Belo Horizonte (often written in short as BH) translates as Beautiful Horizon. It was quite the pleasant sight entering this sprawling city set in an undulating hilly terrain region of Minas Gerais state with the sun rising on the horizon through the hills in the clear winter air. For we were coming up the Rodovia (Expressway) from Sao Paulo by long-distance-bus, given their comfortable nature, as they are the only alternates to flights when it comes to travel across the country.
At the Rodoviarias (Bus-Stations) however, one will rarely find locals who speak English. They didn’t at Sao Paulo, nor did they here at Belo Horizonte. So asking for directions to the Metro station to connect to our hostel, the lady at the information cell pointed us in the general direction followed by lots of words in Portuguese. We had to find our way through the walkways and signs.
With BH having only a single Metro line (unlike Sao Paulo), it was convenient that both the Rodoviaria & our hostel here were close to Meto stations as shown on the map. Then the hilly terrain of the city that looked pleasant when sat in buses & the Metros suddenly hit home, as we had to trudge up the steep streets from the Metro station to our hostel, hauling our luggage on a walk that had seemingly looked a short 500 metres or so affair on the map, but ended up taking a good deal of time and effort on the ground.
As we settled down in a quiet neighbourhood run by an extremely helpful young couple (Leonardo & Maria) fluent in English, we took some tips from them on the places to hang out in BH along with advice on the commute. Then we set off in earnest for the FanFest to catch the day’s big match, Spain-Holland, a re-match of the 2010 World Cup Final. My attire for the day fittingly was the India away jersey, incidentally orange in colour.
The BH FanFest is conveniently located at the Expominas (Trade-fair / Exposition grounds) grounds close to a Metro. However, after our walk down the sign-boarded streets to the FanFest, we were pained to discover that it was not going to be opened! After a few attempts at explanations by the Portuguese speaking attendant at the gate, we figured out that the BH FanFest was only going to be operational on Brazilian Match-days or on days of matches being hosted in BH.
This was a complete shock to my system, as such had never been the case in other FIFA FanFests either at Germany or South Africa, as FanFests are to remain open on all World Cup days.
Nonetheless, the priorities now changed to getting somewhere in time to catch atleast some part of the Spain-Holland game as I was pretty sure we were going to miss the kickoff wherever we went, and there seemed to be no alternatives nearby in Expominas. Recalling Leonardo’s advice of a locale called ‘Savassi’ that is home to the better café’s, eateries & bars, we decided to try to find our way there.
Luckily the English-speaking policemen were of great help in advising us on the appropriate bus number to take to Savassi. By the time the bus came, we had been joined by several Colombians and a few other World Cup fans, who too were probably in the same situation as us having been disappointed by the FanFest and were now making their way to Savassi.
BH is apparently one of the best Coffee producing regions of the world, so I was definitely going to sample some while there. Leonardo had recommended the ‘3 Hearts Café’, so that was where we sat ourselves down, on the crowded café street chock-a-block with people (mostly Colombian fans in the city for their game against Greece the next day). Sipping on a 3 Hearts’ classic Cappucino, and watching Spain’s horror-show was a good enough treat for me in those surrounds.
With the target being to get back to the Hostel as soon as possible after dark, we were on the look-out for the bus number Leonardo had suggested back from Savassi. However, it was proving to be difficult, finding the correct bus stop with the bus number, more so as neither the policemen, waiters, or pedestrians in the crowded square all spoke only Portuguese.
Luckily I had been able to finally get my mobile internet activated at the mobile shop nearby. So it was a welcome relief when the GPS directed us exactly both to the correct bus stop and bus number to set us on our way back. So there we reached conveniently in good time, to round off an interesting day on the Beautiful Horizon.Published 15 Jun 2014, 17:56 IST