TRAVEL: 192-PART GUIDE TO THE WORLD - PART 24: BRAZIL

OFFICIAL NAME

Federative Republic of Brazil

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

Portuguese

POPULATION

153,000,000

SIZE

8,500,000 square kilometres (about 285 times bigger than Belgium)

BEST MONUMENT

Brazil's best-known monument is the vast statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched, staring across the bay from the top of the Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro. But if an entire city can be called a monument then the beautiful old colonial centre of Salvador in the north wins it.

NATIONAL DISH

Brazil is a huge country with wide variations in cuisine depending on which region you are in. If anything can be described as a national dish, it might be feijoada: a stew of pork, sausage and smoked meat cooked with black beans and garlic and lashings of orange.

CLIMATE

Hot and sticky in most of the country most of the time. A slight coolness can sometimes blow over the southern regions bordering Uruguay and Argentina, especially in the city of Sao Paulo.

MOST FAMOUS CITIZEN

Pele, arguably the greatest and most famous footballer in the history of the world, who claimed three World Cup winning medals and later became the Brazilian minister for sport. For Britons, Brazil's most famous resident may be the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, who has become a self-appointed tourist attraction in Rio since he settled there in the Sixties.

BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY

Almost certainly the 1970 World Cup triumph in Mexico, when the national side reached heights of footballing excellence unequalled anywhere on earth before or since.

WORST MOMENT IN HISTORY

Even worse than the defeat against France in the 1998 World Cup final was the 1950 defeat in the World Cup final against Uruguay, in the Maracana Stadium in Rio of all places. This defeat - which happened before 200,000 home supporters - is a memory which still causes trauma to Brazilians of a particular generation.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORY

A swimming costume best worn between the cheeks of your buttocks, especially if you are anywhere near Copacabana Beach in Rio.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Do not take a long weekend in Rio during Carnival if you are desperately short of sleep. Do not ask the street children on Copacabana Beach to mind your valuables while you take a dip in the sea.

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