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// MARCH 2016
Until the next ... always
Thessaloniki
Mexico City
Havana
Trinidad
Santiago de Cuba
Guardalavaca
Cayo Coco
Varadero
Havana
Havana 2
Panama City
Cienfuegos
Sancti Spiritus
Camaguey
Valle de San Luis
Guantanamo
Baracoa
Holguin
Ciego De Avila
Cayo Guillermo
Santa Clara
Matanzas
Valle de Vinales
Pinar del Río
Vinales

 Havana


19nth of March 2016
Big folkloric gathering!!!

Our last day in Cuba dawned. 
Leisure hour, a quite decent breakfast on the hotel’s terrace, a… Scottish kind of shower which tried our patience, white clothes, hats and we were on our way for a new promenade again. 
We had a first stop at La Casa del Habano for buying cigars, next to Floridita
We did not get any chance for it though.

Promenade till El Capitolio. Photos during day time, with the workers doing their jobs at Calle Obrapia.
By asking people around, we managed to find the Tampaco Factory Partajas, where from we bought the presents that we wanted.



A big gathering in Park Central attracted our attention. 
There was a small orchestra and mixed couples of foreigners and locals were dancing together.
Folkloric, more or less, but a white haired old Cuban seemed to enjoy it all heartedly.
Wearing his hat a bit sideways and having a cigar in his mouth, he was swaying and swirling happily to the sound of music.



Cabriolet antique...

Next, we took a pink fuchsia cabriolet antique, model Bel Air, and started a touristic tour so as to see the sightseeing of Havana.

Plaza de la Revolucion, Hotel Nacional, Malecon, Port of Habana Vieja, Capitolio.
We could see everywhere posters advertising the rock concert of Rolling Stones, who came to Havana only 5 days after we had departed, unfortunately…

The… cherry on the cake were the bullet proof jeeps, at the entrance of National Hotel. President Obama’s bodyguards had arrived two days earlier than him, so as to make sure that everything was fine, as far as security, as our driver pointed out to us.

Unfortunately, we almost missed Obama’s historic visit… We almost missed Rolling Stones’ historic live rock concert…



After the end of our promenade we returned to Park Central, where a group of young Cubans was entertaining the gathering crowd. The children’s version of Cabaret Tropicana


A city which saddens you and lifts you up enthusiastically at the same time!!!



 

Assessment of the day: A magic breeze which lasted for a whole hour smoothed the unbearable heat and made the city look adorable.

A city that seems to be suffering but it is seductive at the same time.

A city that makes you sad with the abandonment that seems to overwhelm it, but at the same time it strangely lifts you up. The largest city in the Caribbean, political and educational centre of the extended urban area.

Life here is not easy at all.

In 1766, Havana was the most well fortified city of the New World, the “The Bastion of the Indies”.

A real pioneer in everything. Railway in 1837, Gas lighting in 1848, telegraph in 1851, urban transport system in 1862, telecommunications in 1888, electrification in 1890.

On the other side, today, Cuba lags behind in almost everything.

We saw railways, but no trains.

Urban transport system: A huge question mark.

Telephone: it exists, but Internet is an unknown word in Cuba of 2016.

Water: It comes by the dropper to almost all the hotels.

Only in the hotel complexes with the all inclusive offers to the North Shore we enjoyed running water for bathing.

Foreigners pay everything twice as much than its real value. This is a rather obvious exploitation.

But maybe, after all, it is the fault of us the westerners too, right?  
A great majority of us, to the name of a, once, dreamy and revolting adolescence, kept preserving the elusive seduction of a world that is dying… 
But this way, we perpetuate the very serious existing problems that Cuba is facing today… And in another words, we encourage it to transform, in a way, all its deficits into a parody of touristic attraction…   


The two faces of Cuba!!!

Total assessment of the journey: 
Cuba has two faces: 
The first one is well known by the Cubans who still live in the decade of 50, who use oxcarts for their transport, who live in shortage of basic goods in houses that look like relics, with no water for most time during the day, who have ancient drainage and are faced with the empty shelves in their supermarkets.
And then there is the second face, the one that is quite familiar to its foreign guests, to the tourists who enjoy the luxurious and very expensive hotels, with the swimming pools near amazing beaches, with the warm running water, always plenty enough to cover all their needs, with the access to Internet, to the rich buffets loaded with all sort of goods, to expensive cars and to the modern and well equipped buses, which take care for their transport.  

The only common thing, that these two worlds apart have, are the antique cars that come from the decades of 50 and 60 and for the Cubans may be a piece of their daily life, but for the tourists is just another attraction with folkloric elements.

 


 

We saw both faces. The first one we found it in Havana’s state hotels, in abandoned buildings, with no water and rotten frames, where everything was a reminder of decline.

The second one, the more attractive one, we met it at the resorts in Varadero, in Cayo Coco and in Guadarlavaca, where luxury was excessive.
So, we co-travelled with the locals on oxcarts and trucks, we drove an antique car just for the pleasure of it, during our touristic exploration, we bought whatever we could from empty super markets, we stood at queues outside local bakeries and finally we ate in luxurious hotels and in small road shops too.

But the thing is that we had the luxury to chose. The Cubans, on the other hand, no… 

They are forced to use antique cars that were constructed 50 or 60 years ago, although one must admire the preservation level of them. They are not only an attraction on the streets of the big cities, but they circulate decently and with good speed all over the island. And at that point, we had felt at the same time impressed and quizzical. If they are capable of restoring their old cars, why they don’t do the same for the houses and the old hotels? Certainly any liberty in the private sector is taboo in Cuba, but if it is completely absent, nothing ever changes and nothing ever improves, after all. 


Indelible mark in our hearts...  


 

This continuous battle of illegible notions and words leads to a rather dark and unbearable daily life.

Yes, they have the cigars and the music and the dance to keep them going, but is that enough, after all?
Yes, they have no analphabetism and their health care system is immaculate, but the youngsters have a fierce desire for obtaining things that they do not have.

I will always remember the blaze in the eyes of the young Cuban girl, in the little shop that we went for shopping souvenirs, when she saw Christos’s “selfie stick”.
We were negotiating prices for T-shirts and she would give anything she had for this stupid little thing. Funny and sad at the same time… 

Of course, regardless of the skepticism and the observations, Havana has left for ever its indelible mark in our hearts, like the Cuban sun left its caress and gentle mark on our bodies…

Country: Cuba
Date: 2016
Route: Cuba
Cities: Thessaloniki, Mexico City, Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Guardalavaca, Cayo Coco, Varadero, Havana, Havana 2, Panama City
Duration: 9
Difficulty:
Population: 11.418.197
Rating:
comments
VIEW
comments
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Country: Cuba
Date: 2016
Route: Cuba
Cities: Thessaloniki, Mexico City, Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Guardalavaca, Cayo Coco, Varadero, Havana, Havana 2, Panama City
Duration: 9
Difficulty:
Population: 11.418.197
Rating:
comments
VIEW
Country: Cuba
Date: 2016
Route: Cuba
Cities: Thessaloniki, Mexico City, Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Guardalavaca, Cayo Coco, Varadero, Havana, Havana 2, Panama City
Duration: 9 days
Difficulty:
Population: 11.418.197
Rating:
comments
VIEW