I would never have thought that I will ever be in a Favela, not even imagined sleeping there. But the beautiful thing about life is, that things just happen. Even before I visited my friends Bru and Andi in Brazil they had chatted about a hostel in Rio de Janeiro, that is located on top of a Favela with a splendid view on the city and the sugarloaf.
A Favela is theoretically a slum or shanty house. But a Favela is too complex to leave you with such a short description. The first favelas were created in the end of the 19th century, as the big cities couldn’t handle the masses, who wanted to be part of the economic development. So they just took land and started to build their own houses. This is still very much the principle. Therefore a Favela is a fantastic urban structure with thousands different styles of houses. Also the streets and stairways are made individually, so it enfolds a puzzle with thousands elements, that don’t actually fit together. All the water-pipes, canalisation and electricity is build by the citizens of a Favela.
It doesn’t necessarily mean, that the inhabitants of the Favela are the poorest of the poorest. It could be, but on the other hand, many of the houses have satellite TV, kids go to school in the city and some run businesses, like shops, hairstudios or car repair stations in the Favela. So it is a city of it´s own with connection to the public transport and with the mailman coming every morning. And theses cities have their own rules and jurisdiction, many are controlled and run by drug-dealers or other criminals. But this is also a two sided affair. Surely for outsiders going there means trouble. But on the other hand, for all the ones living there it means some sort of structure and system, it maybe even delivers a fair deal for everyone. This is very well depicted in the great movie “Cidade de Deus” and the serial “Cidade dos Homens”. One thing is for sure, a Favela is a vibrant and exciting place.
Thirty years ago an English musician, journalist and painter came over to Rio and was good to stay. Bobby mainly worked first as a BBC correspondent and then as a stringer for international TV-productions. He started to build his own house with his own hands in the Favela of Catete, in the center of the city. His married to his second wife and has two lovely young kids. The reason why I am digging deep into his personal life, is, that this is explains why he opened the greatest Hotel ever. Bobby is 65 years old and figured, that he should quickly start a businesses that would support his family, even if he is not around anymore. So he started to build his house bigger and bigger. One storey above another, with more rooms, more windows and more walls. Now the maze, or casa do bobby how it is also called, is the grandest building of the whole Favela and has about 8 to 9 rooms. Lovely unorthodox styled chambers with direct sight to the sugarloaf and with mosaics in the bathroom.
Three of the chambers are currently occupied by German musicians who, together with Bobby, run a very popular Jazz night every last Friday of the month. Which is highly frequented by people from the city. I think the room rate is going from 40 to 80 reais, which is basically nothing. And Bobbys stories are included, and they are certainly priceless. The maze has been location for many video clips, my favorite one is “beautiful” by Snoop Dogg and Pharell, so Bobby is going down with you with stories about the dogg! Also he wraps up tales about killing squads and bandits quite entertainingly. So you might ask yourself ‘Do I buy myself a ride on the wild side when I am going to the maze?’ Well, you are never sure, but the Tavares Bartos Favela is a save one. This is mainly due to the fact, that there is a massive police department on top of the hill. I even found myself all of a sudden in a police maneuver. Masked gunmen running down the little alleys securing the paths. I froze for a moment but a quick smile of one young soldier put me in the microwave again.
If I would go back to Rio I would definitely stay at the maze again. The atmosphere is so pleasant and Bobbys stories are a priceless asset. The room rate is very competitive and the sight is marvelous. You are quickly in the city and close to the public transport system. And discovering the narrow streets of a Favela really was a lifetime experience for me, which I will never forget.
You should visit the web page of the maze before you arrive and give bobby a call to make sure there are vacancies. If you arrive in Rio you should take the cab to Rua Tavares Bartos, but you shouldn’t tell the taxi-driver, that you are going to a favela, that might not be a motivating announcement to him. If you are on top of the hill it is easy to find the maze, hence there are signs and everyone around knows Bobby.