Extraordinary Cuba

Travels — 26.2.2015

Normally travel stories come easy but I didn’t really know how to describe Cuba or my feelings towards Cuba. I was in Cuba for ten days and had a lack of energy all the time – but in the same time I had some good experiences and once again I got a lot of perspective in life. I think this was my toughest trip so far. Haven’t been in many undeveloped countries yet.

Revolutional lady in red dress at Plaza de la Catedral in Havana in Cuba
Getting revolutionary in Cuba (Plaza de la Catedral, Havana)
Revolutionary red cloak on in front of the Havana skyline in Castillo del Morro
Castillo del Morro, built in 1500

Red cloak on in Castillo del Morro in Havana, the beautiful sun light puts me in spotlight and I make shadows on the wall

Cuban trademark, old American classic cars, blue car in Havana
Cuban trademark, old American classic cars

Havana and Cuban lifestyle

First we went to Havana. La Habana was fascinating and tiring in the same time. Already on the first night I was excited of all the rhythms – the great musical skills that the Cubans have. We had our first great Mojitos at the bar near our casa and the music made us stay for quite long even though we were tired after the travels in Mexico. In the night I also woke up to people singing No woman no cry on the streets and it sounded soooo good, wasn’t annoyed at all from that special noise! What I was also admiring the whole time in Cuba was art. There were so many art galleries on the streets where you could just pop by and see such great colorful pieces of art. Loved it and got to by some art to my future home…

Colourful houses and the roofs in Havana In Cuba
Roofs of Havana
Cuban music and drinks on a holiday in Trinidad
Oh the music and yummy drinks
The Cuban art shop is closed in Havana
Art prison or a gallery closed?
Busy streets of Havana, many old cars in the street scene
Busy Havana

Lively street life in Havana, the old glory shines through the ragged Cuban houses

We didn’t stay in the hotels the whole time. We chose to have the authentic accommodation – that is called Casa Particular – to support the locals and were happy to experience the real Cuba even though sometimes it was hard. Casas were cheap (25 cuc per night which is about 25 euros) basic but nice and their people were very friendly – but the big problem in Cuba was eating. Don’t expect a culinary heaven when going there!!! Don’t even expect much to eat – it’s really hard to find good food because they don’t have the ingredients – and still everything is very expensive and the trip will suck a lot of money out of you! The stupid US embargo has made things pretty impossible and it doesn’t look promising yet. And the products that Cuba produces self-sufficiently – the best part of them – goes straight to the hotels and tourists. All the meals that we got at the Casas were very small, always the same breakfast; fruits, two eggs and coffee. And in general it was only a couple of times when we got to eat stomach full in Cuba. I can honestly say that I felt hungry 80 percent of the time I was there and thus felt really tired. Probably it would have been a totally different experience at some hotel resort but I suffered and survived! And now I can at least be a slightly tiny bit more aware about hunger – and feel sad and angry and strange and thankful and plah… world is a shitty place – things are not even on this planet… It was pretty hard to see that a bit closer. And all the time it’s harder to accept all the injustice when getting more and more emotional by age.

The simple green room of a Casa Particular in Trinidad in Cuba
Casas were really basic, but as long as there’s no mold works for me!
Simple breakfast at the Casa Particular in Trinidad in Cuba
Every morning we knew what to expect for breakfast
Observer on the street in Havana, vegetable cart and young couple making up
Me observing and man trying to figure out which onion looks better
Men waiting in a line of a local kiosk in Havana in Cuba
Men waiting in a line of a local kiosk
The hungry dog is digging the rubbish bin in Trinidad in Cuba
A dog is hungry too
Cuban leather cap, souvenir for myself in Havana
My kind of cap! Shopping and supporting the local handcraft
Bus for the locals in Cuba, tourists travelled with an air-conditioned Chinese buses
This was the bus ride of the Cubans, the tourists and us had an air-air-contioned normal, I guess Chinese made, bus

Hey about nice and liquid things! If food was shit, drinks in stead were yummy! Mmmm coffee, Cristal and Bucanero beers, all the rum based drinks. I drank the best Daiquiri ever in Cuba. Could have drank that like juice. So good. And now I notice that in Europe they have this totally own way of making the drinks – it’s not the real style and it’s pretty stupid actually: In Europe (or at least in Malta and Finland) the Mojitos and Daiquiris etc. are full of crushed ice, and they don’t have taste at all. But here the drinks were so tasteful. Just the right amount of way too good rum and just a bit of ice. No wonder Hemingway was an alcoholic staying in Cuba and liked it there hahaa. Havana used to be the “Coastal Las Vegas” on the 40s when it was the hot spot for gangsters, brothers and gambling. Sinatra was performing there for the bosses, money was made to rain. Until the revolution in 59.

Cuban drinks and the ingredients, mojito, daiquiri and cubanito
Cuban drinks
The best Daiquiri ever at El Floridita in Trinidad, also Hemingway knows it
The face tells it: The Best Daiquiri Ever! (at El Floridita)
Cuba Libre that is rum and coke and a Havanan handmade cigar
Still life with rum and a Havanan cigar
Cuban Cerveza Cristal is a crispy beer, drinking at the terrace in Santa Clara
Soda fresh looking Cristal beer design. The taste so crispy and good!
1 up for the la vida loca, girl stands in front of graffiti in Havana in Cuba
La Vida Loca – Life has definitely been crazy in Cuba

It was strange in Cuba. There were celebrating signs of 55 years’ revolution anniversaries and whatta big Fidel and Che hype. It’s hard to get it. Ok Cuba got its wings thanks for these guys but when there have been so many problems; deprivation and dissatisfaction after Soviet Union crushing down, how did it stay like this. It seems that the folk of this nation are really disciplined. It felt really safe and I was wondering how it is so, even though there are a lot of poor people – our host was telling that the sentences are very high. Ok. In Cuba and in their socialism there are good points. No one is homeless. Everyone gets an apartment, free health care and pension. But in the same time when the state owns everything and everyone is working for 26 dollars per month and when there’s only one philosophy without the word of freedom – it is really hard for me to get how everything/everybody is in order and has been so for over a half century. Anyway it’s very appreciable to see the Cuban’s joy in life, it is really shown on their smiley faces.

Fidel Castro quotes are common on the walls in the streets of Cuba
Fidel quotation everywhere

Cuban street vendor black woman and the street life in Havana

Cuban men are sitting on the door step in Trinidad, funny friends, one has chicken on his hat, one smokes Cuban cigar

Men shaking hands in the streets of Havana, Cuba iconical old car is parked without tires

I considered Cubans very helpful and friendly – and even though it is said that the customer service attitude is bad in Cuba I didn’t feel so. In general I sometimes had very annoyed moments and I got very tired in Havana (but not in the smaller towns): sometimes people really were trying to sell their help, or what ever, no matter what. They really can talk you so much that your head starts spinning. After getting very tired on the first days I started to be passive and tried to avoid all the contacts. Even though I’m not too much of a cream ass the dirtiness of Havana bothered me as well. The streets were so dusty and the houses looked rugged. All these things got better after leaving the three million people city. Besides Havana we went to Trinidad and Santa Clara.

Laundry on the clothes line in the middle of a messy inner yard in Trinidad in Cuba

Havana Club rum and empty bottles in Trinidad in Cuba
Somebody’s been depressed?

Trinidad – colonial colourful cute little town

Trinidad is a cute colonial town with a lot of colorful houses and cobblestone streets – so clean compared to Havana! Many friends of mine had suggested visiting the town and they weren’t wrong, I liked it there. We had a really nice Casa with a superb service: they booked us the taxis and trips and the Cuban Elvis style host man Gustava brought us some homemade drinks. During the days we strolled along the town or went to a nice Playa Ancon beach, 15 km.s from the town by old cool American cars. We also had a trip in the nature: hiked in the forest, passed by the waterfalls, swam in the chilly cold fresh water springs and saw humming birds again! Sweet. And also a big hairy tarantella! We also had an interesting trip to the sugar valleys where the slavery had been everyday back in 1600. There was a high tower in the middle of the sugar cane fields where the Spanish colonist had been watching their slaves brought from Africa doing their job in the heat. They bastards – luckily the slavery was forbidden in 1800! Because of the original natives, white and black – interestingly in Cuba you can see a great mix of different looks. Pretty hot actually!

A street in Trinidad with colourful houses

Mint coloured house in Trinidad in Cuba, it's a match, my dress is same colour
It’s a match

A tourist in red bikinis in front of a red old American car in Trinidad in Cuba

By the beach in Trinidad in Cuba, sun bridge reflecting over the water

In red polka dot bikinis on the Playa Ancon beach in Trinidad in Cuba
A player on Playa Ancon
Warm wind and air blows through my hair on the Play Ancon beach in Trinidad in Cuba
starbucks drake hands???

Trekking in the nature in Cuba, nature lover's dream

Sun comes in a cave in Cuba

National bird of Cuba, Cuban trogon in a forest
National bird of Cuba – Cuban trogon

A waterfall in Cuba

Very chilly swimming in this fresh water spring in Cuba
Very chilly swimming in this fresh water spring
Valle de los Ingenios, sugar cane valley near Trinidad in Cuba
Valle de los Ingenios – sugar cane valley
Sights from Torre de Manaca-Iznaga, no more slaves on the sugarcane fields, this is near Trinidad in Cuba
Sights from Torre de Manaca-Iznaga – no more slaves!!!

Fly off from Santa Clara!

The flight to Toronto was from Santa Clara, so it was a one night stay there. There we had our best meal in Cuba at “Che’s place”. Everything was Che this and Che that in Santa Clara, because in “modern” university city Che and his guerillas fought the last fight in 58 and the dictator Batista escaped the country. Che’s grave was also there on the revolution square guarded by the soldiers. All in all it was definitely an interesting trip to Cuba. It made a lot of why questions one being why the hell did this this Argentinean born wild mind fight and die as “Che = mate” for other countries. I’m not sure if I will ever come back to rough but beautiful Cuba. Well I still would have the Havanan cigar to try out… Lets see how will the country be in next 50 years…

Che Guevara statue and the blue sky in Santa Clara in Cuba
By his profession Che was a doctor – but apparently that was a way too ordinary task for him…
Plaza de la Revolucion Ernesto Guevara and Che's grave in Santa Clara in Cuba
Plaza de la Revolucion Ernesto Guevara – and Che’s grave below
Che Guevara was popular and his ideologies and quotes are everywhere in Cuba
Che hype was everywhere

Cuba – quick facts

• The biggest island of Caribbean, 104 945 km2: If you gonna travel you need time. Bus system is quite good, but it is a bit of a process to get the old fashioned tickets.
• What kind of holiday are you after? In hotels it will probably be easier and much more relaxing and you get to eat. But to experience the authentic Cuba stay in the casas – or at least go to visit elsewhere if you are going to touristic Varadero.
• Cuba is not too cheap unless you find a good deal at some resort. Staying at casas is cheap ( • Best time to travel is probably during the winter when it’s warm but not too hot.
• Cuba is safe and people are friendly, they talk Spanish. Some are good in English too.
• Cuba is a nice place for the music and art lovers. It’s also cool to experience the old American cars, the very interesting history and all it’s uniqueness that the land has.

Church tower of Trinidad at the sunset, orange sky
Church tower of Trinidad at the sunset
Plaza Mayor and the colonial style sighthound statues in Trinidad in Cuba
Plaza Mayor and the colonial style sighthound statues
Horses are part of the street scene in Cuba, horse and the owner in Trinidad
Horses are everywhere in the street scene
Photographer Antti Kareinen shooting photos on the Escambray mountains in Cuba
On Escambray mountains
Rainy streets in Havana
Rainy Havana

A man with the vegetable cart in Havana in Cuba

In the old car in Cuba and the night is falling
In the old car

The adventure couple, a photographer and a writer, in the old car in Cuba

Black and white photo of Havana reflects the poverty and shortage in Cuba
Everyday play
A Cuban home in Havana and the beautiful metal gate
Cuban home
Colourful houses on a street in Trinidad in Cuba, the pastel colours are beautiful
Trinidad

A palm tree from the frog perspective in Cuban nature

Onion vendor on a street in Havana in Cuba

The lush and green way from Trinidad to the mountains
From Trinidad to the mountains
A tiny lizard at the Casa Particular in Cuba
Casa pet
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