Merida is one of the few towns I’ve heard of in Venezuela that has a number of hotels and things for visitors to do. I don’t think Venezuela is tourism-oriented, so I really don’t know what to expect. At least we know there are hotels and places to eat and that’s all we need really. We wander out one day for something to eat and wander down to Plaza de Bolivar which seems to be the heart of the city.
It’s a Sunday morning and I listen to the church bells of the Cathedral here on the square.
We wander over to the Plaza Las Heriocas which celebrates the woman of this country.
The plaza is next to the gondola station and until the gondola was closed a few years ago, you could ride up to the peak of Pico Espejo more than 5000 above the city. But sadly it’s not open right now, having been closed a few years ago for needed renovations. I catch a few glimpses of the peak, Pico Espejo (Pico Bolivar is somewhere above and behind it but out of sight) between clouds from a cemetery and churchyard just down the street.
Today is the championship of the World Cup and I see flags all over the city making it seem as though there’s almost an equal amount of support for Germany as there is for Argentina. Locals play soccer in a field next to block housing. It’s a relaxed and fun day and I enjoy watching the locals being the same.
The city is covered in graffiti. Some is incredibly beautiful and some is just plain old trashy spray painting. There’s a lot of it with a message about peace and politics. And there is plenty of the ever-present Chavez message here.
As we wander through the streets, we pass two men sitting on a step enjoying the warm sun. One smiles and says “hello” in English and I respond with a “Buenos dias” to be respectful and use his language. He smiles and says “Welcome” and I thank him. I’m not sure why it moves me, but it does. I appreciate his warm smile and the effort he makes to speak my language, and the genuineness of his welcome. I’ve been so paranoid about Venezuela, and mildly on the defense. And while I think that was needed, this one small interaction reminds me how much I, and we all, need to look beyond the politics and posturing to the individuals we meet. At our hearts, I think we are all much more alike than we are different. The majority of the people in this country are working hard to make a life for their families and to be happy and healthy. In the big picture the governments of our countries may be very far apart on things, but maybe we as people are not.
We stop off at Coromoto’s on the other end of Centro. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most flavors of ice cream for an ice cream store, something like 800. They aren’t all in stock but I do get to see some strange flavors in the case – ham and cheese, tequila, meat, avocado, etc. And on the wall they list flavors they have made in the past – Viagra is among them, lol. I opt for a cone with a small scoop of coconut and a small scoop of arroz con leche. And it’s heavenly. Now back to the room to see who wins…