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July 7, 2003

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All distances in Brazil seem to be great. We met Brazilian tourists from the south who claimed it was a whole new country up north. Buses do go south but it takes days to reach anywhere significant. We decided to fly and save time. The cheapest option was a hop to Brasilia, the nation's capital and transport hub. We arrived in Brasilia this morning, early enough to settle in and tour the city which turns out to be a unique place on earth.
Brasilia isn't a 'natural' city; it didn't grow and develop on its own. Rather it was built from nothing, placed equidistant from all points in Brazil and also far away from any social and economic activity. Built in an amazing three years as a symbol of Brazil's rising world power, it achieved that goal enough to be named a Unesco World Heritage site as one of the major examples of this century's modern movement in architecture and urbanization. Great distances separate the buildings but it's too hot to walk the scrubby plains. The overall impression is that this is an artificial and sterile city, yet something interesting to see for a day.
Best quotes about Brasilia: "Brasilia is a utopian horror. It should be a symbol of power, but instead it's a museum of architectural ideas." - Robert Hughes, art critic. "The impression I have is that I'm arriving on a different planet" - Yuri Gagarin, cosmonaut.