About a month into our semester in Buenos Aires, we were granted a much-anticipated week-long break from school. The majority of our fellow students set their sights on exploring neighboring countries or venturing deeper into the vast expanse of Argentina. Our group, comprising roughly 20 adventurous souls, embarked on an exciting journey to Brazil. Our adventure commenced in Rio de Janeiro, a city that had occupied my childhood dreams for years. While Buenos Aires had a distinct flavor of its own, it didn’t quite scream “South America” to me. However, the moment we touched down in Brazil, I was hit by an overwhelming sense of being in the heart of South America, a sensation both unfamiliar and exciting after having grown accustomed to life in Argentina.

Arriving in Rio late at night meant that our initial glimpse of the city was limited, but the following day would more than make up for it. Stepping out of our hotel, we were greeted by the hot and humid Brazilian air. With no better option in sight, we headed straight for the iconic Copacabana beach. While the beach was undeniably stunning, it came with a significant crowd, including numerous hawkers. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle also brought opportunistic thieves into the mix.

My friend Viktor fell victim to a pickpocket, which was a stark reminder that Rio required a heightened level of caution compared to our experiences in Buenos Aires. In fact, a total of four people in our group had their phones stolen within a matter of days. So, a piece of advice for travelers in Brazil: it’s a good idea to have a spare phone you can use while in the country.

 

The second day of our adventure saw us continuing our exploration, heading up to Cristo Redentor, the colossal statue that watches over the city. Initially, we contemplated hiking up, but a two-hour trek in the humid and warm weather didn’t sound particularly appealing. Instead, we hopped on the tram and enjoyed the breathtaking views on our ascent.

The vistas from the top were nothing short of spectacular, but it’s worth noting that the site gets crowded with tourists as early as 10 am, so an early start is advisable. Our day continued with more touristy activities as we visited Pão de Açúcar, two beautiful islands just off the coast of Rio. A cable car ride took us to the top, where we enjoyed awe-inspiring views. Remember to bring your ID when purchasing tickets, as it qualifies you for a 50% discount if you’re under the age of 21. At the summit, an entire village had been constructed, replete with shops, tattoo parlors, and much more. You should definitely set aside some time to explore this area.

 

Our third day continued in a similar touristy vein. We hopped on another traditional tram, which transported us to a charming neighborhood dotted with quaint cafes and small shops. We lingered for a while, savoring a delightful lunch. As our final night in Rio approached, we decided to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife. We attended a massive street party, a common occurrence in Rio. Food stalls, a myriad of bars, an eclectic mix of music blaring from various speakers, and a scarcity of non-locals made it an unforgettable evening filled with lively fun!

Although our time in Rio had come to an end, we still had a few days left to explore Brazil. The entire group boarded a bus bound for a quaint town called Sao Pedro d’Aldeia, where we settled in for a four-night stay. The girls had secured a spacious mansion complete with a pool and sunbeds, while the guys found themselves in a more basic condo. Interestingly, we ended up staying right across the street from each other, which allowed for easy communication from our respective balconies. We spent most of our time at the girls’ house, enjoying the ample space and each other’s company. Our reading week provided the ideal blend of relaxation, a break from school, and respite from the bustling city. It also offered us the perfect opportunity to strengthen our bonds as a group. After our Brazilian adventure, I felt that we had grown much closer.

 

¡Hasta luego!

– Hans