04/04/2008 75 °F
Minas Gerais is a hilly region about 250 miles inland from Rio de Janeiro. The Portuguese discovered gold here in the 1700´s and several towns were built around the mines, demonstrating their wealth by constructing ornate churches in the Baroque style.
Ouro Prêto is the largest of these towns and has been very well preserved. Mining is still a major industry here, primarily for iron, but also for a variety of precious stones that can be found in this region. There is a large university and it is obviously a popular tourist destination.
The streets of the town are narrow, windy, sometimes steep, and always paved with rough stones. Buildings have been lovingly maintained in their original styles and there is a healthy mixture of pedestrians, cars and dogs everywhere.
Visiting different parts of the town can be a strenuous task, but the views and the wonderfully friendly people of the town are our reward. Evidence of the Baroque is found in great details everywhere, such as in the fountain below.
Our stay here takes us to other colonial towns of Mariana, Tiradentes and Congonhas which have equally amazing buildings, but lack the state of preservation we have found in Ouro Prêto.
We haven´t forgotten our friend, Oscar Niemeyer, though! At the end of our stay, we spend a day in Belo Horizonte, where we visit one of his first churches, the Igreja do São Francisco de Assis. It is a gem of a building with fantastic murals by Portinari both inside and out.
We are able to spend some time with recent Field Paoli intern Mayka Napoli and her boyfriend Almir in Belo Horizonte before continuing on to Brasilia.