Farima’s friend, Douglas, recommended a place called Gramado for us to go visit, so the following day we headed to this quaint little town. Gramado looked like a mountain resort town straight out of Switzerland and it appeared to be Christmas all year round. We checked into our hostel, where besides us there was only one other family staying there. Both the owner and manager were amazing, telling us all the possible activities to do in town. After settling in we walked to the center to admire the Swiss like architecture. We learned quickly that Gramado was an upscale resort destination with fancy shops and pricey restaurants, much like mountain resort towns back home. We were told by the owner of the hostel that while in Gramado we must try fondue (exactly like Switzerland). We found a restaurant that was a bit cheaper than most and we were ready to get our grub on. First, you start off with cheese fondue accompanied by bread, broccoli, potatoes, cubes of jelly (not our favorite), and some sort of fried potato. We didn’t want to get too full on the first part of the meal, but we ended up finishing everything except for the cubes of jelly, it was too good to waste. Next came the meat (both steak and chicken) along with a stone to cook it on and about 10 different sauces. The meat was extremely delicious and even though we didn’t know what the different sauces were we tried those too! The last but definitely not the least part of the meal was the chocolate fondue accompanied by strawberries, bananas, grapes, pineapple, and melon. Telling you we were full would be an understatement. We headed back with full and satisfied bellies for a peaceful night of sleep.
The next day the sun came out, perfect for a stroll through Ecoparque Sperry, a trail through the surrounding mountainside. We walked along the forest trail past 4 waterfalls, all beautiful in different ways. Besides two other people, we were the only ones on the trail making it incredibly peaceful. After completing the loop, which took us about an hour and a half, we headed to town for lunch and to try to catch the Iran vs. Bosnia game. Unfortunately, every restaurant in Gramado were only playing the Argentina vs. Nigeria game so Farima had to watch through live updates. The sun didn’t last long and it began to rain so we headed back to the hostel for cover.
We were headed to Florianopolis on a night bus the following night, so we decided to do our first ever hop on hop off bus to see as much as we could in the little amount of time we had in Gramado. We hadn’t realized there was so much natural beauty and hiking in Gramado or we would have stayed longer. The hop on hop off bus had some very interesting stops on them including a Hollywood dream cars stop, a railroad museum, a miniature world, a perfume museum, a house built without nails, and a Hollywood actors museum (kind of like a wax museum). At almost every stop, there was some sort of cartoon like character depicting the stop we were at. I felt like I was constantly on a Hollywood movie set. The first stop we got off was at a chocolate factory, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. You went through various rooms each telling what I believe was the history of chocolate (it was all in Portuguese). I felt as though I was on a ride at Disneyland, like snow-white or one of those storybook rides where in each different room there are different characters. At the end, there was a café and gift shop, I ordered hot chocolate just to get something with chocolate since I was at a chocolate factory. We bypassed a bunch of stops so that we would have time to see the famous cascata (waterfall) before the 1 pm USA vs. Germany game. When we arrived at the Cascata do Caracol we couldn’t believe how stunning it was. The water goes over a 131m-high cliff into the middle of dense forest. You can hike 744 steps down to the foot of the falls (and back up), but we only made it down 600 when we had to turn around because we ran out of time. Our next bus was on its way and we couldn’t miss the USA game. We rode the bus back to the center of town where they had a big screen playing all the world cup games. We watched the first half of the game at a restaurant (Madre Café) nearby and ordered a typical Brazilian dish consisting of steak with an egg on top, rice, black beans, fries, and a salad. Then for the second half we went over to watch it on the big screen. I really thought we might have a chance at beating Germany, but it didn’t turn out in our favor. Even though we didn’t win, we still celebrated our advance to the next round! We’re coming for you Belgium!
After the game, we hopped back on the bus for our last stop, Lago Negro (Black Lake). It was a beautiful lake in the middle of a neighborhood. We took a walk around the lake and contemplated riding a swan boat, but decided against it. We hopped back on the bus one last time as we made our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags and head to the bus station. Boarding yet another overnight bus (we’ve taken so many I’ve lost count!) to Florianopolis.