During our recent visit to Rio, we drove along the streets of the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, which used to be the route for the railway that went up to the top of the hill below the Christ the Redeemer statue. The views of Rio from the top of Santa Teresa hill are spectacular.
Santa Teresa is famous for its winding, narrow streets, which are a favorite for both artists and tourists. I had mentioned to our tour guide that I was interested in seeing street art and asked whether we could drive through a favela in order to see some. Neyla declined, but suggested we try Santa Teresa instead.
Originally home to upper class merchants, it is a hillside filled with wonderful mansions and large houses, now interspersed with less expensive dwellings.
The street was famous for the tramway (bodinho) that used to run from the bottom of the hill to the top, but the tramway stopped running after the August 2011 crash where five people were killed and 27 were injured. (This photo from the internet. All other photos are mine.)
The tramway started running in 1877 as a horse-drawn line, and was powered by electricity starting in 1896, making it the oldest electric railway in all of South and Latin America. Since the accident, the railway has been put on indefinite hiatus. Meanwhile, there is a local artist who keeps the memory of the railway alive, and you can get your photo taken in front of a wall that makes it appear that you’re riding the streetcar.
Many of the locals are calling for a restarting of its operation, since it is the only way for them to get up to the top of the hill, where many service people must go to work in the mansions.
Today, buses ply the winding streets, and you take your life in your hands if you try to drive the hill. Keep in mind, they aren’t watching for you, and they take their half out of the middle. And on turns, it’s all bus, baby, so beware!
The attraction for us on our tour was not only the phenomenal view of the city you have from the top of the hill, but also the street art you see on the walls along the route.