World Cup Diary Day 5: ‘Quaint’ Curitiba plays amiable host to World Cup

John McAuley files another World Cup diary entry from Curitiba, on of the Brazil World Cup host cities and, he finds, a quiet place with a 'hunger for football' nonetheless.

A resident of Curitiba in the Brazilian team colors walks his dog in on June 13, 2014. CJ Gunther / EPA
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CURITIBA // Travel seven-and-a-half hours by bus south of Sao Paulo, through winding roads lined by lush forest, and you reach Curitiba. The city seems so un-Sao-Paulo-like, with cobbled streets, a palpably less-hectic lifestyle and a distinctly European feel.
It is cold here, but it does not take long to warm to new surroundings. Leafy suburbs envelop its quiet core; an art class lined a street on a drizzly Sunday morning, sitting under umbrellas and quietly sketching the building the taxi driver informs is Curitiba's centre of culture.
If a city of 1.8 million inhabitants can be classified as "quaint", then this certainly is.
It is renowned for being clean and organised – Sao Paulo differs significantly – and its people soon debunk the myth they are among Brazil's most serious. Shyness is probably a more apt description.
But that should not be misconstrued for ignorance. Everyone here welcomes you with a friendly smile, swiftly followed by an inquisitive, yet amiable, look. Portuguese-Irish, or Irish-with-pigeon-Portuguese, remains an entirely foreign concept here.
One local menu accentuates that you indeed are a visitor. Battered alligator, bull's testicles and cattle stomach and sauce.
Yet Curitiba still has a hunger for football. The Fifa Fan Fest attracted a decent enough crowd for Saturday's match between England and Italy, while tourists from Canada, the United States, Iran and Australia have descended upon the city.
About 25 minutes on Sunday was spent pitching in on an Australian podcast beamed all the way back to the land down under. Hosted by Robbie and Pete, Balls of Glory's team were fascinated to find out why a UAE-based reporter is so far from home.
The answer was simple and met with nodded agreement among the four contributors: it's the World Cup. In Brazil.
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