing and guitar playing .

Unfortunately a noble attempt to start a local chamber orchestra started off with with great ceremony by the Mayor but petered out , gone with the winds of Teresopolis.

At this writing Uber and 99 have not invaded Tere and despite their lower prices I hope they are barred forever as I know the local taxi drivers decades and they all know me by my first name .They are all cordial, always have the right change and must be the only taxi drivers who disappear after 9pm, Xmas and on rainy nights and days.

We have resided for decades in a modest wood home in these lovely mountains, near the training ground for the Brazilian Selection soccer team, near flowing brooks and streams and plenty of trees because--unlike many Cariocas who adopt country refuges/ dachas-- I have literally prohibited cutting down trees in front of my home.
I always lived In apartments in New York City and Rio usually with only a view of another bulding .So to have trees, plants , birds chirping is all an appreciated luxury for me .As is the lack of cooking odors, elevators and noisy neighbours.

Prices, condos, taxes are constantly rising in Brazil and I fear that day is coming closer and closer when I--like my late Brazilian father-in-law-- will have to sell off my 'dacha' far from the noise,subways and pollution of the big city.

The Brazilians who have adage for everything say 'the happiest day of your life is when you buy a home in the country and the happiest day is also when you sell it?'
SERA? / Is this really true, I ask as I close up my wooden cabin and sadly take a taxi to catch the bus returning to hustle, bustle and noise pollution of the big city.. 


Text: Harold Emert (contact)


(Any views or opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/opinions of the publishers/website)






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