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Brazil

Day 71: Blumenau to Pomerode

 
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Brazilian girl attempts smash at the Punhobol Championships.
Michael Palin - Brazil'It's hard but you can't damage anybody.'

He grins.

'The ball can come at you pretty fast. A good smash travels at over 100 km an hour.'

Herwig was once a top volleyball player and he appreciates the fact that Punhobol remains a largely amateur sport.

'There aren't many games where you can sit down afterwards and shake hands with your opponents and have a drink with them.'

There's good nature in the air at the Hermann Weege Stadium. Five games are going on at once, four of them between various veterans' teams, another, at the far end of the ground, between two teams of Brazilian girls. They're great to watch because almost every time a point is scored they leap into each other's arms. The Brazilians love a good hug.

The public address system booms out. Fifty-year-old men walk around nursing red and calloused wrists, whilst others are in the massage tent being attended to by the local nurses. On one of the touchlines an elderly, white-haired lady waves a Swiss flag. Thuds and grunts and flying mud are everywhere.

Beyond the stadium, Pomerode presents a quiet, neat, reserved appearance that is at odds with almost everywhere else I've been in Brazil. We sit and have coffee and cake at a pink-themed German bakery which looks out over a well-kept garden with neatly trimmed topiary. Every now and then pony and traps go by, bouncing tourists over the cobbles. However weird, wonderful and inexplicable the Brazilian way of life might be, it's nearly always inclusive. Here I feel for the first time as if I'm an outsider pressing my nose against the glass. For this reason I'm looking forward to lunch, which has been offered to us by an old-established German-Brazilian family in the hills above the town.

It's nice to get away from the oppressive neatness of Pomerode and onto the winding rural roads. They lead us up through thick woodland, interspersed with tidy farms where big, lazy, well-fed cows lie beside ponds and chickens strut amongst them. We eventually turn into a dark and well-sheltered driveway and find ourselves outside a long, low house with barns beside it, in which a pair of dusty old Volkswagens share space with ancient farm utensils. Though it's hardly past midday, the family guests are already sitting at tables along a shady veranda.

Our host, a small, stout, redoubtably energetic woman called Hanna Lora, is busy in a low-ceilinged old kitchen at the back of the house. Helped by daughters and daughters-in-law, she's putting the finishing touches to lashings of roast pork and duck filled with her own Pomeranian-style stuffing.
 
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Until the game starts. A smash has to be made with the wrist.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 71: Blumenau to Pomerode
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Pomerode
  • Book page no: 294

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