Cuba is one big open air musuem. Not just because of the brilliant old cars still on the road, which never ceases to delight us, but also because of the many revolutionary slogans and portraits you see painted on signs and buildings along the way. A very nice addition to the real museums about the revolution, like the one in Havana and like the little museum in Playa Giron, on the Bay of Pigs, about the attack that took place there. After we left Viñales, we spent two days there (on the Bay, not in the museum). The longer you are in Cuba, or rather, the longer you’re traveling, the more Americans look like vilains. Because they came out to help fight the deciding battle in 1902, after the Cubans had fought the Spaniards for over 30 years and almost defeated them, they thought they could base military personnel in Cuba permanently. And when Castro ended the regime of American backed dictator Batista, they tried to get rid of him in many ways. Among others, by having an army of some 1400 mercenaries attack at the Bay of Pigs. Even though Castro and his friends’ ideas were so sympathetic in the beginning: on the 20 item action list they produced shortly after their victory in 1959 they did not only put the obvious stuff like ‘land reform’ or the useful like a literacy campaign (that was very succesfully executed, by the way), but also cultural items like ‘promoting Cuban film’ and ‘hosting the World Fair in Cuba’. I’m not sure if they managed that last item, but I think it’s very cute…
Of course the revolution has a nasty downside and that is all too obvious when you travel. The highway in Cuba (there’s only one) is special. It’s about 2 x 3 lanes wide (hard to tell exactly as there are hardly any lines), it’s full of cracks and potholes, en there’s hardly anyone on it. If you don’t count bicycles, pedestrians, and ox or horse carts, you practically have the road to yourself. Because so few people own a car, there are many hitchhikers. But because there’s so few cars, they spend a lot of time waiting for a ride…
Roberto, a lobster fisherman who travels every 10 days from Cienfuegos to Trinidad, over 80 km, had been waiting by the side of the road for five hours when we picked him up. He works for 7 days, and then has 3 days off. Beyond that schedule he does not have any holidays. The company he works for is – of course – state-owned and he earns less than 15 euros per month. But he does get 10 kilos of lobster every month, which he tries to sell to local restaurants for some extra cash. His wife works in a cigar factory and crochets tablecloths and scarves in her spare time which she sells on the market to make some extra money. They gave us some very good coffee after we delivered Roberto to his home (his father works on a coffee plantation). And our biggest problem is that you can’t get a decent cappuchino anywhere in Cuba… and that’s how we learn to put things into perspective.
Ironically enough, after a trip around the world of almost 15 months, we are now in a very touristy all-inclusive resort (including plastic bracelet, yuk!) in Varadero. The last four days of our trip… our opinion about the Cuban food & hospitality scene wasn’t very positive until now, but fortunately the Blau Varadero has rightfully earned its high position on Tripadvisor. This hotel and its bars and buffets are a lot better than what we’ve seen so far. Elsewhere, the best dessert on the menu was ‘mermelada con queso’. That means: jam with cheese. And a little dollop of jam with a slice of cheese on a saucer is exactly what you get when you order it! Tourists who ordered it asked for some bread to go with it… because that’s not even a part of it! 🙂 This place we don’t mind spending some time at, they even have a small library with fresh books for me to read and sunbeds in the shade on a beautiful beach. And other than that, we will be mentally preparing ourselves – while sipping a mojito or two – for the trip home. By now we look forward to spending a little time at home. To see everyone again, hang out around the house… And then: rapidly organising our 18.000+ pictures into photo albums and start planning the next trip!
Ulli & Phine
well, we hope you enjoy the last few days of your incredible trip around the world. We certainly enjoyed reading your blog and following your impressive experiences through reading your stories. Thanks also for inspiring us to have a blog ourselves. All the best!! Josie & Ulli