The visit of the São João Batista cemetery in Botafogo starts with the grave of the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, then to aviation pioneer Santos Dumont to the great singer/songwriter Tom Jobim - who wrote the world famous song The Girl of Ipanema. Rio by Bike - owned by two Dutch ex-journalists -, is one of the six bike companies in Rio de Janeiro, includes the cemetery in its Panoramic Tour, that leaves from Copacabana.
"In the Netherlands, the cemeteries are kind of simple, mostly boring. But São João Batista is beautiful with great architecture, and with lots of important people buried. We find it interesting that the tourists get to know this place", explains Philip de Wit, owner at Rio by Bike.
Globo accompanied the tour, which follows a 28 km route. From the four hour tour, around 20 minutes are devoted to the cemetery. The bikes are parked at the entrance and there is time to get a soft drink. The guide accompanies the tourists for a walk in the cemetery. The guide, Carolijn Pereira, talked about how the grave of the architect Oscar Niemeyer is sort of a 'disappointment' for her.
"One would expected it to be full of curves, as the typical forms Niemeyer used for his buildings. But the grave is simple and straight, a little strange", she said, with a laugh, then pointing to the less affluent part of the cemetery. "In the back you have the more simple and cheap graves. The Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, who made the famous staircase of Santa Teresa is one of them."
For the members of the tour, the visit to São João Batista was a pleasant "surprise". "When you visit Rio you do not think of going to the cemetery and I didn't know most of the names she mentioned, but I liked it a lot", said the Australian Danielle Bruneau, who already knew the famous cemeteries of Paris and Buenos Aires.
Back on the bike, the group followed the tour that passed by the beach of Botafogo, Flamengo and headed to Cinelandia, in the old historic city center. From there, the tour left for the Arcos da Lapa and to Selarón staircase. On the way back it visited the park of Flamengo and finally the famous Copacabana Beach.
(This article was orignally published in the newspaper O Globo, this blog is an English version of this story. Here you can read the Portugues version.)