Photos by Miguel
Torres - Travel-Images.com
term "lost in time" is an overused and hackneyed phrase
bandied about by travel brochure writers the world over. There
are certainly numerous locations across the globe that deserve
the title, but only a very few serve as a benchmark.
such location is the historic town of Ouro Preto located 400 kilometres
north of Rio de Janeiro. Founded in 1698 by Portuguese explorers
from São Paulo, it marks the location of its famous namesake
"black gold" discovered there and was the site of the
first real "gold rush" in the Americas.
some initial anarchy, the following century was quite literally,
Ouro Preto's golden age. During this time a great many artists,
sculptors, scientists, architects and of course, clergymen, flocked
to the area now located in the state of Minas Gerais (loosely
translated to mean "centre of mining").
and affluence grew exponentially in the area and soon vast mansions,
public buildings and churches appeared across the city, each vying
for the title of most magnificent structure. By the time of the
republic in 1889, the riches were all but exhausted and the city
was in danger of falling into neglect. In a bold move expressly
designed to preserve the cultural integrity of the old city, the
seat of local government was moved to the newly constructed city
of Belo Horizonte.
a time when rampant expansion paid little heed to heritage, Ouro
Preto stood then, as it does today, as a beacon of cultural preservation.
In 1933 the whole city received historic status as a "cidade
monumento" and when UNESCO began listing sites of cultural
significance in its new "World Heritage" program, Ouro
Preto was among the first to be inscribed in 1980.
visitors can wander the unspoilt streets of this expansive and
perfectly preserved Baroque museum featuring many works by the
now legendary sculptor Aleijadinho. Crowned by the magnificent
churches of São Francisco de Assis, Nossa Senhora do Pilar
and Nossa Senhora da Conceição, it is not just these
opulent constructions that form the inheritance of Ouro Preto.
Bridges, fountains and mansions of locally quarried soapstone,
instead of marble, all contribute to the total atmosphere of this
fascinating living museum.
to Ouro Preto is a simple enough exercise. Most international
visitors transfer by coach (100 kms) from Belo Horizonte after
flying in from either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Although
a day trip is possible, most choose to stay a night or two at
one of the renovated hotels or villas. One popular hotel is the
beautifully restored and maintained Pousada do Mondego
(pictured) with 24 rooms overlooking the heart of Ouro Preto.
This 18th century mansion is decorated with both antiques and
convincing reproductions to convey an authentic "golden era"
Associates is Australia's most experienced tour operator
to South America. For more information about tour packages
to the Ouro Preto and Brazil, contact Adventure Associates
on 02 9389 7466 or 1800 222 141. Visit the website for more