The third North-Eastern Host City of the World Cup I was visiting, Recife, is supposedly known as the Venice of Brazil, for its several canals and waterways. The city’s initial development was also apparently influenced by the Dutch, who were among the early colonists of the region, who in their usual engineering traditions, carved out canals and low lying waterfronts. Recife is now a sprawling urban centre, encompassing nearby touristic regions of Boa Viagem and Olinda up and down the coast respectively.
So now the government of this state of Pernambuco has decided to expand the city inland, thereby constructing the brand new World Cup arena virtually in the middle of woodlands several kilometres in the interior. They have also located the main Bus-Station in the same region. Also, Recife’s Metro system was by far the best among the North-Eastern cities. Conveniently, the Stadium and the Bus Station are only 1 Metro station apart, while the Metro speedily connects people to the airport and the city Centre within a maximum of a single connection.
I mention all of this, as it has been of huge convenience to transit through Recife, either through flight or Bus, often without needing to stay in the city, which otherwise might not seem too developed. On our way from Salvador to Natal, after landing at Recife airport, all the visitors were being treated to free Capirinhas as they awaited their luggage on the luggage-belts!
Then through the spanking new Airport Metro Station, connecting to the otherwise old-looking yet efficiently operating Metro station in the centre, we easily found our way to the well-maintained Bus Station to catch our late night bus. As we tried to figure out something to eat from the various joints, a very kind lady recognising us as Indians, helpfully came forward to translate and suggest some delicacies. So we had a Tapioca dish typical to the North-East region. Turned out the lady had been living in Ireland, having rented with an Indian landlord, and worked in an Asian restaurant, had guessed we were from India. After a brief pleasant chat over dinner, we were off to Natal.
Then we again had to return to Recife a few days later for the Italy-Costa Rica game for which I had tickets. Having departed from Natal at 7:15, it was always going to be touch and go in the quick dash to the Arena Pernabuco for the 1 pm kickoff. I had assumed that the Bus Station and Stadium being only one Metro station apart, it would be doable. However, we obviously could not have banked on the huge traffic jam we encountered entering Recife, as a way-sided lorry had completely jammed traffic on 1 lane of the highway. This delayed our arrival at the Bust station by almost an hour, by when it was already 1 and time for kickoff.
I jumped off the bus, collected our luggage, and assigning my wife (who unfortunately did not have a ticket to the game so was going to have to wait at the Bus Station anyways) to deposit it in the luggage lockers, I began my sprint to catch as much of the game as I could. Luckily though, all along the route, there were innumerable organisers guiding us (for there were a few people running late) as we ran from Bus Station into the Metro into the Shuttle.
The shuttles only dropped us upto a point, following which there was another kilometre or so run up and down the hill in the middle of nowhere to the stadium. So although thoroughly exhausted given the additional heat and humidity of this city in the hot afternoon, it was a mighty relief to make it inside with only 35’ of the game missed.
After a quick gulp of energy drink to quench my thirst, it was a good feeling to see the ‘star’ Italian players like Pirlo, Cassano, and Balotelli, but all of them visibly struggling to cope and move in the heat, and having a tough time against the plucky Costa Ricans. The Costa Rican supporters too were a boisterous noisy passionate bunch, and myself mostly disliking the Italian team, joined them in their cheers. This was made louder by the goal just before the half.
With the Italians unable to break through in the second period, ensuring the English getting knocked out, the day was starting to go better for me now, as I soaked in the atmosphere and the surroundings on the long walk back to the shuttle with many cheering Costa Ricans and several disappointed Italians and English fans. The best part was the efficient management of the thousands of spectators exiting by the organisers, with several buses ever-present and the Metro smoothly running. Getting back to the Bus-Station proved no hassle despite the crowd.
After a filling local North-East meal of Cassava and Sun-dried meat, we were on our way overnight to our next halt. Even though I did not get to visit the city of Recife on this brief 2nd visit, the experience was memorable, and I hope to finally get a good glimpse of the city on my 3rd and final visit a few days later.Published 24 Jun 2014, 12:00 IST