Friday, March 29, 2013


There were some portions of the German-themed parade that were just vaguely about nature and such. Germany definitely has nature. So do a lot of places. This was a float with a bunch of dancing trees on the top and a bunch of dancing mushrooms in layers beneath. I guess that's pretty German... right?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


So if you're on the $25,000 Pyramid, and the theme is "Things Associated with Germany," you have to figure "Beer" is going to be one of the clues, no? Belgium and the Czech Republic may be rivals for the title, but with Oktoberfest and what-not, German affinity for beer is pretty notable. So, this is clearly one element that the samba school got right. Also, in an illustration of the crazy level of effort put into the floats, the glasses of beer these dancers are standing on actually had bubbles rising through them, and the head on top of the beer would periodically foam up and the dancers would fling clumps of froth into the air. Quite a feat of engineering.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


From the "less sense" category, one of the floats in the Germany-themed parade was this big model of the moon. It was a really fun float, with the fancy-dress lady on top and all the dancing moon men attached to the sides of the globe sticking out at all angles and waving their arms in time with the music. You can only see the top here, but it was a full-circle 360° moon. Really quite cool. And I'm sure a lot of work for the designers/builders as well as the dudes in the spacesuits.

However, as a Consul representing the United States Government, I might, with all due respect, note: Only one country has ever put a man on the moon. That country was not/not Germany. That is all.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Germany (in Rio)!

On the night we went, one of the samba schools in the parade competition had selected the theme "Germany." It was quite a show. They might have won, had one of their floats not caught on fire.

The parade consisted of a series of floats and groups in elaborate costumes reflecting elements of German culture, with connections ranging from direct to, um, less direct. Among the more direct (in your correspondents' view), and very cool: A group of guys carrying parts from the bodies of old Volkswagen Beetles, who would dance for a bit, and then cluster together into the shape of a full Bug, as if they were a Transformers Dance Troupe; and a bunch of guys wearing cherry-red helmets and costumes in the shape of German Chocolate Cake. Brilliant.

This group, celebrating German music -- more Bach and Beethoven than Kraftwerk and Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, one gathers -- was also in the "makes sense" category. Over the next few days, some entries from both the "makes sense" and the "makes less sense" categories.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More from the Vinicius de Moraes/Ipanema group. Gotta love the "surfer hair."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Girls from Ipanema

Another of the schools chose a theme commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vinicius de Moraes, a legendary poet and composer, probably most famous to Americans for writing the lyrics to "The Girl from Ipanema." So I guess this crew are supposed to be Girls From Ipanema, or something like that. In general the parade was kind of a celebration of all things beach-y and/or Bossa Nova-y.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


The parade is actually a competition, with an elaborate judging system where each different component of the parade -- floats, drum corps, pretty ladies carrying flags, etc -- gets judged and one of the 12 schools is declared the best for that year. Like in soccer leagues, the school that comes in last is relegated to the second division, and the winner of that parade is promoted to the top division the next year. One element of all this is that each of the 12 samba schools competing in the parade picks a theme. This year, for example, one school's theme was "Germany;" another was "Fame" (yesterday's photo of a portrait gallery float was from the "Fame" theme). This group, despite the fact that I saw the whole thing, I can't recall what their theme was. There was something that looked like a Mississippi river paddle boat and... uh... some other random stuff... and this float of ultraviolet zombies. It was all fun, but I don't think they probably won high marks for coherence and dedication to theme.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One of the prominent features of the Carnaval parades are people in elaborate costumes riding along on truly massive floats. I don't know how she got up there in that get-up. They must help them up with a ladder or a cherry-picker before the parade starts, but you better not need to go to the bathroom because I don't think she has the option of coming down even in the case of an emergency. And there was an emergency -- we didn't see it but later on in the parade route one of the floats caught on fire and had to be evacuated or some such.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Sambodromo

So this is what the Sambodromo looks like. Above, looking from our seats toward the finish of the parade route to the right. Below, one of the floats going by. We had of course heard of the famous Rio Carnaval and something about parades or some such, but had never realized that they have a special-purpose parade stadium taking up several blocks of prime real estate that they use for one week each year.

For the rest of the week -- and probably next week, too -- pictures of the crazy, elaborate floats and costumes they put together for these parades.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rio in One Picture

So here you go: One picture with Samba, Carnaval, and Soccer all in one. Taken at night one of the two-night official Samba School Championship Parade in February.

I guess it's too bad they don't do the parade on the beach.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

For no good reason, one more picture from the epic walk to get into the Sambodromo.

Monday, March 11, 2013

We briefly walked by the real Carnaval

Not exactly a fine art photograph, but a moment for us nonetheless. We took a more-circuitous-than-intended route to get to our seats at the Sambodromo. The Sambodromo is a crazy stadium that is several city blocks of bleachers on either side of the street where the Carnaval samba school competition takes place. It's a pretty unconventional piece of urban design. And if you wind up trying to get to seats sort of on the other side of the Sambodromo, it involves a longish walk, sometimes along streets that are blocked off for parade staging, and thus everyone trying to get in or out of the Sambodromo is crammed onto a few meters of sidewalk. It kind of sucks.

And then, one might pass a random little bar like this, with a bunch of random people dancing up a storm to the sounds of the television broadcast of the samba parade that is happening literally 200 yards and 200 dollars away from them. I don't regret going to the Carnaval parade, but next year it might be a lot cheaper to just find this bar again.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Ok, so we're two weeks in to our take-it-easy weekly posting schedule and already falling behind. But this is the first of probably quite a few pictures from Carnaval, which was a couple weeks ago at this point. This was on the somewhat circuitous path we took to get into the Sambodromo, near where the parade ends. One of the samba schools was already finishing up as we went by, because we were absorbing the Latin culture and showing up late. We spotted this woman in her full regalia talking on a cellphone and took a quick snap with the pocket camera. The more colorful side of the Sambodromo is coming up soon.