Panoramic views of 500-year-old town

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This June 18, 2014 photo shows the cobble streets of Olinda, Brazil. The coastal town of Olinda was founded in the 1530's by Portuguese explorer Duarte Coelho. The lumber and sugarcane industries that flourished in the area made Olinda one of the most important colonial outposts in all of Brazil. (AP Photo/Brett Martel)

This June 18, 2014 photo shows the cobble streets of Olinda, Brazil. The coastal town of Olinda was founded in the 1530’s by Portuguese explorer Duarte Coelho. The lumber and sugarcane industries that flourished in the area made Olinda one of the most important colonial outposts in all of Brazil. (AP Photo/Brett Martel)

OLINDA, Brazil (AP) — Atop a hill offering panoramic views of the World Cup city of Recife is the nearly 500-year-old coastal town Olinda.

Fans such as Ricky Jaramillo of Chicago have found its narrow, cobblestone streets and colonial Portuguese and Dutch architecture a pleasant alternative to the dense clusters of high-rises about 10 miles to the south.

“The views are amazing, from the skyline of Recife to the ocean,” said Jaramillo, a Mexican-American who attended Mexico’s victory over Croatia in Recife’s Arena Pernambuco with his father. “The cobblestone streets, the old houses and churches are amazing, the history behind them.”

Jamarillo, who stayed at an oceanside hotel within walking distance of Olinda’s historic center, was one of numerous Mexican fans who chose to stay in the area — apparent by the omnipresent green jerseys worn by those wandering the hillside streets or strolling along the seawall below.

This week, American and German fans have begun trickling into Olinda before Thursday’s pivotal Group G match between the two countries at the Arena Pernambuco, which is about an hour’s drive, depending on traffic.

Olinda was founded in 1535 by Portuguese explorer Duarte Coelho. The Portuguese word “linda” means beautiful. According to the city’s tourism office, Coelho uttered something akin to, “Oh — beautiful place to found a village,” when he came upon the hill where Olinda now sits.

The lumber and sugarcane industries that flourished in the area made Olinda one of the most important colonial outposts in all of Brazil. In 1631, the Dutch invaded and began an occupation that lasted 24 years before the Portuguese regained control.

The charming cobblestone streets are lined with mostly one or two story, stucco-sided buildings, often painted in bright color schemes such as cornflower blue with yellow trim. Some are sided by painted tiles. Atop the hill is a public plaza filled with artists and vendors of local food.

There is also a lighthouse, a convent and the “Igreja da Se,” or Cathedral of the See, one of several churches dating to the late 1500s in the immediate area.

Lower on the hillside is the Monastery of St. Benedict, a Baroque church dating to 1582 with an ornate, 46-foot-tall altar carved from about 119,000 pounds of wood and adorned with nearly 62 pounds of gold leaf.

— By Brett Martel

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