Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Brazil's Little Switzerland: Nestled in the Mantiqueira Mountains near Sao Paulo, This Charming European-Style City Attracts Lovers of Food, Art, Music, and the Great Outdoors

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Brazil's Little Switzerland: Nestled in the Mantiqueira Mountains near Sao Paulo, This Charming European-Style City Attracts Lovers of Food, Art, Music, and the Great Outdoors

Article excerpt

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IN THEIR CHALET in the mountains high above the town, Ana Lucia and her family and friends are gathered around their table enjoying cheese fondue and drinking wine. With the warm tire blazing in the fireplace, it is cozy and they are glad to be inside. They had come in just moments ago, shivering and looking for some warmth. The air is clear and cold. The fondue and wine taste divine. Now everyone is laughing and talking. Speaking in Portuguese! This is Brazil in summer! A different kind of Brazil in Campos do Jordao.

The search for gold was the lure that brought explorers here. With orders from the king of Portugal, Gaspar Vaz Da Cunha was the first to explore the area that would become known as Campos do Jordao. In 1703, he cleared the virgin forests of the Mantiqueira Mountains, opening a road to Minas Gerais for the transportation of gold. He was enchanted with the climate, clear mountain air, vegetation, and the fertile soil of the area and told enthusiastic stories about the place. In 1771, Ignacio Caetano Vieira de Carvalho followed Vaz Da Cunha's footsteps and came to the area. Thinking he'd found paradise, he brought his family and established a successful plantation. Legend has it that he left buried treasure between three pine trees on his property and to this day people still come to the area to dig for it. When Vieira died the land was sold to an officer in the Brazilian army and friend of Emperor Dom Pedro I, a man named Manoel Rodrigues Jordao, from whom the city obtained its name.

Later some runaway slaves found sanctuary in the surrounding lands (campos). Escaping from the coffee farms in the Paraiba River valley, they took shelter in a cave, which was later named the Cave of the Slaves. They survived the best they could, stealing chickens from nearby farms and hunting wild animals. Some say, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the slaves in their cave on Fridays at midnight. The cave is now a local curiosity visited by tourists and locals alike. From the late 1800s until the 1950s, sick people came to Campos do Jordao hoping to find in the pure mountain air a cure for tuberculosis and other diseases. Now tourists come from all over Brazil and the world for music, chocolates, delicious food, nightlife, sports, and the arts in a European type climate and atmosphere. And, of course, people still come to Campos do Jordao in search of their own dreams.

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Campos do Jordao is located 103 miles northeast of the city of Sao Paulo. Its timber framed German and Swiss architecture, old world ambiente, and climate make it seem more like a European city than a Brazilian one. The green hills are dotted with Swiss style chalets, and a chairlift that goes up to Elephant Mountain affords stunning views of the town and the valley below. Cafes and restaurants serve Swiss and German food. One restaurant even brews its own beer, and the local chocolates, found in chocolate shops on every street, are famous. The population is approximately 46,000. At 5,340 feet, Campos do Jordao is the highest city in Brazil. Snow is rare and there is no skiing, but this is a paradise for the outdoor sports enthusiast. Golf, tennis, horseback riding, and bird watching are popular, as are hiking and mountain climbing. Local streams provide a place for excellent trout fishing and, for the more daring, there are extreme sports like hang gliding and canopy walking among the trees. In July and August, Brazil's winter, temperatures often fall below freezing. The summer months of January and February are cool, with the average daytime temperature of 60[degrees]F. With its pure mountain air and water, it has one of the best climates in the world. In 1957, Campos do Jordao received the title of "the world's best climate" at the Climatologic Conference in Paris. According to some reports, there used to be a plaque somewhere in Davos, Switzerland saying that Davos had the second best climate in the world after Campos do Jordao in Brazil. …

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