Havana, Cuba

Trip Start Apr 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 18, 2006

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Cuba was the first country that I was worried about the passport control, and it was justified. It took almost 2 hours to clear customs. First of all the immigration wanted to know my life history, and that of my family's (sorry if you get a knock your door from the Cubans family) all in very bad Spanish (to be fair to me Tanya is fluent in Spanish and when she phoned Cuba for me she didn't understand their accent). Then I had to get my bag inspected because their x-ray detected a bottle, which turned out to be my jar of vegemite. I tried to convince the 2 guys to taste it, but after they smelt it they weren't having a bar of it. I guess you either love it or hate it.

The first thing I noticed about Cuba in the airport and the taxi ride from the airport was the propaganda everywhere. Billboards and adverts of people smiling and waving Cuban flags at Fidel Castro. This is something that I saw everywhere on my travels through Cuba.

As those of you who were on my mothers e-mail looking for me, I spent the first week in Cuba not feeling too good, which I think affected the way I felt about the first few places I went. Even though I was sick, I still tried to keep to my plans and see some towns in Cuba. I found it pretty difficult though because the buses are more difficult than most places I've been and people weren't terrible helpful. Anyway I managed to travel to Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus. All three towns were fairly similar - old colonial towns with a nice town square, but not much else. In reality I think I could have spent an hour in each and been happy (admittedly I was doing the bare minimum and sleeping the rest of the time). Instead it took me 8 days with busses being full and a little stint in the hospital.

After that I felt alot better and enjoyed the town of Vinales alot more. Cuba really has a beautiful countryside, with Vinales being my favourite. Its in a green valley surrounded by farms and villages, with pincushion mountains or hills popping up everywhere. I took a tour of the surrounding valley with a tour guide that spoke pretty good English, and it turned out to be one of the highlights. Other than explaining about the hills, he also explained how socialism worked in Cuba. We just sat in the tobacco drying huts (to escape the heat) and discussed what life in Cuba was like. This was the reason I wanted to learn Spanish, but I ended up getting the story in English. It was very interesting to hear a Cubans view on life, the revolution, socialism, the US embargo etc. Definitely worth the trip, just for that.

Finally I visited Havana, which I decided to leave to last. I had heard that its possible to spend weeks there and not get bored, and how true that is! Havana is a very interesting city, where everybody warrants a look (OK the girls especially), every street scene and plaza (of which there are many) warrants a photo and every building and car tells a story. Unfortunately I only had 4 days in Havana, so I set about reading my LP and organising each of my days to try and see everything. So for the next 4 days I walked Havana flat, visiting museums (the Museo de la Revolution and the Museo de la Ciudad were the highlights), visiting cathedrals and climbing their spires, sitting in the plazas and people watching drinking coffee and the odd Havana club, walking through the barrios and going into many of the other old and beautiful buildings that Havana has.

Alas it was time to leave Havana, and after a flight delay and night in Havana airport it was time to leave and start heading home.....
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