Cities and Sights
7/23/08 - 8/5/08
Trinidad is a world heritage site. 50 years of communist rule has ensured the city's neglectful preservation. No other city in Cuba is so well preserved or charming. The cobble stone streets, almost non-existent traffic and layers of deteriorating paint on the buildings lends the city a nostalgic colonial feel and look.
We stayed in a cute little guesthouse in the outskirts of the old town.
Walk through Trinidad in the late afternoon and you'll find many people sitting outside their homes, just hanging out. Cubans are very social and have a strong sense of solidarity; everyone helps each other out. What's more, there isn't much to do anyhow. While we're sure some residents probably find the town boring, we found it alive and interesting in ways that US neighborhoods aren't. Perhaps we stumbled upon a sense of community that you don't see often in the US. Then again, lots of things (good and bad) in Cuba and other poor countries, are the way they are out of necessity.
Cuban pizzas are unlike any pizza we've had before. They are lite on cheese and the pizza can be a little salty. Overall, you're eating mostly bread. However, we found it a satisfying meal overall, and at 20 cents, the price couldn't be beat. Two thumbs up for Cuban pizzas.
A typical hole-in-the-wall Cuban pizzeria
In Trinidad, we witnessed the best live salsa we've ever heard. These guys were seriously talented.
Varadero is one of the longest and most beautiful stretches of beach in Cuba. Thousands of European tourists flock to its beaches every day. The water is turquoise, with seemingly unlimited visibility. We were only there for a half-day, but it was nice to sea the world famous beach.
We passed through Havana on our way to Pinar Del Rio. As the abode of the central government, shortages of everyday goods are less frequent, compared to the rest of the country. Havana also has the highest level of food rations. The food rations decrease with distance from Havana.
Yank tanks and coco-taxis in Havana
Pinar Del Rio
Pinar Del Rio is Cuba’s most scenic province. Limestone mountains and tobacco fields dot its green landscape.
In Pinar Del Rio, we toured the famous orchid garden and visited an underground river/cave.
While in Pinar Del Rio, we stayed in Consolacion del Sur, a small Cuban city. We stayed with a sweet little old lady named Elsa. Elsa's dad immigrated to Cuba from Syria. Like many Cubans, Elsa needs to do what she can to get by...she's a cigarette bootlegger.
View of Elsa's house from the street
MCs at Consolacion
The MC's at Consolacion del Sur where also very kind and generous with us. We were humbled by how much pleasure they took in spoiling us.
On our final day in Pinar del Rio, we drove to the extreme eastern side of the province to visit the retired Archbishop of Cuba. He had set up a pretty little garden and museum of country culture in his home town. He also constructed the town's first fountain, complete with two baby crocodiles.
Because we wanted to maximize the time spent with her sister, we spent most of our time in Cuba in Cardenas. Cardenas is the home of Elian Gonzalez, the poor kid which was at the center of an international custody battle eight years ago.
In Cardenas, we stayed in several guesthouses. However, the majority of the time was spent with Rosa and Rene, two friends of the church.
In addition to being incredibly generous hosts, Rosa and Rene had a fertile mango tree in their backyard. The tree produced some of the largest mangoes we had every seen in our lives. And we thought the mangoes in Miami were big. One mango was even bigger than Francis' head and weighed in at a whopping 6 pounds.
On our first night at Rosa and Rene's home, we woke up to a loud rattling noise that really startled us. Francis asked Edward, "What was that noise?", to what Edward replied, "It's just another mango falling on the tin roof."
While many people throughout the world romanticize life in Cuba, few would choose to willingly live there. However, the simplicity of life in Cuba is very appealing to me. Its simplicity is bred out of the necessity of daily life and the shortcomings of the communist system. Still, if there were a way to blend that simplicity with a system that actually worked, that would be something to dream about.