Caracas BABY!

Caracas is a city where the beauty and the beast-concept isn´t two sides of a coin; this coin has been melted and stirred and cooled down in a misfitting little vessel, and picked up again, buckled and twirled into a distorted expression of everything at once.

The fog hovering around mountainpeaks, slowly descending down the luscious deepgreen hillsides, scattered all over with the clustered chaos of makeshift barrios. Sometimes at a distant, with the highway piercing through the landscape, you´ll see them as one shed stacked upon another, towering and clinging in wild, random patterns; one patch of barrio followed by a patch of untouched green, then another settlement staking it´s claim with everything from corrugated tin to wooden shacks to more robust housing out of concrete and bricks.

As we´re closing in on the city center the hillsides and the barrios grow closer, I see the tangled bundles of electrical wires, houses with woodenpoles anchored in a steep concrete wall; houses seemingly suspended in mid air with the highway speeding along underneath. These are the arrival cities, the favelas, or barrios as they´re called here, satellite-villages only partly joint with the concrete body of the urban jungle.

Green Eyes, who is picking us up at the Simon Bolivár Airport, is obviuolsy anxious about getting us from there to the hotel in one piece. And I´ve heard the stories, but you always write some of it off to urban legends, exaggerations stemming from “he said-she said” and then just growing out of proportion. But her display of discomfort tells me that there is more truth to the grapevine than you´d like to think.

There is around sixty kidnappings a day here. It´s got one of the highest murder ratings in the world. It´s like everyone walks around with a degree in prison-rules; don´t get cornered and grow eyes in the back of your head. It´s paranoia normalized to culture.

Green Eyes doesn´t want to take a cab, because on the way in we have to pass through some of the more volatile areas, and cabs are more frequently subject to carjackings and kidnappings. So we take the public bus. Windows open, the tropical humidity whirling in as we set off on a highspeed chase on nothing but time really. Our final destination being a luxury hotel that´s safe enough for drop-offs. Apparently there isn´t much of safe zones at all in Caracas after dark, especially not on weekends. And this is friday afternoon and we still got a glimmer of daylight left.

But as we veer off the highway the mist has grown dense and the daylight grown dark; streetlights got that slightly distorted misty shine. We manuveur through narrow innercity streets, blocks of two-storey buildings with a rugged patina, interspersed with giant highrises, a barbershop has moved it´s business out on the curb, right next to a makeshift grill with a variety of different meats sizzling on a chicken-net. There´s voluminous christmas-decorations epilepsy-flashing from balconys secured in steelcages; a kind of paradoxical christmas spirit. Most of the windows are barred.

Later on, from our hotelroom, I look out on deserted streets and it´s no more than 8 p.m. The unspoken curfew. It´s a weird town, nervy, chaotic, violent and paranoid and at the same time, situated in a boiling-pot valley surrounded by these misty junglemountains, it´s one of the most beautiful places I´ve ever seen. And certainly one of the most intriguing.

Or, as Brown Eyes said, peering out through the window of the bus on these beauty-and-the-beast surroundings, wide-eyed, trying to take it all in: “What the fuck is this?”

It´s Caracas baby, CARACAS!

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