If you’re a male who urinates in public bathrooms and likes the sound of an electric guitar, the Guitar Pee made by Billboard Brasil is a urinal you’ll have to try out for yourself the next time you’re in Sao Paulo. The Guitar Pee is a guitar-shaped urinal brilliantly engineered so that men can make music with their stream of urine. Currently touring bars in Sao Paulo, the Guitar Pee is making the routine bathroom trip a lot more rockin’ for the lucky men who have had the chance to try it out (this is not sarcasm, I actually think this is amazing). This video demonstrates men trying it out. Furthermore, Guitar Pee has its own mobile app complete with “MPee3s” captured from the gadget.
I love food. It’s probably my favorite part of traveling. I also love saving money. That’s why on a recent trip to São Paulo, Brazil, where I was staying on the expensive Avenida Paulista, I was excited to learn about the Mercado Municipal.
Located on Cantareira Street, off the San Bento subway stop on the blue line, is a massive market selling various kinds of fruits, meats, cheeses, cakes, nuts, candies, oils, wines and more. It’s a very cultural experience, as locals rely on the market to get specialty items and when they have a lot to buy. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself to high-quality, local foods in Brazil. In fact, the food sold at Mercado Municipal is so good, most of the restaurants in the city purchase their ingredients from there.
The best part is the people selling the foods, especially the fruits, stand with cutting knives and napkins ready to give you samples. I got to try various fruits I had never seen or heard of before, and even some I had, just to see if they tasted different. I’m not sure if I was just excited to be in a new city, but strawberries definitely seem sweeter and juicier in Brazil.
Even when the stands didn’t appear to be giving away samples, if you ask to try something, it’s usually not a problem. Even though I don’t speak Portuguese, looking hungry with a longing stare got me a sampler of nuts that filled me for hours.
Still want to continue your journey of São Paulo’s unique flavors? Take the subway to the Ana Rosa stop on the green line. On the corner of Rua Joaquim and Rua Aurea is an off-the-radar popsicle shop called Frutos do Cerrado. While tiny in size, the shop sells ice pops, gelato and sorbets of more fruit flavors than I’ve ever seen in my life. Along with typical varieties like mango, banana and grape, there was buriti, amora, jatoba and tamarindo, to name a few. They even have a flavor for the caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink.
Introduced by Francisco de Melo Palheta in the eighteenth century – from seeds smuggled in from French Guiana – coffee was Brazil’s greatest economy booster from the early nineteenth century until the 1930s. Concentrated in the Paraíba Valley between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and later around the red soil areas of the countryside of São Paulo and Paraná, it was the country’s main export for almost 100 years.Large coffee plantations
In the beginning, coffee plantations were small, isolated worlds of their own. They sat on expansive properties and incorporated slave work, which was later replaced by regular employees and immigrants. Today, coffee is produced in more factory-type farms, and these traditional plantations are no longer operational. They can, however, still be visited in the São Paulo countryside. The visits can provide a trip back in history, as traditional architecture, machinery and slaves’ barracks can still be seen on the properties.
One important aspect in coffee production was the size of the available workforce. To help create a higher output, the administration of the state of São Paulo made the immigration issue the focus of its activities, establishing a program that supported European immigration. Advertisements were run all over Europe, and immigrants were brought from their homes to the coffee farms. This allowed for rapid development in São Paulo.
With immigrant labor, the culture of coffee gained momentum and – for three quarters of a century – almost all of the country’s wealth was concentrated in coffee agriculture. Coffee farmers became the social and political elite and the new aristocracy in Brazil. This helped industrialization and allowed for the construction of large and beautiful farm houses and mansions in São Paulo.
The international crisis of 1929 had an immediate dual effect in the Brazilian economy: while it reduced international demand for Brazilian coffee and pushed prices down, it prevented the Brazilian government from borrowing international funds to absorb the surplus stocks of coffee. However, the government could not abandon the vulnerable producers and, from this period on, the Brazilian government began to play an active role in the economy. Coffee was something so important to the Brazilian economy, many began to call it the “green gold.”
Currently, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, accounting for 30% of the international coffee market. This is equivalent to the production of six other major producing countries. The coffee grounds are concentrated in four major producing states: Minas Gerais, Paraná, Espírito Santo, and, of course, São Paulo. So where can you get a little sip of heaven for yourself? Here is a list of the city’s top coffee shops and padarias (bakeries) where you can get the best brews that São Paulo has to offer.
- Arábia Café (pictured)- Opened in 2007, they serve coffees, sandwiches, and Brazil’s famous esfihas, savory pastries filled with meat, vegetables, and spices.
- Coffee Lab– This roasting lab focuses on micro brews and features coffees with unique characteristics.
- Nespresso (Nestlé boutique)– This famous brand developed exclusive capsules called Novo Dulsao do Brasil, which combine tastes of honey and malt.
Octavio Café & Bistrô– An official coffee evaluation done by the Universidade de São
Paulo revealed that this venue serves some of the highest quality coffee in the area in terms of a full sensual experience.
- Santo Grão– Here you will find select Brazilian blends, which are served fresh ground and roasted. You can even call the shop to see when the next round of coffee grinding will be, so you can watch the process for yourself.
- Bella Paulista– This fusion bakery combines fresh coffee and baked goods with a pizza and snack bar, fulfilling every craving you may have.
- Benjamin Abrahão Mundo dos Pães– This very traditional padaria has been open since 1952, and serves some of the best coffee in São Paulo.
- Di cunto– Also very traditional, this padaria has been open since 1935 and has been developing their product over time.
- Dona Deôla– This venue was opened in 1948 by Mrs Dona Deola, a Portuguese immigrant. Her hard work over the years has paid off, and her successful products have allowered her to open four bakeries.
- Galeria dos Pães– If you want delicious coffee and great service at any time, this bakery has over 200 employees and 24 hour service.
When city plans exceed reality, or the money dries up, or people simply leave in a mass exodus, skyscrapers vacate and slowly decay. High winds thrash through broken windows. Rats live undisturbed amongst decades old rubble. Stairways lead to doors that may never open again. The ghost of ambition’s past arrives in the present like a howling specter, creating eyesores, dangerous conditions, and free housing for opportunistic urban survivalists.
These abandoned skyscrapers range from forsaken structures aborted long before their doors opened to icons from a bygone era. While a slumper like Detroit has its fair share of empty giants, even cities with tiger cub economic growth like Bangkok are not immune to the plague of creepy abandoned high-rises. South America brings vertical favelas to the list, and Poland has a tower named after a pop-culture villain. And even San Francisco, a city with a high recreational scooter to human ratio and droves of individuals who see the world just beyond the tip of their nose, has its very own abandoned skyscraper.
From North Korea to Venezuela, these structures differ in their stories and circumstance, but each is a fine glimpse at post-apocalyptic urban decay.
Michigan Central Station
Location: Detroit, USA
Stories: 18 floors
Story: The Central Station was finished during the advent of the automobile – 1913. The Beaux-Arts style of the classical building recalls a time when Detroit possessed the resources and momentum to rightfully emulate Parisian architecture. Its old school ambition is not lost on current Detroit residents but its function certainly is. It is a doorway into a forgotten world and a poster-boy for urban decay. The graffiti and dilapidation tells the story not just of Detroit’s acrimonious decline but also the abandonment of rail travel in the United States. At its peak during the 1940’s, 200 trains left this station daily. Today, none. While rail travel is receiving some political buzz in Washington, the fate of this gorgeous structure is uncertain. Many have flirted with re-purposing the old building, from the Detroit Police to casino developers, but for the moment it stands quietly on the outskirts of the modern world like an old ornate wrench that fits no bolt.
Abandoned since: 1988
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Stories: 105 floors
Story: This massive pyramidal structure (above, furthest left) is a 105 story symbol for the absurdist ambitions of Kim Jong Il and the hermit kingdom. It has been under construction (on and off) for decades. It has been called the world’s most hideous hotel. It is an unnecessary extravagance in a country that can barely feed its people. The project was abandoned after the fall of the Soviet Union due to Soviet subsidies to North Korea coming to an end. The hollow shell stood vacant for decades, just towering above the city – a failure too large to ignore but too painful to acknowledge. The North Koreans spent years denying the structure’s existence, removing it from photographs and excluding it from maps of Pyongyang. Too much shame, it seems, in the very obvious failure. Construction on the structure resumed recently with Egyptian architectural firm Orascom leading the project. It is slated for completion in 2012, to sync with the 100th birthday of Eternal President Kim Il Sung, deceased since 1994.
Abandoned since: 1992, currently under construction
Tower of David
Location: Caracas, Venezuela
Stories: 45 floors
Story: The Tower of David, one of the tallest buildings in Latin America, is the quintessential slum-scraper. There is no government interference, just 2500 squatters carving up its 45 stories for purposes ranging from housing to business. The building includes apartments, home-brew PlayStation arcades, beauty salons, and perhaps the most suspicious dentistry operation in the new world. While the current occupants have yet to climb higher than the 30th floor, it is only a matter of time before the anarchic housing market pushes residences higher towards the dilapidated rooftop helipad – a symbol from Caracas’ forgotten banking boom.
Abandoned since: 1994, never completed
Buffalo Central Terminal
Location: Buffalo, USA
Story: The Buffalo Central terminal has been looted for artifacts, vandalized by bored delinquents, used for art exhibitions, explored by ghost hunters, and even sold for $1. It is a gorgeous old structure plagued by a series of humiliating footnotes, caught in a perpetual fall from grace. But it was not always so. At a time, the Buffalo Central Terminal was an important hub servicing hundreds of trains daily. Still an Art Deco architectural masterpiece, the structure possesses a prominent tower worthy of superlatives, and its halls are said to be haunted by ghostly apparitions waiting for trains that will never arrive. Last Halloween, the TV show Ghost Hunters filmed a 6 hour marathon in the creepy old building. It is possible to tour the structure and even get hitched in its lofty halls. Click here for more information.
Abandoned since: 1980
Location: Krakow, Poland
Stories: 20 floors
Story: The tallest building in Krakow is a a hulking skeleton of a structure unofficially named after the villain from He-man – a show extremely popular in Poland in the early 1980’s. Construction began in 1975, but the Pols ran into economic troubles. Today, the building is primarily a backdrop in which to drape massive advertisements. It is also a constant reminder of the decades old malfeasance of Skelator – an urban Castle Grayskull looming on the Polish horizon.
Abandoned since: 1981, never completed
Location: San Francisco, USA
Story: Once the tallest building in San Francisco, the PacBell building is a Neo-Gothic marvel abandoned last decade. Completed in 1925, the giant is capped with 13 foot tall art deco Eagles looking out over the great San Francisco expanse. While the building was purchased in 2007 for $118 million, it has since been left to decay quietly in its own upscale way. Unlike most abandoned skyscrapers though, this one still has some life in it. Security guards patrol the ground floor, and the tower is lit up at night. A couple of brave urban explorers over at Bearings snuck past the guard and explored the tower’s heights. Check out their first hand account of the abandoned skyscraper. The PacBell Building will likely be repurposed into condominiums in the coming years.
Abandoned since: 2005
Edificio Sao Vito
Location: Sao Paolo, Brazil
Stories: 27 floors
Story: The original vertical favela arrived on the scene in the late fifties with the intention of providing housing to Sao Paolo’s middle class community and expats. Before long though, the building fell into disrepair and became an overpopulated den of urban plight – a favela that sprawled up. As basic services and utilities declined over the years, tenants began disposing their garbage out the window and obtaining illegal electricity. Many of the Edificio’s 624 apartment units were split into two – stressing the already shaky infrastructure of the building known as “Balança mas não Cai” (It shakes but does not fall). By the eighties, the tap water was polluted and only one of the three elevators partially worked – making its way halfway up the building. Edificio Sao Vito was formally evacuated in 2004, though crackheads and drug dealers have taken to the abandoned structure like moths to a flame. Allegedly, the Mayor of Sao Paolo tried to demolish the building because it obstructed his otherwise pleasant view. While this bit of urban lore may or may not be true, the building has been flirting with demolition for the last decade. At the time of reading its graffiti flecked concrete walls may simply be dust.
Abandoned since: 2004
Location: Detroit, USA
Stories: 38 floors
Story: Construction began on the Book Tower in 1916, just a few years after Henry Ford transformed auto-making forever with assembly line production. It is the old style of high-rise – more a kin of masonry than a child of steel and glass. For years, the classic structure with an ornate copper roof stood for the old world extravagance of Detroit. Now, it has taken on an altogether different metaphorical role as a sad reminder of when the eminent address spoke for the industrialist success of one of America’s finest cities. The property has changed hands many times in the last decade and plans exist to drop hundreds of millions in restoring the old-school giant.
Abandoned since: 2009
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Story: During the Thai tiger economy of the 1990’s, skyscrapers grew all over Bangkok in a display of Thailand’s new-found economic prominence. This one never completely grew up. Crows circle the pinnacle and rats call its lower levels home. Locals, convinced its hallways are haunted, stay out of the ghostscraper. Expat urban spelunkers have explored the building and returned to Khao San Road with stories from its upper reaches. The verdict: it is a dilapidated mess. The future of the Sathorn Unique remains unclear but perhaps someday it will be finished. For now, it looms on the Bangkok skyline with many other abandoned skeletal structures.
Abandoned since: 1997
Location: Memphis, USA
Stories: 29 floors
Story: Once the tallest building in the southern United States, the original “Queen of Memphis” is a ghostly skyscraper, boarded up and decaying from the inside. The late Gothic architectural marvel once shuttled around thousands of workers, from stockbrokers to barbers, in its eight high-speed elevators. It has been the domain of urban explorers and desperate vagrants ever since being completely abandoned in the late nineteen-eighties. While inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places preserves its era appropriate charms, the future of the towering structure is unclear. Perhaps a redevelopment boom in downtown Memphis will reignite a need for the large ghostscraper.
Abandoned since: 1980s
top flickr image via country_boy_shane
File this one under “news of the weird.” Robert Wladyslaw Parzelski was sent back to London 18 days after arriving in São Paulo on a one-way ticket … and never leaving the airport.
The story is still unfolding, but Slate reports that Parzelski, a Polish man, traveled on a British Airways flight from London on June 17 on a one-way ticket purchased by a friend in Poland. He was to return with “two telephone sets.” How, when, or why has yet to be determined.
Parleski, who spoke no Portuguese and arrived without any cash, was supposedly meeting a friend in São Paulo, but the friend never arrived, and Parzelski, like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, simply lived in the airport, subsisting on water, yogurt and cigarettes given to him by airport custodians.
When asked what he was doing, he simply replied “I’m Poland.”
This story caught the attention of the Folha de São Paulo paper, where reporters began an attempt to figure out Parzelski’s story.
Newspaper reporters (not authorities) finally found a doctor in São Paulo who spoke the language and was able to speak to Parleski — sort of — and determine that he was, in fact, “lost” inside the airport. The doctor revealed to the media that Parzelski was a father of five from Krakaw, Poland, who moved to London to work as a builder. After he was laid off, he traveled to Brazil at the behest of a Polish friend in London with the mission to return with two telephone sets. Why the telephones? Nobody is sure.
“Before embarking … [we] spotted Parzelski enjoying a dark ale at a bar inside the departure lounge,” the Folha de São Paulo wrote Wednesday.
Parzelski’s story has ended, though. He left São Paulo on a Swiss Airways flight on Tuesday, bound for Zurich and then London.