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Posted by: velanse in | travel
Cuba or traveling back in time.
I would feel ashamed if I will not get a chance to write about that special place. One of the only places on our planet where you can travel not only in space but also in time!
1) Getting there
Let me write my story in the time order and start with being on a plane that was taking me frum true paradise (Costa Rica) to Cuba. Actually I did not plan traveling to Cuba. But as appeared that was the only way for me to fly back to Moscow. I did not prepared to this trip and almost knew nothing about the country. Everything I knew was that Cuba is a communist country that was run by a crazy guy. In my expectations was to see lots of Latino dances, bachatas, feel the crazy atmosphere of poor but happy people and also buy Cuban cigars and Cuban rum!
So I was on a plane! I flew Taca airlines which is a nice aircompany as appears. There Ive met Russian couple, they were in the age of 30th. They were very nice and friendly! And we talked a lot about Cuba and Costa Rica. So thats was the moment when I started learning things about Cuba! When the airplane was flying in the air of Cuba I noticed crystal blue color water, ugly soviet buildings, empty roads and few tractors on them :) Soon our plane landed and I saw the airport I could see when I was a child. Where only Cubana and aeroflot airlines could be seen. So I made a step off the plane, sad good by to my Russian friends and heard "welcome" frum a cute skinny army dressed Afro Cuban girl that worked at customs.
2) Wow Im in Cuba now - I was going to take a taxi and after getting an offer for a reasonable price I jumped into Chevrolet year 1951!
As we drove I was staring at all of those retro cars around and was realizing for myself that I just jumped back in time. The same as in Costa Rica everybody spoke Spanish in Cuba. The difference is that in Cuba you can not see as much Americans since its prohibited for them to fly there. Gladly the driver was speaking English and he was a nice person who was telling me lots of interesting stuff about Cuba. He recommended me as appeared later a wonderful place to stay in CentroHavana. That's was a house of a Cuban family and the owner of a place, her name is Maria, was very kind and she was cooking really delicious food! Arrived at the casa I met a guy frum Switzerland there! He was a cool guy who joined my first walk around Havana.
3) I was completely impressed by architecture!
Havana has lots of those old European style buildings! The streets were quite narrow, there was lots of garbage lots of people around and those amazingly designed buildings with broken windows. So we were walking and I was staring around at everything.
4) Tourists and locals
Soon I started being chased by locals offering me different services. Let me try to explain the economical situation on Cuba.
Normal Cuban citizen is payed $20 per month! but also I mentioned if you actually have money there its quite difficult to spent them there. There is not to much stores there. But even in ones they have there is a very little choice and huge line even to get inside that store.... Every tourist visiting Cuba has tons of money in the view of locals. We are paying them monthly salary for just staying a night at a hotel or getting a ride on a taxi. That is why they are trying to offer tourists everything they can. But that mades the big problem I mentioned: everything that cubans see in tourists is just their money they have. And they are trying to chase you to collect this money :) Of cause cubans are all different but thats the general impression you get visiting this special country.
Here starts the separation between local Cuban people and tourists visiting this country. Actually that seems that their government created that channel for tourists that assumes that they are visiting their country with an only reason to bring some money in their economy. Let me give you some examples. If you are a tourist and going with local guy or girl- soon the policemen will stop you and check the documents of local person. I think they are doing this to prevent prostitution (they will mostly check her documents if you are a guy going with a local girl) and also take control over communication with the rest of the world.
There are some areas in Cuba that are only for tourists and its prohibited for locals to go there. I found this really weird since it shows that they appreciate their own citizens less than tourists.
Talking about communication - thats a real problem there. Its really hard to get Internet there and almost all of the country is living offline. For me the only opportunity to get Internet there was going to a hotel and pay $10 per hour to get an extremely slow connection... They allowed to use cellphone service only a year ago. That's was done because Fidel Castro is sick now and his brother Raul is in control of the country, who is as appears a little bit more democratic.
5) Going out
Alright! I heard about Cuba that there are lot of hot Cuban girls there, about crazy Latino parties there! That I should feel that atmosphere of free Cuban Latino night life.
That is wrong!!!! Thats was completely not as I aspected that to be! The first attempt I did to go out at night was when I went into the city alone at 8pm in hope of finding a good "Casa de la Musica" around. After 5 minutes walking I started being chased by local hookers and pimps... There are lots of them in the streets. And not only in the streets! Finally when I went to the only Casa de la musica in centrohavana (as supposed to be the most famous place to go clubbing at night) there was the same situation with hookers there as in the streets and there was no chance for me to meet somebody there... Thats was sucks for me going there alone...
6) Sights seeing
Because of having no Internet I was afraid that I would have nothing to do there since there was no opportunity for me just spend my time working. I have a great job that allows me to work almost anywhere in the world and the only limitation is just having a good reliable Internet connection. Russian family I met at the flight Costa Rica - Cuba recommended me one good tour guide who also could help me with buying cheep factory cigars. And as the salvation for not getting bored being alone in the city with no Internet connection and all those socialism problems with communication I decided to take a tour to learn more about the history of the country to understand better their mentality. After taking that tour I cant say that my tour guide was super educated in history or his Russian (he was speaking with me in russian since he did not know English) was perfect. But that was fun and I learned some basic stuff about their history and saw the key places that I would never mention if I would just walk on my own. And I got lots of nice pictures!
7) Friends I met there
Special thanks to all of you guys that shared that amazing and fun time with me on this special island, in particular:
Marco, my casamate :), you are really fun and adventurous! Our family definitely liked you more, so Im a bit jealous about that :) Good luck with your future travel plans!
Mabel, our Cuban friend! :) Thank you for the nice walk and stories about Cuba - you've been the best tour guide :) Also thank you for the nice selection of Cuban regaeton, Im enjoying listening to it now!
Lee, Korean member of our team! Dude - your camera is great, and you totally impressed me by printing pictures right away! Also want to mention that I felt frum you that generous nature of Korean culture. That was pleasant meeting you! Thank you for joining me for the gunshot trip! And Im waiting for all the pictures frum you! ;)
Want to say a huge thank you for all of you, girls for a chance meeting you and for that awesome picture!
Also special thanks to Lucila for the invitation to Argentina! :) I believe that could be the right spot for my next birthday party! :)
And to Magdalena for showing me some Latino moves - that's was really fun!
Finally want to express my gratitude towards:
Maria and her family for the best casa in Havana :)
Liuven, taxi driver - actually he appeared to be a software engineer before the government fired him! Thats was very nice meeting my colleague in Cuba!
And Jorge, my Russian tour guide.
8) Flying back
You could think that it would be the right point to end my story but no! :) My way back appeared to be kinda adventurous as well so I think that will be a good idea to write about this as well.
Imagine the situation: you've bought a ticket a month ago, printed an e-ticket, verified that your flight is actually valid before coming to the airport. You've packed all of your stuff, sad buy buy to everybody and took a taxi to the airport with a desire of flying back home. You are coming to the registration and they are telling you, that your ticket is actually not valid and the air-company canceled that, because of the problems with payment transaction!!!! What a surprise! You are trying to argue with them in order eventually get on our flight but the employees were tough dicks and the journey home did not happen. Guys, the name of air company was Aeroflot, the biggest Russian air company. I think you already got my recommendations.
Cuba probably is one of the worst countries to get problems like this. With no connection with other world and no support frum the side of air-company having text messages the only way of communication and also having limited cash and blocked for some reason credit card I was texting for help! Hopefully with the help of closest people I've got a new ticket on a next day and that problem was solved :)
Here is the link for all of the photos I have online.