For the last three weeks I have been renting an apartment in “The Marvelous City:” Rio de Janeiro. Rio is famous around the world as an amazingly beautiful city, with world class parties. This is true. It’s an incredible city, with opportunities to climb beautiful peaks by morning, take in the sun on one of the world’s most famous beaches by afternoon, then samba the night away till the morning hours. It’s an intoxicating city, and I completely understand why so many people want to make this their home. It’s not hard to be drawn in by the offerings of Rio.
Some young Cariocas playing soccer on Ipanema Beach.
Rio, however, has a world-class price tag to go along with the world-class beaches. If you can pay to play, this city is quite possibly one of the best cities in the world to live in. For the majority of us, however, the thought of paying $4000/month for a one bedroom apartment in Ipanema is not a long term fiscally possible venture. There are areas of the city that are quite inexpensive, obviously, but in many of those areas you need to worry about your safety, and they’re far from “marvelous”. Rio has one of the most significant divides in class that I’ve ever seen. South of Central (the downtown area,) is what is called the South Zone, or Zona Sul. This is where all of the fantastic photos are taken of this city. This is where every neighbourhood is framed by El Cristo’s open arms.
This is where beautiful people walk the sun-drenched beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
This is also a world away from the North Zone, Zona Norte. Zona Norte isn’t just another city, it’s another world. The people look different. The buildings are run down, as are the streets. There’s pichicao (graffiti’s ugly cousin) covering every building. Walking through Zona Norte you would not feel the awe and draw of what brings so many people to Rio. It’s an urban concrete jungle, which is many times more dangerous than just 10kms south in Zona Sul. This is where the majority of Cariocas – the residents of Rio – live. It’s not pretty; and it’s far from Marvelous.
I’ve truly enjoyed my time in Rio, and I do love this city, but has it been enough for me to choose to live in Rio over Medellin? No. I’ll outline more on why living in Medellin is better tomorrow.