7 days in Cuba, my dream had finally came true. Always dreamt of going to Cuba under the regime of Fidel Castro. We were there in 2008 so it is 3 years ago, but I remember it lilke it was yesterday. Cuba is known for its 50s style, with the buildings and the cars, and you don't really get the feeling that we are living in the year 20th centry when you are there. First thing I notised this on was in the airport, they actually use tractors to push and towe the aircrafts, can't see it that well from the picture but I thought that was hillarious. We just landed 50 years back in time.)
One week in Cuba, is that enough? For me, no, I would have loved to stay there much longer and drive all around the country. Since we only had one week, we wanted to get most out of it, we wanted Havana and we wanted the beach, so we decided to book a hotel in Santa Maria del Mar, only 15 minutes outside Havana city centre. We thought we had a great plan going on there, but no way, that was not a very good idea. First of all, the hotel we stayed at was not very good at all. The rooms was not nice, the food was horrible and nothing much going on there at all.
Not exactly a five star room! The pool area and the beach area was a lot nicer though, and we didn't have any plans spending our days inside the room.
We thought it would not be a problem at all getting a taxi into Havana at night time, and it wasn't, it just that the drivers tried to trick you all the time. They "pretended" to be your best friend and wanted to take you everywhere and then to charge you shit loads of money for doing it. You really get fed up having to talk youre way out of all the "friendlyness". Don't get me wrong here, Cuban people are so, so nice, and they just want to make a living, but it really get on your nerves to discuss this every night and day, trying to be polite and say no thank you, taxi drivers do not take no for an answer. So one night we did go with one of the local taxi drivers so he could show us around. He was going to take us to a traditional Cuban restaurant where only local people go and I really wanted that. The restaurant was really good, but there is no way we would have found it without any help from the taxi driver. It was located on the second floor of a residence building and from the outside it just looked like any other balcony.
So the first night we went to that restaurant and just drove around the city to see a little bit and try to get to know the capital.
On the images below you will see El Capitolio or Capitolio Nacional as it is also called. Probably one of Havanas most famous buildings.
Capitolio Nacional. This was the seat of the government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Today it is the Cuban Academy of Sciences and inside you can find the world's third largest indoor statue ( La Estatua de la Repùblica).
The second night in Santa Maria del Mar we were a little bit fed up with the place already, so we went into Havana early that afternoon. There was one thing we really had to do in Cuba, sigar bar!
Can not go to Cuba without having a sigar. This was during Liams smoking days so he liked it very much. From the picture I look very skeptic, but I did like it, it was just that the sigar was so god dam big:) The atmosphere in that bar/restaurant was so Cuban, well, in my eyes it really was, maybe it had to do with all the sigars and the pictures on the wall!
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna was born on the 14. of June in 1928 in Rosario in Argentina. He was Marxist revolutionary and a Cuban guerrilla leader, he also is a major figure in the Cuban Revolution. When he lived in Mexico City, he met Raùl and Fidel Castro and he joined their 26th of July Movement. It was when he then arrived in Cuba he was promoted to second-in-command and he played a major role in the victorios two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime. On the 9th of October 1967 he was executed by Mario Teràn, a Bloivian officer in co-operation with the CIA.
So we spent a few days at Santa Maria del Mar, but we got a little bit bored just staying there so we decided to rent a car and drive over to Varadero. Renting a car in Cuba is very easy and it didn't cost that much either. Just make sure you check the car with the person from the rental company before you drive off, otherwise they might charge you for any damage on the car that was already there before you got it. It was a wise thing to do because when we returned it the found a scratch that they wanted us to pay for, however, we hadn't done it and when I refered to the form we had signed when we checked the car they said sorry for the mistake and let us of the hook.
As you can see from some of the pictures the roads are maybe not the standard many peopel are used to, but it wasn't that bad either. If you have ever driven up in the mountains in Norway, where you have narrow, sandy roads, this is a pice of cake. Driving from Santa Maria del mar to Varadero takes just under two hours so it is not far at all.
We hadn't booked a hotel or anything we just drove down there and hoped we would find a place to stay. There are so many hotels in that area so we didn't hvae any problems finding one. We actually went into the first one we saw, that was straight on the beach, and that was an all inclusive hotel and we paid only about 100 usd (in local currency of course), for two pepole for one night. The place is just amazing!
So with only one day (well almost two as we arrived early and were going to leave again in the afternoon the nest day) and one night in Varadero we had to make to most out of it. There was quite a lot o of guests at the hotel so in the evening time everybody gathered in the bar area and later on that night we got a maxi taxi to a huge outdoor nightclub.
Not all the drinks from the hotel bar was nice, well, they were nice, just a bit strong:) nightlife in Varadero is very good, huge outdoor places with room for a lot of people. To be honest there wasn't much other things to do and see besides the beach and the nightlife, that was great doh so we were very pleased with that. Will never forget those white sandy beaches that are so white it could blinde you, and turquoise crystal clear water. It is the prettiest beaches and water I hvae ever seen. Too bad we had to leave it!
After our little trip to Varadero we drove back to Santa Maria del Mar, returned the car, packed our bags and went to stay in Havana for the next few days. That was our plan to beging with s well. So now we could se Havana during the day time as well, we had already seen some of it during the evening time. The first thing we did was go to the Museum of the Revolution, that is something really worth seeing if you ever go to Havana. Can not miss something that is so important for the history of the country.
These two last pictures is taken in the room that is today called "the Hall of Mirrors", in the bottom one you can see can angel handing away the Cuban flag. People say it supports the idea that Fidel Castro was not a paid up communist for some time after the actual revolution
Loads of stuff to see at the Museum of the Revolution. Yeah, even the guards outside! But seriously, if you go to Cuba you really need to go to this place. It will tell you all you need to know about the Cuban history/revolution.
The next picture is taken on one of the balconys at the museum and I thought it was a bit funny to put it into the blog just to ilustrate the diffrences you can see in Havana. When you look in front of the building that hosts the Museum of the Revolution it looks glamorus and rich, but when you look in the "backyard" it looks like this!
Below you will see a picture of the Great Theatre of Havana. The theatre is a beautiful German neobaroque architecture building from 1838 and it is located on the Paseo del Prado. The theatre has been home of the Cuban National Ballet and the International Ballet Festival of Havana. It also has been renovated in 1914 and in 2004.
Don't miss the Cathedral of Havana if you are there, it is beautiful!
The Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana (Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and is the seat of Jamie Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, Cuba. It is also dedicated to Saint Christopher (San Cristóbal), thus it is sometimes dubbed as Cathedral of Saint Christopher.
The construction of the cathedral was started by Jesuits in 1748 on the site of an earlier church and finished by Havana City in 1777. The cathedral is set in the former Plaza de La Ciénaga or Swamp Plaza, in a site where was gathered the runoff from the city.
The Cathedral is said to be the only example of a Baroque facade that was designed with asymmetrical features - one of the towers is wider than the other. This particular feature was conceived in order to allow the water that tended to accumulate on the plaza to freely flow through the streets during the colonial period, when it was built.
Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier famously described the Cathedral as "music set in stone". It is the most prominent building on the Plaza de la Catedral, in Old Havana. (this is taken from Wikipedia.org)
The first thing many people asks me when it comes to Cuba and especially Havana is if it is exactly like the pictures you see in magazines etc. And I must say yes, it more or less is. It looks like you have stepped back into the 50's when you look at some of the buildings, cars, and some of the clothes.