Just as San Francisco and New Orleans have their clattering streetcars, throwbacks to another era, Rio has their own streetcars, the bonde trem.
They once crisscrossed the city. But today, Rio’s last streetcar line runs from Centro through the charming Santa Teresa neighborhood and back, conjuring up visions of days gone by.
There’s even a bonde train museum, Museu do Bonde, if you find yourself jonesing for a history lesson.
In case you don’t make it there, the trains began in 1865 and originally were pulled by donkeys. The trains are called bondes since the first electric trains were financed by a public bond.
If you’ve seen the classic film, Black Orpheus, you know that Orpheus worked as a conductor on a bonde train.
The bondinho’s ubiquitous clattering through the cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa give it a unique feel in modern-day Rio.
It costs less than a dollar to experience this little time machine, but the kids who run alongside the train and hang onto the rail hop on and off at will, riding the running boards for free.
The bondes leave every 30 minutes from Centro and travel along two routes. They both pass over the Arcos da Lapa and head into the heart of bohemian Santa Teresa.
I’ll write more about Santa Teresa another time, because I love it and there’s lots to explore there. You may have heard it was the home of British train robber Ronnie Biggs for many years.
Bohemian to the core, Santa Teresa is full of characters, including artists, writers, photographers and others who crave an authentic sense of place.
It’s full of great restaurants, beautiful homes and B-and-B’s where you can stay, such as Casa Mango Mango. If you decide to stay there, say hi to Julie for me.
A visit to Santa Teresa is a must on your trip to Rio. And riding the bonde train is your ticket to a bygone era.
You can read more about Rio on John’s blog at RIO TUDO BOM