World Travelblog

Travel info, diary, and travel links from all over the world..

February 11, 2008

Different Cuba!

Cuba, the country of differences.

We got up and ready to have enough time to pack our last stuff, and then head off to the harbour on Isla Mujeres where we took the ferry to Gran Puerto Juarez, where we got to the airport by taxi (250,- Pesos)

We had little problems getting on the air plane, but they have some weird planes!

Instead of using a air condition unit on the plane, I think they are using some kind of freezing gas. When we got on the plane, they turned it on, and it looked like it was smoke everywhere!

If I were afraid to fly, this would probably have scared me half to death! :p Funny to see the looks on peoples faces, though.

1 hour and 15 minutes later we were in Havana, Cuba!

What a difference, I must say!

The first thing we noticed were of course the cars, I am guessing at least 2/3 of the cars here are from before Castro took over, 50`s models most of them.

But what surprised me more was that there were actually quite a lot of nicer, newer cars there as well!

Anyway, I had a student friend that was living in Havana at the time, and she helped us find a hotel nearby where she lived. So Hotel Lido was our first night there, and we weren't impressed!

We got a room with no working television, the curtains where wet, just as if someone had just cleaned them, but they weren't clean, they were dirty and mouldy!

Other than that, the room was all right, the beds were actually kind of comfy.

We went out to eat, and asked the hotel for directions, as we just arrived, and had no clue what to find, they showed us to a little «Casa Particulare» right on the corner of the block where we`re living. The food was not so great, the prices were high (10 Cuc) and they really did not seem so happy to help us. We hoped this was just a one time thing, and that not everywhere in Cuba was like this.. But how wrong were we? :p

We met up with my friend, Marte and she showed me and Merethe around the centre, which was both beautiful and sad at the same time..

How all these fantastic buildings can just fall apart, all because of the government, was not a pretty sight!

The next day, we walked around town to look at the sights, and so many important historical places are in Havana, you have the great wall that once surrounded Havana, and kept it safe from pirates and other bad guys, then the bars where Ernest Hemingway frequented, and not to mention the forts, the cannons, the big squares, book markets full of Che Guevara books, and the old cigar ladies sitting in the streets waiting to be taken picture of together with you (we fell for it! ) The lady we are with is said to be the same one that is in the Lonely Planet guidebook for Cuba.. She was very colourful and popular!

We also changed hotels, this time to a Casa Particulare that was on the other side of the street from Hotel Lido.. This place was not so nice..

After a night there, we found out the beds were hard as rocks, the bathroom smelled like septic and the air condition was noisy as hell! We decided quickly that this was not the place for us, and changed to Hotel Lincoln the next nights.. Lincoln was not so bad compared to the other places we lived in, we got a suite for a nice price (75 CUC) per night, and then we had an extra room where my mother could sleep! Oh! We also had a television with lots of channels! (Most of them were in Spanish, but actually a few that were in English too!)

Nice place with a nice view from the roof! The food is still nothing to brag about, not even at the Hotel. We decided to try out some of the more “fancy” places and went to Gran Parque Hotel, and this place is a place I normally would not eat, mostly because prices in such a fancy place normally go through the roof! But the only thing expensive about the hotel were it`s rooms.. The food was great! The menu had a huge variety of good food, and I was not disappointed a single time!

We even had our own personal pianist playing for us, and we could ask for just about any song!

So if you want to eat well, and not too expensive, go for one of the two restaurants there!

If you crave a nice lunch, they serve good food in the hotel lobby as well!

We went on a guided day trip to Viñales, and there we visited the cigar factory, the cigar plantation, went to have a nice lunch on the countryside, and then we went through some beautiful caves in the area, where they even had boats to drive us through the underground rivers that came from the limestone mountains in the area.

Later we took a look at the famous Viñales valley, and the gigantic mural on the mountainside (Castro`s idea)

Not a bad trip!

Other than this, Havana was kind of grey, and we soon got bored with just walking around looking at buildings falling apart, people begging on the streets, and just seeing all these creative people being suppressed by an old man that probably has not seen the outside of his house in quite a while, if he has, he must have quite some conscience, if this was his vision in 1959, he has failed completely! How could anyone not care about how the people of Cuba live? Ok, they may have great health and school systems, but these things are not important if they have no nice place to live!

We talked to a couple of Cubans and they said the only way to get extra money (they get 30 CUC per month, doctors get a whole 40 CUC per month) is to get extra money from the tourists, either by doing them favours, or trying to hassle them.. So sad!

They are hoping for change, but know it will take a loooong time for anything to happen, they are hoping maybe the government will learn something from China, as China has more to offer its people in the “New Communism”

The last days we spent walking around Havana looking at the markets, the people, and for a nice place to eat (not so lucky with that one)

I can recommend Cuba to people that are not afraid of leaving their hotels, going outside the big city, to really see how the people are living!

Oh, and it probably helps if you speak Spanish! You gotta learn to listen to the Cuban Spanish as it is really really fast! Compared to Mexico, it is almost like another language!