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Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela: Rich in Culture and Contrast

By Mona Gonzales

Caracas was once a Spanish settlement and became wealthy historically for raising cacao or chocolate. By the 20th century, it became an economic center for its oil resource. And yet this city, the largest in Venezuela, is marked for its contrasts as well.

The weather is temperate, and the landscape is lush. The city is overpopulated and there are traffic jams and slums. The contrast between the rich and the poor is distinct, as is the fact that it is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world--yet many people from Europe and America continue to come here to make it their home. In other words, Caracas, Venezuela is pretty much what you would expect from a third world country but with a unique charm that seems to counterbalance its negative traits.

In terms of your safety in Caracas, do as you would anywhere else. Avoid the dangerous areas, and try to blend in. This will be difficult for a Caucasian but some things you can do are to keep cash and important papers in safe places, and leave expensive items, whether a watch or jewelry, at home. With the right safety precautions you can appreciate Caracas, Venezuela with peace of mind.

Here are some interesting things to do and places to visit during your trip to Caracas:

Shopping

Caracas is a great place for shopping, but don't expect bargains. If you have limited time, Centro Comercial Ciudad Tamanaco is near the airport and has over 500 stores, fashionable and expensive. Another option is Edificio La Francia near tree shaded Plaza Bolivar where museums, restaurants and other touristy shops congregate. Edificio La Francia has some 90 jewelry stores with precious gems, silver and gold. For the country's best in crafts and pottery, try El Hatillo which has a groovy atmosphere along with other things like clothing and jewelry.

Museums

Casa Bolivar is the restored birth home of Simon Bolivar who liberated Venezuela from Spain. Now a museum located in Esquina de San Jacinto a Traposos Caracas, 1060-A, Bolivar's memorabilia and historical items are found here. Also recommended are the Museum of Colonial Art which has period fountains, furniture and arts from historical times, and the Fine Arts Museum for its international and Venezuelan art.

Churches

Iglesia de San Francisco was named after St. Francis of Assisi and is a national monument as the burial site of Simon Bolivar. In front of the Church is the famous Ceiba de San Francisco, a 150 year old tree. Another church worth a visit is Catedral de Caracas which has its orginal 17th century fašade. A third option, though not a church, is a former sacristy and ecclesiastical prison called the Museo Sacra. Here you will see religious statues and costumes that date back to colonial times, religious relics and an ossuary where the remains of the religious community are kept.

Parks

The Parque Nacional El Avila, at 7,400 feet high, offers a great city view and there are wonderful trails for trekking. Another unique park is Parque del Este which was renamed Parque del Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda. There is a small zoo here and, overall in the midst of the city, this is a wonderful and surprising piece of green. The Parque Central is an art and culture hub with museums, cinemas and the Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex which from the 52nd floor offers a fantastic 360 degree aerial view of Caracas.

About the author

Mona Gonzalez writes for Briefcases Direct, a website that offers a luxury briefcase selection direct from the manufacturer. She is a veteran writer of some 30 years in her country, the Philippines and has covered a range of topics from business to lifestyle and travel. Mona grew up travelling and studying at schools in Europe, the United States and Asia as the daughter of a diplomat. She later settled again in the Philippines with her husband, daughter, and three dogs.

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