February 21, 2015
Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site six kilometers from Recife. It was on high ground and so would be easier to defend than Reciefe, so the Portuguese thought. They were wrong. The Dutch took it and stripped the churches of their fine baroque fittings and made them into proper plain Dutch Reformed Churches. Some two decades later the Portuguese took back the town (along with Neighboring Recife) restored the baroque grandeur to most of the churches especially and ironically, the Franciscan church, but left one church rather spare. When the guide asked us the rhetorical question: “why is this church so plain?” I replied “They read the bible?” Wrong answer, it was the Dutch vandals. While this particular church was plain by comparison to nearly anything else we saw some of its contents were not. The guide had a key to the wardrobe and we saw liturgical garments that would make Liberace blush.
Olinda got its name when an early explorer got to the top of the hill, saw the beaches, reefs and flowers and cried “Oh Linda” which is not the lyric to a 50 doo wop song but means “Oh Pretty.” And it is. Olinda is an artist colony with a whole lot of churches. It also has its own carnival. We visited one of the carnival school headquarters in an old slave market. The holding room for male slaves is now where the giant puppets for the Carnival Parade are made and stored. The holding room for female slaves is a snack bar and gift shop. Carnival is in the process of being disassembled. We enjoyed the leftovers.