Is This the Most Beautiful Street in the World?

© Stephen Messenger

There are an estimated 11 million miles of paved road on Earth, forming a sprawling network which some might say represents humanity's conquest of the otherwise inaccessibly wild landscape. But, ironically it seems, the most beautiful streets in world just might be the ones that more closely resemble the untamed.

With so many scenic streets in cities across the globe, some cutting straight through modern metropolises bordered by towering skyscrapers, others following ancient winding paths in the shadow of great monuments, determining which of all is prettiest might seem an impossible task. But hard as it may be, there is one street in Brazil which has earned that distinction among an international audience -- namely for its impressive natural beauty.

© Stephen Messenger

Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho, in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, may not pass by any notable historical sites along its 500 meter stretch, but it does have a forest. In all more than one hundred towering tipuana trees line the road like a living colonnade, forming what some have called a 'green tunnel' over three city blocks. The quiet, shady street has long been a favorite among locals, but recently it garnered some broader acclaim.

© Stephen Messenger

For residents, some of whom have lived in the shade of that 'green tunnel' for most of the over 70 years since it was first planted, the trees haven't been merely ornamental -- they've been something to protect. In 2005, commercial interests planning to build a parking garage received permission from the city to cut down some of the trees to make room, so those living along Gonçalo de Carvalho formed a group to stop it. With local support, and to the surprise of many, the tree-loving community organization was able to halt the juggernaut of construction.

© Stephen Messenger

Just a few years ago, Gonçalo de Carvalho and its history caught the attention of several European writers and tree advocates, including a Portuguese named Pedro Nuno Teixeira Santos who dubbed it 'the most beautiful street it in the world' on his blog The Green Shade:

Goncalo de Carvalho in Porto Alegre, Brazil, is not only the most beautiful street in the world because of the stunning visual effect of its immense Tipuana green tunnel. It is the most beautiful street in the world for this, but mainly because these trees were planted cherished by its residents, over several decades, that is, the green tunnel is the result of love, the love of the trees! It was from this love and this struggle of the residents of Goncalo de Carvalho, that the political power of the city found itself forced to recognize the importance of cultural heritage, landscape and environment, classifying and protecting it with the force of law.

© Stephen Messenger

© Stephen Messenger

Nowadays, Rua Goncalo de Carvalho's internationally recognized beauty is a special point of pride; it was recently named a site of Ecological, Cultural, and Environmental Heritage.

What's more, perhaps, beyond the distinction that some consider it to be the prettiest street in the world, is the fact that it represents what is possible when city-dwellers work together to cherish and protect something beautiful.

© Stephen Messenger

Tags: Activism | Brazil | Cities | Communities

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