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Brazil

Day 70: Blumenau

 
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A new 'old-German' village for tourists in the heart of Blumenau.
Michael Palin - BrazilBlumenau, a city of a quarter of a million souls, is only 200 kilometres (124 miles) away from Morretes, but such is the difference between the two that you could be forgiven for thinking it was 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) and an entire continent away. Blumenau, founded by the philosopher Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau, who with his fellow explorers sailed up the ItajaŪ River in 1850, is unequivocally German. It's not that there is German influence, or a hint of German in the mix; it is so German that the town hall is built in the style of a giant half-timbered chalet, and the big event of Blumenau's year is the Oktoberfest, the largest celebration of its kind outside Munich. In the centre of this very German town a pedestrianized mini-Germany has been built next door to a swirling road system. It's announced with a big sign reading 'Wilkommen' in very large letters, with the Portuguese 'Bem Vindo' added, rather cursorily, below it. Here, as the cars roar by, you can find temporary refuge in a Brothers Grimm world of cobbled streets and tall brick and timber buildings (in a style they call Enxaimel) with shutters open on either side of geranium-filled window boxes. Steins of beer are available and accordion music chortles out from artfully concealed speakers. Blumenau likes being German.

Some of the most popular products, not just of Blumenau but this whole corner of Santa Catarina State, are models. Not models of German town centres but models of the tall, leggy, photogenic sort. There is something about the southern Brazilian girls, with their mix of German bone structure and Italian elegance, that has become sought after worldwide. Gisele BŁndchen, one of the most successful models of all time, is of German-Brazilian stock. I learn from Wikipedia that it was she who pioneered the 'horse walk', 'a stomping movement created when a model picks her knees up high and kicks her feet out in front'. (Not to be confused with the goose-step.) Since her success, agents have redoubled their efforts in this part of the world, and one of them, Giane Gregori, from an agency in nearby Florianůpolis, is in town today. Giane, short, dark and round of physique, is the shapely antithesis of the girls, and boys, she's looking for, but quite comfortable with that. She's bright, alert and experienced, and refreshingly unpretentious and realistic about the talent-spotting process. She likes to see people in their natural environment, which means that, rather than set up a room or a smart studio for auditions, she prefers to walk the streets or sit and have a coffee in a shopping mall and watch the passing crowds. She's looking for a model-like figure, but most important to her is to find a face that is different and distinctive. If she sees someone she likes she will approach them, or their parents if they're young, and give them a card inviting them to come and see her. The youngest at which she will take them on is thirteen, but they can only legally take on paid assignments from the age of sixteen.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 70: Blumenau
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Blumenau
  • Book page no: 291

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