By Anna Katina
Peeeeeps! Hello! It’s Sunday, December 30th and I promised you to publish my trip to Cuba before 2019, so I will keep my promise!! 😀 Where should I start… Cuba was an amazing experience this Summer. I travelled a lot this year but did not publish any travel posts… Shame on me. And my external hard drive broke so I cannot publish Croatia, Tokyo, the Belgian Coast, Monaco, Roma, London 2018 anymore… But it’s a good lesson – next time, I will publish everything as soon as I’m home. but I could save the photos from Cuba right before my hard drive touched the ground. So let’s go!
We started our journey in Havana. Havana has very impressive buildings! There is a big contrast between the great old buildings, colorful cars and real life. But it’s beautiful how the old times have been conserved through time. It reminds me of Venezia, where you have the feeling that time has stopped. I loved being able to do street photography here. What I could observe is that the citizens here don’t throw anything away. The big difference to us, we are used to throw away anything which can be replaced easily. We don’t have time to fix things, instead we prefer to replace them. And this my friends, is sad. In Havana, people fix things. You can see below, they fix their chairs outside, beds, because a chair is still useful and enjoyable even with a little plaster. Think about it.
So I will let you scroll down a bit, enjoy the impressions. 🙂
I loved walking through the streets and taking photos of everything – people, buldings, dogs, benches,… The colours of Havana are so inspiring!
° comfiest sandals from Kauf Dich Glücklich
Havana is touristic but its citizens prefer to live in their old, broken houses than moving outside the city where they are placed in apartment blocks. Also, three generations of families often live in one space and the largest, nicest rooms are often rented out to the tourists! Some of my friends said, they stayed in local houses, we went for a hotel (Hotel Parque Central Havana), located at the intersection of Prado and Neptuno and in front of a vintage car taxi station, awesome for pictures. Yes, you should take a ride with a vintage car but wear a cap or hat and put some suncream on your back and neck!!
Why does Cuba have all these colourful old cars?
“Of all the things that have shaped modern Cuba, arguably the biggest isn’t Fidel Castro, but rather America’s answer to him.
Following the revolution in 1959, which saw Castro assume power, Cuba began to trade sugar for oil with the Soviet Union. The US, which had imported around 3.5 million tonnes of Cuban sugar every year, and which was deep in the throes of the Cold War, wasn’t too keen on this development. So it was that on this day in 1960, Washington imposed a trade embargo which has effectively sealed off the island nation from the rest of the world ever since. President Eisenhower first banned American companies from exporting anything except food and medicine to Cuba, and also placed any foreign ship that traded with the country on a blacklist”. – Carkeys
° total The Place look
Havana is the city of rum. You will taste a lot of mojitos here! They’re different from European mojitos – here, people don’t add lemon and crushed ice. Instead you get the cocktail with ice cubes and a few mint leaves. Still very good. Don’t eat (raw) fish in Cuba, we had a sick bird on board during three days;). For the rest, no problem with food or drinks, even with ice. PS. I let you discover the Bacardi logo in the city… 😀 We saw beautiful churches in the centrum. Our guide said: in Cuba we don’t believe in a religion, we believe in a God. Interesting thought!
If you don’t have plans for the evening, you have to see the Tropicana cabaret show! I loved it!! Beautiful costumes and dancers, also the singers do live performances, not playback! You get a bottle of rum and a cigar for free with your ticket!
The photo of the butcher below is my favorite. I printed it and it is hanging in a frame. I don’t know – the way that butcher looked at me in his environment fascinates me. It’s very hot outside and tropical, put on comfy shoes or sandals, shorts and a tee, you won’t need more!
Cuba has what is known as a planned economy, most people working are actually employed by the government. As the salary is too low, people do other things beside often linked to the black market. So you could see people selling things on the street and you knew, it may be their second, non official job.
We made a day trip to discover nature around Havana. Viñales Valley is a very impressive region with green hills that make you want to get lost inside. Our guide brought us to a tobacco farm where we got a little demonstration of how cigars are made. Indeed, Tobacco and other crops are cultivated on the bottom of the valley, mostly by traditional agriculture techniques. We visited small villages around and ended our excursion with the Mural of Prehistory located in the valley of Dos Hermanas you can see in the photos. It is painted on a stone of one of the elevations and shows the evolution of life in a natural sense of Cuba. The artist’s name is Leovigildo González Morillo. For me, a nice stop but not mandatory.
° Festival T-shirt from Lee
The food in Cuba was good but “boring” which did not bother me but I was curious why every village and city had the same menu. “There was nothing wrong with the food, and it was plentiful for tourists, but it was generally quite plain and unimaginative. Meals are typically a choice of pork, chicken, lobster or fish with rice and beans. There are always plantains in some form—often as chips.” I’ve read an interesting article about this topic which you can read here.
We made another stop in Cienfuegos, a cute little village our guide recommended us to spend the night at. To be honest, a short stay would be totally enough so I don’t recommend you to stay for the night but to continue toward Trinidad the same day! You can walk along the sea and visit Valle’s palace for example!
“ Twelve kilometers northwest of Trinidad, the Manaca-Iznaga Tower continues to watch over the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) as it did over 180 years. The tower was built in 1816, when Cuban architecture was characterized by eclecticism. The seven-story building is 45 meters high and is crowned by a watchtower from where sugarcane plantations could be seen.
According to experts, the bell on top of the tower was used to call the slaves to work and rest, and to announce prayers to the Holy Virgin in the morning, midday and afternoon. It was also used to send a warning in case of fire and runaway slaves. The watchtower was an excellent place to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the valley. For a long time, it was the most beautiful and tallest tower in the country, and the best place to watch the movement of slaves working in the sugar factories in Valle de los Ingenios.
The origin of the Iznaga Tower also has a good dose of legend, linked to the Iznaga brothers, who were rich landowners and sugar mill proprietors. One of the stories says that the tower was built as a result of a dispute between the two brothers, who were in love with the same young woman, so they decided to build a structure whose length in meters would define the winner of the woman’s heart. Another story says that Alejo had ordered to build the tower to confine his wife, who had been unfaithful to him. An unequivocal symbol of the region, the Iznaga Tower continues to be a sign of the village’s wealth as a result of the development of the sugar industry and trade.” – Wikipedia.
Our guide told us that slaves who did not obey were forced to jump from the tower to frighten the others.
Before arriving in the heart of Trinidad, we also visited the Che Guevara musem, a botanical garden and made several stops to drink a mojito or Pinacolada (we had a driver;)) ). The best pinacoladas I’ve ever tasted because here they use fresh coconut milk, so yummy!!
In Trinidad, people let their front doors open to let strangers visit their houses for a stay. They put photos of their families at the entrance so that visitors can get an inside of their private lives. They also dress up to welcome tourists, look at this beautiful lady below!
We spent a night in Trinidad before heading toward Cayo Santa Maria! In Trinidad you can do a lot of things – we stayed in the colonial town centre and did not see the beach which apparently is beautiful! Here you can visit a local pottery, the Museum of Colonial Architecture or climb to the top of the bell tower! On the road again, we stopped at the Che Guevara Mausoleum, a memorial in Santa Clara.
CAYO SANTA MARIA – Carribean sea…!
And then, after a whole week of exploring it was time for the sea.
Arriving in Cayo Santa Maria…
We stayed at the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria hotel and I did absolutely nothing except walking down the beach, eat mango (bought on the road) and sunbath. At night, I loved to discover little monsters… and bingo – we saw a huge frog, crab and snail! 😀 The hotel was nice, I loved the bar where they perfectly cut my mango every morning and made the best cocktails. When I was motivated, I got up at 7 to take a long walk on the sea. The sea…. I’ve never seen such a beautiful sea, crystal clear and turquoise – WOW. And the softest whitest sand! I don’t have many pictures because all I was doing was chilling, eating, drinking, dancing at night, sleeping and taking some selfies in between.
I loved this trip and I can only recommend it to you!
I hope this article inspired you & was useful for you! Let me know below and if you have more information or stories to share about this country, please share them as well 🙂