April 18, 2015

A day in Gramado

Last Saturday three of my colleagues and I embarked on a day trip to the odd, little town of Gramado, Rio Grande du Sol.

Google map of trip 2h 11min is a lie! Does not include time getting inexplicably lost.

You only need to drive about an hour towards Nova Petrópolis to understand why that particular area of Brazil is so odd. From the moment you leave the industrial cities of São Leopoldo and Novo Hamburgo1 the landscape changes drastically, revealing lush green, forested hills and meandering roads. It seems like a totally different country.

We took a pit stop in Nova Petrópolis at a cafè that could just as well have been in some secluded German village2. There was even a village fare taking place across the road. Oh! The roads! The roads had roundabouts with well tendered flowers in them and pedestrian crossings that cars would dilligently obey. But these were only tiny omens of things to come.

Nova Petropolis Am I in Nova Petrólpolis or in Bruges

Nova Petropolis
Some sort of monument to Monty Python, I think.

You’ll know when you enter Gramado because the air itself seems different (I sweat it’s freshly imported from the Alps or something). Also everything will look like something out of a fairytale and the restaurant prices will skyrocket3 - expect fondue and eisbein instead of the usual churrasco here. Finally, there’ll also be a massive gantry of stone with “Gramado” written on it.

Gantry when entering Gramado Another tribute monument to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The town presents itself as an idyllic european village where the rich spend their weekends and retire to. We actually spent some time driving around, following a vintage red bus that was showing tourists all the wonderful private property that could be found in the village.

Private Home in Gramado Someone’s humble abode.

Gramado is also the home of Mini Mundo, a theme park featuring miniature replicas of monuments and a generic European village with a train track. It also has some stores full of overpriced ceramic curios, perfect gifts for retirees in an old age home. And just for the younglings, there are some terrifying figures of anthropomorphic rabbits and depications of medieval village life4.

Peter Rabbit's family
Peter Rabbit’s family

Medieval matron potty training a kid Medieval matron potty training a kid. Also, sign for the banheiros(bathrooms).

Mini Mundo Small World

Lagos Negro: The Black Lake

The next attraction simply deserved it’s own spooky title. Lagos Negro. The Black Lake. I spotted it on a sign during our drive through the village and was compelled to see this5.

The lake itself was quite small and not as dark and foreboding as I’d hoped. What was interesting is that it is actually situated on a hill. Of course it would have some paddle boats shaped as swans 6 and surrounded by pristine vegetation.

Resorts by the lake Lakeside resorts

Swan Paddle boats Paddle boats

Canela: Cathederal and Parque Caracol

About 10 minutes further out of Gramado, you’ll encounter the town of Canela (it means cinnamon in Portuguese). Although it’s difficult to know when Gramado actually ends and Canela begins, the latter actually sports its own tourist attractions: a stone cathedral in the village center and Caracol Parque, a large park featuring a beautiful valley with a waterfall.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes
Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes a.k.a. Cathedral of Stone - my first visit to a gothic Cathedral!

Cathedral interior

Needless to say, a distinctly English Gothic cathedral is quite an unusual sight to see in Brazil.

Caracol Parque Map of Caracol Parque

Parque Caracol (Snail Park) features a beautiful valley and is one the main attractions in Canela. There are several view points and even a cable cart. We were there to see the waterfall however, and (carefully) walked the thousand or so steps down to the bottom. It was a wonderful way to end the day (although the walk back up almost killed us).

Steps down to the waterfall in Parque Caracol Over a thousand steps! A lot more treacherous and steep in real life.

Waterfall Cascada!

A critter on the steps This little critter bumbled passed me obviously on an important critter mission.

There was a lot other awesome attractions in Canela we never got to visit. I wish we had skipped Gramado completely for Canela, because we passed several awesome looking amusement parks there we never got to visit. Including one with mechanical life-size dinosaurs.

Overall, it’s well worth visiting this oddball part of Rio Grande even if it’s a bit tourist-y. It’s got beautiful landscapes and a pleasant maritime climate. I imagine this is where Brazilians go to visit foreign place without actually leaving the country.

That evening we had dinner at this crazy place back in Canela that gives you an all you can eat smorgasbord of food for only 35 reais.

Lots of food Ridiculous amount of food.

Red house Random red house

Animals playing instruments
Remember this fable? Stuff of nightmares

Rabbits No, no, there is no escape from Easter here.

  1. Smaller industrial cities just outside of Porto Alegre - we passed through them en route to Gramado. The road is a straight 3 lane highway through them. You already start seeing the Euro influence in Novo Hamburg (New Hamburg!?) [return]
  2. I have actually never been to Europe. But I assume this is exactly how I imagine it. And I reckon residents of Nova Petrópolis and Gramado imagine it to be the same as everything seems to be carefully constructed to reflect that vision. [return]
  3. We made the mistake of eating at the 2nd resaturant we found because we were starving (1st was unaffordable at 80 reais per person, 2nd was still expensive). I recommend you pack a lunch, or find a food stall near the Lagos Negro park. [return]
  4. Gramado is a hotspot during Easter and Christmas, the cheery residents love it so much they celebrate them for the entire month. Incidentally, acommodation prices hike up during those times too. [return]
  5. At first the name, understandibly, puzzled my two friends who are from Uganda and Nigeria. [return]
  6. Every body of water I’ve encountered so far that’s bigger than a puddle seems to have these things. [return]

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