top of page

essays | places | Brazil

Rio de Janeiro / No Hard Feelings

distinguishing between place and experience


   Seen from Corcovado hill with the eyes of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro might easily be the most beautiful city this side of the universe – myriad sandy bays, cozy hills, and cheeky islets say so.

From up close, however, the beauty was a bit of a beast. I felt dazzled by an optical illusion of sorts: standing on the rocks between Ipanema and Copacabana, looking at one of these distinguished shorelines as a whole, the man-made structures would add something to that caipirinha of mountain, beach and sea. But walking along those slab monsters, the concrete would take away from the sweetness.


"...the real culprit was I, surrounding myself with all the wrong circumstances at the time..."

My wandering turned into wondering: was it her, or was it me? Who was to blame for my disappointment? Maybe the people who had talked Rio up to vertiginous heights? Those are not easily squished into skintight realities. Or did others simply not dare to admit that they didn’t like Rio as much as they’d like to? Only few people seemed to confess to it out in the open and even called her a “shithole”. I found that uncalled for.


No, no, the real culprit was I, surrounding myself with all the wrong circumstances at the time: the 48h bus ride in my bones; parting from Buenos Aires and the people I loved; the rain; headlines of gentrification and killings in the lead-up to the soccer world cup – terrors in the ugly name of a game.

With my mood tanking and prices skyrocketing (dorm beds ending up in the neighborhood of 150 dollars a night), I was ready to call it a country.