Aviation, Beer, and Royals – Daytripping in Petropolis, Brazil

A little over an hour outside of Rio de Janeiro, in the Serra Fluminense mountain range, sits Petrópolis, the Imperial City of Brazil. Still without a car, we took a bus trip this Saturday with friends (kids were home doing school work) to this once summer home of the second and last Emperor of Brazil.

History says that Pedro I (the first Emperor of Brazil and exiled Portuguese King) spent the night on a farm here while on his way to visit the gold mines of Minas Gerais. He was so enamored with the weather (much cooler than Rio) and the scenery and thought the site would be an excellent place to spend the summers and host his European visitors. So, he bought the farm. However Pedro I never carried through with his plans to build; the Napoleonic Wars ended and he went back to Portugal, leaving his 5 year-old son Pedro II to rule Brazil.

In 1843, when Pedro II was 18 and newly married, he created Petrópolis, building the dreamed of summer residence on the old farm where his father had slept. Many German immigrants settled here and their influence is evident in the town’s architecture. Walking along Petrópolis’ wide streets and canals, we had the feeling we were back in Europe.

The royal summer residence is now the Imperial Museum and houses a wonderful collection of artifacts. We particularly enjoyed the hat room and wearing slippers over our shoes. The floors get buffed as tourist slide around 🙂

We also visited the residence of Alberto Santos Dumont and felt bad that we had never heard of him or his accomplishments. Dumont was the father of Brazilian aviation, inventing and testing at the same time as the Wright Brothers. Also, he is supposedly the inspiration for the modern wristwatch. The story goes that Dumont was conversing with his friend Louis Cartier (THE Cartier) and complaining about how hard it was to time his performance with a pocket watch while flying. Cartier designed a watch with a leather band and a buckle for his grateful friend who they say afterwards was never seen without his wristwatch.

Another place of note to visit in Petrópolis, is the Bohemia Brewery and Beer Museum. The museum covers the history of beer from Mesopotamia to modern day and guides (English speaking upon request) are posted throughout to provide further explanation. Free beer samples are part of the tour and there is a restaurant, as well as a store selling Bohemia beer and beer related souvenirs.

We would have like to explore more of the town, but our schedule didn’t allow much flexibility. We’ll just have to plan another trip up with the kids once we get our car. I’ll be sure to bring a warmer jacket next time!

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