Venezuela travel blog by Mark Berman -
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A week or so after the 2013 elections in Venezuela I returned for my 2nd time in the country. It was much cheaper than my first time here
2 and a half years earlier, black market exchange rates had skyrocketed. I arrived in Maracaibo this time from northern Colombia. Santa Marta
to Riohacha 3hrs, 1hr more to Maicao, 12kms more to the border and 3hrs more from there to Maracaibo. I had done some research before
arriving and knew there were things to do and see in the city. I was mainly interested in having a good look around the historical neighbourhoods
and to see some of the sights. A friend had told me there was nothing to see in Maracaibo. I couldn't and didn't believe him and yes he was
Things To Do
Plaza del Rosario de Nuestra Senora de La Chiquinquira
From my cheap hotel
near the bus terminal I walked through a market area to the nearby Plaza del Rosario de Nuestra Senora de La
Chiquinquira, it's a huge rectangle plaza that covers several blocks. Things to see include the eye-catching church Basilica de La Chiquinquira
with 2 statues built into it of bishops Marcos Sergio Godoy and Arturo Celestino Alvarez. In this part of the plaza are busts of Graciela
Rincon Calcano (1904-1987) - poet and storyteller, Ricardo Aguirre (1939-1969) - singer and musician and Antonio Maria Soto (1901-1976) -
religious society founder. The plaza continues across the road with a long waterway feature leading up to a huge white monument in the
distance - Monumento de la Virgen de la Chinita. This is a nice clean park with fountains, flowers, gardens, trees and seating. The Chinita
monument is huge, quite spectacular, on the other side of it is another white monument to San Sebastian - the poor man tied to a tree with
a few arrows sticking out of him.
Churches and Buildings
Across the road from here is the blue church Parroquia de Santa Barbara with white trimmings and quite
attractive. I walked through an area called Paseo Ciencias towards Plaza Bolivar, there are several important buildings around. The Baralt
Theater, the Cathedral, the Legislative Palace, the Government Palace and the House of Capitulation. East from here I continued to explore.
I found Plaza Antonio Jose de Sucre, nothing special - some murals and shady trees. Up the road a little near the hospital is church Capilla
Santa Ana with a bust of Dr. Francisco E. Bustamante outside. Beside is Plaza Francisco de Miranda, there's a statue and some quite nice murals.
Next I wanted to have a look around Carabobo Street just 2 blocks north, this is a colorful area of old houses and amazing wall murals. I
had a few minutes rest in Plaza San Juan. I enjoyed taking photos of the houses and met some friendly locals - a family and 3 businessmen who
asked if I would take a picture of them.
From Carabobo Street I ventured across Street 93 to park Parque Urdaneta, this is probably slightly out of the
reasonable safety of the central areas. This park is big but was quite empty. I'm sure if there was some more activity it would be great.
There's a statue of Rafael Urdaneta
(1788-1845), a war hero and a monument depicting a battle scene with men on horses. I was quite interested
in the wall murals nearby, political statements. North from here I came to the Urdaneta Museum. It wasn't open but has a great garden with
monuments, gardens and cannon. In nearby streets I found a small park named after Dr. Adolfo d'Empaire (1873-1947), church Iglesia Santa
Teresita, Plaza Juan Crisostomo Falcon and Plaza Libertad.
Santa Lucia Neighbourhood
By now I had strolled into the heart of the Santa Lucia neighbourhood. I was enjoying
myself but I would not suggest this is a good idea unless you take good precautions, care and keep your eyes open. When I was having a cold
drink and break beside church Iglesia Santa Lucia, a group of local boys started chatting to me. It wasn't a problem. I like to chat, but I
make sure I am aware of everyone etc. Next thing I know 4 policemen with guns drawn race around the corner and up to us. Nobody freaked out, I
didn't. I guess they thought I was getting robbed. I moved on quickly and continued my walk through the neighbourhood seeing streets with cool
houses, wall graffiti and street art. I ended up day 1 on Boulevard Santa Lucia, a nice park with an angel fountain. I visited Plaza Ana Maria
Campos, Plaza Guanipa Matos, Plaza Colon and Plaza Baralt.
On day 2, early in the morning I
asked a taxi to take me somewhere interesting and nice. He said I needed to see Vereda del Lago, a big park beside the lake. He dropped me off
there. But I didn't like this place, there was nothing to see, only people exercising and the lake. I think I had seen everything I had come
to Maracaibo to see this time.
3hrs Bus to Carora
Maracaibo has a lot to see, you just have to get out on foot and
explore the city. Of course you must be careful at all times. I headed back to my hotel across the road from the terminal and left town by 10am by bus 3hrs eastward to Carora