On June 14th, Britain begins its journey in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, in a city that combines the comfort of a huge metropolis alongside access to the most diverse biosphere on the planet. Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, is located where the Negro River meets the Solimões River and forms the Amazon River a few miles downstream. Due to its geographical location and its exotic surroundings, Manaus is a great place to explore the Amazon. At the beginning of the century, Manaus was known as the "Heart of the Amazon and City of the Forest." Using its natural resources, Manaus is an industrial city that, at the turn of the century, economically flourished with the export of rubber from local plantations.
There, tourists will not only have a chance to check out the England team starting their campaign, but also be at the entrance of the biggest rainforest in the world, with the most varied biodiversity on earth. And for those thinking about venturing to Brazil for the tournament, this video is a great way to start your trip:
Some tips to make the most of your visit beyond the stadiums:
1- The show must go on
The increase of wealth created a need for a lavish atmosphere, which was eventually funded by the local European elite. Teatro Amazonas was a byproduct of this, and shortly after, the opera house was created in the middle of the rainforest in 1884. Every detail of the opera house was premeditated, and its exquisite resources were imported from France, England and Italy. The Teatro Amazonas is easily recognized by its extravagant dome, which is decorated with 36,000 ceramic tiles painted in the colors of the Brazilian flag on the exterior. Inside, the dome is decorated with breathtaking red and gold details. Encircling the inside of the dome are intricate hand pained frescos.
Interestingly enough, when artificial rubber was discovered, Manaus took a hit and lost the funds needed to keep the opera house running. For 90 years, the Teatro Amazon did not house any performances. It wasn't until 2001 that the government decided to revive the opera house. Since then, many extraordinary performers from around the world come to perform at the theatre.
2- Everything ecotourism in the Amazon
The Amazonian Museum, or Museu Amazonico, is the place to go to observe exhibits of indigenous weapons, tools, masks, costumes and artifacts. The museum offers free admission in an effort to encourage guests to educate themselves on the wonders and history, and to support the research of the Amazon.
Visitors can also take a day trip to the Natural Science Museum of the Amazon, or Museu de Ciencias Naturais da Amazônia. The museum itself is located off the beaten path, far from the city, but is well worth the trip. You will be able to see taxidermies of wild life and insects found in the Amazon, and even get to see live Amazonian fish in the museum's fish tank.
If you want to see more live Amazonian animals, the CIGS Zoo is a unique attraction. Not only does it house 300 species of animals, but it is also part of the Brazilian army's jungle warfare-training centre. The animals that reside here are orphaned or rescued from the rainforest.
3- Eating staple Amazonian foods
While in Manaus, you will be able to taste the local, traditional Amazonian dishes to complete your experience. Tapioquinha is a pancake/crepe like dish made from manioc starch that is buttered and stuffed with cheese and palm fruit. Any fruit juices you try can be assumed come straight from the luscious rainforest. Lastly, try Tacaca, an authentic Manaus soup eaten by the locals.
4- Organic soccer
It is unavoidable to describe Manaus without mentioning the enormous influence soccer has on its locals. This isn't necessarily the conservative soccer you will see being played in the World Cup. No, this is urban street soccer. It is the most organic form of the sport and a sight to see when you are in Manaus. Rain or shine, night or day, street soccer is very much everywhere you go, so make sure you try and observe the extremely talented locals that populate the city.
In Manaus, there are so many opportunities to be educated on the Amazon rainforest and culture of the city. A couple of interesting additional attractions include: Lake Janauari Ecological Park, Palacio Rio Negro, Museu de Seringal Vila Paraiso, Ponta Negra Beach, Bosque da Ciencia, Casa de Musica and Archipelago of Anavilhanas.
From unique culinary experiences, to the opportunity of being surrounded by the most biological diversity on the planet - taking a trip to Manaus will be an experience that you will never forget.