Weary Brazilians seek escape from Carnival crowds
By Brian Ellsworth
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The onset of Carnival sends many Brazilians scrambling to buy tickets to legendary parades or costumes for street parties -- but millions of others want to run for the hills to escape the Bacchanalian revelry.
As much as half the population by some counts plans to steer clear of the week-long celebrations that began on Friday and will shut down much of Latin America's largest country for the best part of a week.
"I sincerely detest Carnival, in its totality," said Vanessa Pedral, a 30-year-old website designer who bought a cable television subscription to avoid the wall-to-wall coverage of Carnival carried by open access channels.
"In my humble opinion, Brazil has a lot more to show than a ton of butts shaking in the streets. I love Brazil, but I don't love Carnival."
Although it symbolizes for the world Brazil's love of samba and sensuality, Carnival also leaves cities overwhelmed with tourists and streets reeking of urine.
Those with the means drive to mountain towns or isolated beaches or go on spiritual or religious retreats. Others simply hide in their houses and cover their ears.
Residents of Rio de Janeiro, center of the most famous Carnival celebrations, say its most iconic aspect -- thousands of people marching in elaborate costumes or dancing on ornate floats -- now caters to foreign tourists and celebrities.
With tickets that can cost hundreds of dollars and extensive advertising by corporate giants such as banking firm Bradesco and beer giant Brahma, many are nostalgic for the more innocent Carnival celebrations of the past. Continued...