Now, when it comes to “weird”, Americans are not as far removed from their forefathers as they may like to think. Fair enough, Brits will not be advertising the “largest-anything-in-the-world”, but where else would you find a whole museum dedicated to lawn-mowers? Or even a large world renowned museum which has an area on its permanent collection dedicated to household appliances? And the museum even troubles itself to tell you little anecdotes on the uses of the said appliances. Picture this: ladies of society, sipping tea and playing cards. The proud house owner sprinkles the floor with the crumbs of her just eaten cucumber sandwich to the astonishment of her friends. In parade two uniformed maids to demonstrate the newest gadget. One of the maids operates the hose and the other pedals the contraption in an effort to create enough suction to clear the floor of the aforementioned crumbles, while barely holding this ancestor of vacuum cleaners in an upright position.
Anyway, you really don’t need to travel that far to see such wonders. The winding road from Rio to Petrópolis is decorated with as large signs as those of Florida. They may not be so clever, but they are alluring, selling from original “Mineiro” cheese, fresh caldo de cana or coconut to the best barbecue ever.
Our museums also showcase a selection of one-of-a-kinds. Where else could you see the first telephone ever to reach Brazil, through which D. Pedro spoke to Graham Bell himself? (at least that’s the story I recall from my school days). Or the dwelling of the inventive Santos Dumont - A Encantada - where you’ll discover the bucket-shower and the right-foot-first steps? (some say he was superstitious, but that’s for you to decide).
Unfortunately, you can’t exactly go carbooting in Petrópolis, but you could treat yourself to the next best thing. Just follow the array of antique shops and stalls, sebos and bazares and the craft fair downtown, and you’ll be exposed to the exact amount of second hand or hand-made stuff you would in the UK.
Hope to see you soon,
Luciana Berner (Petrópolis)