The state of Rio Grande do Sul is famous for having a very “independent” identity, rather separate from the rest of Brazil. A combination of their geographic separation from the rest of the country, and their history of separatism and revolutions, they’re more likely to tell you they’re Gaúcho than Brasileiro. As a Corkman I can understand this struggle. Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s rebel county.
A section of Rio Grande do Sul was and is still heavily populated by German immigrants. A couple of towns even recognise the local version of German spoke here as an official language. This culture is centred on the towns of Gramado and Canela. If you want an authentic German experience – go to Germany. If you want a snowy chocolate disneyland, visit Gramado. Fondue restaurants, swirly candystick decorations and kitschy chocolate shops. It’s a weird place. But luckily we stayed in the saner surroundings of suburban Canela.
In search of couchsurfing in Canela, we were taken in by the Franz family. (Yes, family!) It’s not everywhere that a family with three children would be willing to accept travellers like us into their home – but it was a lovely experience. They’re very open minded, and they use the opportunity to introduce their children to people from different countries, with different cultures and languages. Marina gave a quick fashion design class to their eldest daughter Isabela, while I showed them parts of our trip on the map, taught some english phrases, and even played a bit of Minecraft. Everyone’s happy. Fabiano, the father, works remotely for RedHat on the OpenShift project- so we too had loads to discuss, since the cloud runs everything today.
With this many Germans, the beer is obviously better here. A great spot to visit in Canela is the Farol brewery, which does tasting sessions, tours, live music, and has a full restaurant. It looks like a lighthouse, and has a panoramic viewpoint up on top. We probably should have visited in daytime…
Nearby, a dramatic bend in the river is part of a nature reserve and park. A trail from the car park leads down to a plunging waterfall surrounded by orange trees. A great place to unwind after you’ve overindulged in the chocolate.
Tranquil valleys, dramatic canyons and intimidating forests, that’s all in the north of Rio Grande do Sul. The southern half of this state is very different.
That’s where we’re going next. On to Porto Alegre, the state capital!
- Dinner & drinks at Farol brewery: R$90 / €24 for two.
- Parque da Ferradura canyons & trails: R$ 12 / €3 per person.
- Accommodation: Free with the Franz family