Where We Be
The instant we stepped inside, we fell
in love with the Santuario Dom Bosco
Brasilia, Brazil
Brasilia is the only city built in the 20th century
to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It's filled with eye-popping modern architecture,
and believe it or not, the city is shaped like an
airplane when seen from above (like, say, from
an airplane). Now, we usually say we're not big
city people, but we make an exception for
capital cities that are airplane-shaped and
brimming with this many awesome buildings.

We took a full-day guided tour of Brasilia, which
is the best way to go: this is not a walking city.
The Santuario Dom Bosco was the standout
stop for us. Our instant reaction upon stepping
inside was "Wow!" We loved the blue colored
glass and the sense of serenity the sanctuary
provides. The other highlight was the Catedral
Metropolitana, one of the masterworks of Oscar
Niemeyer. Many of the best buildings in the city
bear his name, and he's considered a key figure
in the development of modern architecture.
It’s filled from top to bottom with thousands of multi-hued
glass panels that imbue the place with a soft bluish light
The dark crucifix looks especially dramatic
against the backdrop of colored light
Each column is shaped like a Gothic arch and
reaches skyward to the very top of the structure
The outside of the church is perhaps intentionally
underwhelming -- but once you're inside, wow!
Our other favorite Brasilia building is the Catedral Metropolitana. From the outside it’s shaped like a
crown of thorns, full of curving lines that gather towards the center then thrust up towards the sky.
From the inside it’s just as unusual. It’s circular in design, with the struts
of the church radiating from the center of the dome like a sunburst.
Three angels hang down from the center as if
they’re floating among the clouds at sunset
You'll never confuse this cathedral with any other! Its curving, sinuous lines
were designed by Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), the main architect of Brasilia.
We've only hit the highlights of all the weird and wonderful architecture in Brasilia. Take these
two buildings, for instance: one looks like a ringed planet and the other like a sheared-off pyramid.
The National Congress is another Niemeyer design. A huge bowl (an inverted dome) sits
atop the House of Representatives, while a contrasting “normal” dome covers the Senate.
Another view of the National Congress. The tents
house protestors -- this is a capital city, after all.
This odd-looking plaza is known as Three Powers Square. Brazil's three
powers -- president, supreme court, congress -- work out of offices that
form an equilateral triangle around this square, suggestive of balance.
Guards stand duty atop a huge ramp in
front of one of the Three Powers buildings
Three Powers Square has some seriously funky designs.
My favorite is the building that looks like a giant clothes pin.
We both loved the innovative design of
JK Bridge with its three offset arches
The bridge spans an artifical lake
known as Lake Paranoa (Paranoia?)
The Palace of Dawn is the official residence of the president of Brazil. It's the only
Niemeyer design I didn't like much, being low to the ground and oddly assymetrical.
The TV Tower soars 740 feet (224 m) and you can take an elevator partway up
to the free observatory. That's the brand new soccer stadium over to the right.
The TV Tower offers a great way to get a 360 degree view of Brasilia, but
unfortunately it's not high enough to get a real sense of the city's airplane layout
We stayed at Athos Bulcao for $75 per night -- more than we usually pay,
but we liked its central location and its walkability to a nearby mall
Brasilia Shopping is air conditioned and modern --
and directly across the street from Athos Bulcao
The mall has a popular food court where you can get all sorts of
meals at reasonable prices -- a nice feature in an expensive city
The JK Memorial honors former president Juscelino Kubitschek, who oversaw
the creation of Brasilia. It was designed by none other than Oscar Niemeyer.
Cozying up with Kubitschek and
his wife outside the memorial
This is Dom Bosco, an Italian saint who in 1883 had a vision of a utopian city
in the New World. His vision was a major inspiration for the founding of Brasilia.
The altar with its egg-shaped
backdrop is truly unique
I would've made a fine member
of the Pope's Swiss guard!
I have no idea what these colorful "people
balls" represent. Gymnastics? World peace?
A color guard stands duty
at the Palace of Dawn