Cuba March 2012

Flight from Munich to Varadero, then a road trip to Havana, onwards to Viñales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad de Cuba and back to Varadero, followed by a return flight to Munich.

At the beginning of 2012 me and Maja started planning a trip. That would be our first trip somewhere far away. We have been to Greece and Spain a few time and once to Tunisia, but this time we decided to go somewhere exotic. Our first decision was to go to the Carribean. At first, we talked about going to Honduras, but later, we chose Cuba. And we did not regret it :)

In January we booked our airplane tickets and reserved one night in a hotel in Varadero. Our plan was to stay one night in Varadero and then somehow get to Havana. In Cuba, it is best to book so called casas particulares, which Cubans rent to tourists. It is basically a room with a bathroom and sometimes even with a refrigerator. Your room is situated in the owners house. The prices are about 30 to 35 CUC per room (this is how much we paid). CUC (Cuban convertible) is the money that tourists use and is of same value as American dollar. You need to be careful not to get their national money, which is worth far less. Anyway, when we landed in Varadero, we had to find our way to the hotel. We studied Spanish for about two weeks prior to our departure to Cuba, which was just about enough for me to ask the bus driver if he drives to our hotel. After about 35 hours of being awake, we were so tired we went right to bed when we arrived to the hotel. Due to jet lag we got up at around 4 am the next morning, went to the beach and watched the sunrise. After breakfast we took a taxi to the Viazul bus station where we tried to find our best way to Havana. Some Cuban approached us offering a ride. We refused at first as we entered the bus station to ask for the bus prices to Havana. Then we returned back to the parking place and asked the taxi drivers for how much they can drive us to Havana. Finally we made a deal with a young taxi driver, who had an unmarked taxi, to drive us to Havana for 20 CUC. Havana is approximately 150 km from Varadero. Beside us, there was a young boy and an older woman who sat in front with the driver, me and Maja sat in the back seats. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical about the taxi, but I let it go after a few views through the taxi window as we were driving to Havana, all until we were pulled over by the police. The first thing that crossed my mind was, that the taxi is unmarked, so I prepared my and Maja's passport and hoped for the best. When the policeman came to the taxi, he only talked to the driver, who gave him some money and we were back on our way. The policeman didn't even look at me and Maja :)

The taxi driver dropped us off in Havana on the right address, which was kind of hard to explain to him in our poor and practically nonexistent Spanish. In the casa particular a very hospitable owner Loli showed us her house and described Havana to us, also she recommended some good and not overpriced restaurants. For the next three days we enjoyed Havana, met a few people (even one Slovenian who stayed in the same casa as we:) ) drank a few mojitos and piña coladas and then continued our trip to Viñales.

We liked Viñales as soon as we exited the bus. The casa (where we stayed in Viñales) owner's wife waited for us on the bus stop. About a day before we departed for Viñales we had Loli call the casa particular in Viñales. I got the contact information from my sister's friends who were in Cuba a few years before. The woman brought us to the casa, where her husband was already waiting for us. He introduced himself as señor Juanito Mojito de casa Mojito. We liked him immediately. He asked us what we wanted for dinner, and because we had our anniversary that day we decided to have the lobster (which was probably the best meal I had ever had). Before dinner we went horseback riding with a guide, who looked like a Spanish soap opera actor. We stopped at the tobacco drying shed and also in the caves which had a small underground river. Maja took a dip in it. As I have mentioned, the dinner was top notch, as were the several mojitos that señor Juanito made for us. The next day I found out why cowboys in westerns always walk funny :). Viñales was great and we swore that if we ever come back to Cuba we will definitely stop in Viñales at casa Mojito.

Moving on to Cienfuegos by bus.

Cienfuegos did not really impress us, so I don't have much to say about it :) - a small town by the sea. We stayed by the beach mostly, and then we continued our trip to Trinidad de Cuba.

Trinidad de Cuba was an interesting cowboy village. There was a bus which drove to a beautiful beach, so we went there a couple of times. We saw for the first time how the Cuban government claims the money earned by the grocery stores and such. An armored vehicle stops by the store and about four soldiers carrying heavy weapons jump out. Two of them waited by the door and two of them emptied the cash register, then all of them moved to another store. Interesting, I must say.

After Trinidad we went back to Varadero for a three day relaxation by the beach. It was a resort for which the Cubans say it is not really Cuba, and now I know why - Americans and Russians everywhere, filling their stomachs with all-inclusive food and alcoholic beverages. Since that was not as interesting to us, we spent our time reading by the beach.

After three days we flew back to Munich and then drove back to Ljubljana.