Je bekijkt de reis...
Reisverslag La Habana
14 oktober 2015
Day1: After a 2,5 hour delay and being surrounded by too many Dutch people at the airport we finally left for Habana. It was only like an hour flight until we saw huge green landscapes with a lot of trees and some mountains. Arriving at the airport we were surprised by the look of it. It was so bald and grey and lifeless. You could really notice the influence of the communism, it felt like a camp with grey walls and very small bright lights. It also had an old smell. Outside there was a couple waiting for us to take us to their house as we rented a room in a ‘Casa Particular’. Walking to their car we saw so many colourful old cars! Exactly the ones you would expect to see. However we were in a ‘normal’ car. They told us a lot of things about the life in Cuba and it was so interesting to hear. There are two currencies here the CUC and the CUP. The CUP is for the nationals and the CUC is for tourists and is way higher. However when they paid for their parking time for the airport they had to pay in CUC as the car looked ‘touristy’. Also even the nationals have to pay almost everything in the CUC currency. Only a few products like fruit or vegetables or some food on the street is in the CUP currency but all the rest in CUC which makes life very expensive for them. Their jobs pay them in the national currency which is not convenient to them because they will have to change it to CUC and it will make them lose money. Also they only receive around 10 euros a month (!). I asked how the travelling situation was for them and she told me something I really liked: “I have never travelled outside Cuba but through the stories of our guests we have travelled the world” how beautiful is that! Cubans are not able to get a Visa so if they would travel it would only be to countries that you don’t need a visa for but even then it is very difficult. You have to pay for a special interview, pay for an appointment to leave, they have to see if you have no ‘signs’ of being an immigrant or wanting to leave the country forever and even then they can still just say no. Looking outside it was filled with the most beautiful colourful authentic cars. Also imported American school busses and a lot of broken houses and palm trees. Once we entered Old Havana there were countless narrow streets with semi broken windows and houses but all colourfully painted however the paint is really old and scratched off. There were no restaurants or cafes with brands or anything. We passed by really high grey cement buildings with numerous windows with clothes hanging out, really scary but with a lot of people living in it. The streets were filled with so many people walking and cycling as well. Once home she showed us around. It was a bright blue house with inside a really small staircase going up for 3 floors. Our room was covered in all kinds of green and blue and colourful decorations. It was so wrong ugly and kitsch that we absolutely loved it. She gave us freshly made ‘guayaba’ juice and introduced us to her family.
After that we decided to go outside to change money and walk along the sea. We tried to look for the exchange bank but because nothing has big signs and is so hidden we asked a lady who kindly took us there (they had the really old big yellow, who once were white, computers by the way). We passed by some places were people bought food and it was this ‘store’ on the street with a big gate in front of it where you had to wait in front of and you were given your things through a little gap in the gate. There was not much too choose from either. People were also selling some food on the streets. It was all such a huge culture shock for us. There were no brands anywhere and the places had hardly any names on it either. The city looked so beautiful but so abandoned at the same time. All the buildings had grey patches from where the paint used to be, there were broken cables hanging and all the balconies had plants hanging from it. Also every 10 seconds we would hear kiss or whistle noises being made at us followed by the questions ‘hey beautiful hey hey hey hey, where u from hey beautiful come here hey’ and shame ay! Just looking you straight in the eye. We just ignored it but it was craaaazy. But also crazy to think that these people don’t know what is outside of their country or even Havana.. We walked down to ‘El Malecon’ where we were still in time to see the purple pink colours of the sky as the sun went down. Also in the background hearing a guy say that he had no dogs or kids and that he was lonely. Well thanks for that. It was getting dark and we did not know how to get home so we started walking but the lightning in the streets is very bad and a bit scary. We finally found the street of our hostel and the first blue house we tried to enter. Then a man told us that the police was coming and pointed at another house. Turned out we were trying to enter a different blue house haha! Back in our room we made some rice and slept.
Oh yes fun fact; we took 1 huge suitcase for our personal things and one carry on trolley literally only filled with food. When going through security at Cancun of course we got stopped because they saw something on the scanner. She asked us to open our suitcase and nervously we did. She opened it and was surprised by the amount of cookies, cereal bars and tortillas that she saw. She then grabbed our Nutella and pasta sauce and took it away! She then asked if we could zip the other side open… so we did. Literally bombed with 8 packets of noodles, pasta, 1 kg of rice and god knows what. She said: “Oh god. Where are you going….. With all that food….” We awkwardly said Cuba and walked away hahah.
Day2: We got up at 9 to eat the loveliest breakfast made by the couple who was hosting us. We had an omelette, fresh bread, butter, papaya, pineapple, guayaba, avocado, tomato, cucumber, juice and Cuban coffee! What a treat. After that we walked to Hotel Inglaterra to book a trip. On the way there we walked through the old Havana and we were not sure if we were staying in the ghetto or if this was Havana. We passed by China town and the men were like animals so disgusting. We really felt uncomfortable and couldn’t really enjoy it but we just ignored it all. When we got to the hotel the workers there were so moody and not really friendly but we did book a trip to the Viñales so we were happy. We walked outside and it was already more modern there and we finally saw more tourists as we hadn’t seen any (probably cause we were staying in the ghetto). There were so many shiny old cars whose caretakers couldn’t help but chase you around and offer a ride. We then went on a Hop on Hop off bus which is really recommendable! It takes you through the whole of Havana and gives you a broad perspective of the city. We were so shocked by some buildings that just screamed communism. Kind of like the Hunger Games and Divergent movies. All grey, cement and small broken windows with actual people living in them. We went past the ocean and into the area where a lot of local rich people lived. Amazing and beautiful houses in pretty shapes all with a lot of plants and trees however one house would look good and the next one would be abandoned and broken). That is something else I noticed, Havana has so many trees and plants everywhere it really gives a nice view and ambience. The University of Medicine in particular is almost hidden as it has so many trees around it. That is why it is called ‘El pulmon de la ciudad’ (the lungs of the city). After the roundtrip we got off and walked the cutest street ever! It is called ‘Calle Obispo’ and is known to be full of art and crafts. It is a really long street with pastel coloured buildings and houses with some shops. There would be a REALLY narrow entrance in a wall (60 cm) and it would be filled with millions of souvenirs haha. We entered a small market where we bought some hand-made bracelets that say ‘Cuba’ from a woman there. Also for my collection I bought a small patch with the Cuban flag on it. Furthermore the street would have lots of nice open air cafés and restaurants in the side streets. The view was so nice when looking in the side streets. A narrow street filled with more colourful houses with balconies with clothes and plants hanging from them and at the end you could see the cathedral. We then saw a pharmacy and it was so antique oh my god. It was a room with a high ceiling and the whole wall was covered with an enormous black wooden closet I would say with hundreds of white jars filled with medicine. Also we entered a library and it only had informative books and the magazines were just brown books with some information in them. So weird. No influence from the outer world whatsoever. All the covers existed of a background colour and a title. Then we saw a perfume store and when we entered we saw the big glass bottles with perfume in it like they used to have in the old days but well day still do now there haha. And then… the best part of the day; chocolate museum! More of a café than a museum but it was delicious! We sat down and looked at the menu and we couldn’t believe the prices! A hot chocolate was 50 cents! We ordered one and it was a thick hot chocolate made with real melted chocolate hmm. Then we ordered some ‘real’ chocolate on top because why not. Our waiter was quite moody and uninterested; he did not even give us a cookie with our drink… The people outside on the other hand almost had their faces taped to the window and were waving awkwardly. We went outside and kept on walking but it was so hot and we were so thirsty we decided it was time for our first Mojito. We sat down in a bar and waited for our order. I saw the barman filling our cups with the alcohol and it really seemed like a lot but when we took a sip we loved it. It was the perfect balance between mint, alcohol and lemon. Until after a few sips I almost spat it out. I had a taste of the pure alcohol in it, turns out you should stir your drink first. We had drunk all the sweet stuff so we were stuck with half a glass of pure alcohol. Another weird experience was when we entered the ‘Plaza Vieja’ immediately two Cuban woman with Cuban dresses grabbed Fenja’s arm and told us ‘how beautiful we were’ and to take a picture. So I did. Then I took a picture with them and then they were like. Okay so that is 10 pesos (euros). I was like; ‘Excuse me?’. They told us we had to pay for the photo. I was so mad I said they should’ve told us that before and that it was too much. They were saying all these stupid things like we should’ve known and that we only had to pay 5 each etc. I told them no and they made up a story that the money would go to the children or something and that in the time they were wasting on me they already lost money. They lowered the price to 2.50 and after I said no again the woman was like; okay, I’ll take your sunglasses then. Haha oh my god I was so mad who the hell does she think she is. We ended up paying them 1 each because I was scared they were going to hit us and I only had a go pro stick as a weapon.
After that we walked back to the main square and took another ride on the bus, when we hopped off we decided to look for some food. We ended up in China Town and after being attacked by a hundred waiters with their menu I ended up with some noodle soup and a dozen of skinny cats around me. On the way back it was already quite dark and that was when we realised we were really in the ghetto. It was quite scary actually haha. We were walking through these dark streets with people like following us and asking us things and whatnot. But we got home safely! Right house this time..
Day3: After a 6.30AM breakfast we took our first ‘Bicitaxi’ to Hotel Inglaterra as it was the meeting point for our tour to Viñales. It only cost us 1 CUC (less than a euro) each which was good. The city was so quiet at that time. Almost no one on the streets, a lovely temperature and the city had this pink/orange glow from the sun. At the hotel we could see the black steam and fire coming from the factories. So sad to see the pollution and also all the antique cars leave a stain of black smoke when driving. It reminded me of the pictures in my history book of the industrial revolution only it was still happening here haha. Anyway, we had to be there at 07.30 but the bus only came at 8AM. From there we took more than an hour driving past all the hotels on the outer sides of Habana Vieja so we were quite delayed. We finally left to our first stop and the view on the way were these huge broad and long green landscapes filled with palm trees, grass, trees and red dirt. After a while also beautiful hills started to show up. Such a different sight from Havana. We arrived at Pina del Rio where a Cuban liquor was made called Guayabita, made from guayaba. Very nice! All the cities in that province were known for their red tiled roofs and colourful walls. We then went to the Caves called ‘Cuevas Del Indio’. Soooo beautiful. Everything so green with a super high cave next to it. I got to hold a hawk on my arm and after that we walked into the cave. It had some light inside and looked like, well, a cave haha. Our guide told us that the cave had been underwater for a long time, hard to believe the ocean was that high or that Cuba was so deep underwater. In the cave there was a boat waiting for us that took on a little trip, the only thing I didn’t like was that they were using engines that were damaging the water instead of just paddling. Anyhow we left the cave on the boat and arrived on the other side where the bus was waiting to take us to the next stop; lunch. We had lunch near this huge rocky mountain with a big painting on it with all kinds of different colours. We sat down at a table where we met a girl from Japan, Brazil and a family from Australia (!!!). We had a traditional Cuban lunch which existed out of; fresh fruit, rice and beans, pork, a kind of potato and for dessert a sort of jelly made from honey. After lunch everybody went to take pictures with the rock painting and there was an old man with a beautiful white cow (I think). I was taking pictures of them and then he asked if I wanted to get on the cow and go for a short walk, of course! It was soooo soft and it had a bump like a camel on its neck. So cute. After lunch we stopped at a place where they made authentic cigars. They had the tobacco plants all planted there and explained the whole process how it went from seed to cigarette. They told us that there are caterpillars that love to eat the plant but because they can’t spray anything on the plants they have to get rid of them by simply removing them by hand. Can you believe? There were thousands of plants there! Then for our last stop we went to a viewing point and it was breath taking! The flat green land with huge green hills on the background. We then had a 3 hour ride back where we talked to the Aussies about their amazing country.
Back in Havana we went to look for food in Calle Obispo and ended up in a really nice restaurant. They used an old, abandoned building but simply decorated in the most beautiful way which made it look so fancy and creative while using the actual ruins! I had a chicken salad and a dessert made from orange ice cream and this kind of bread. Not the best food but oh well. There we met a guy from Germany and one from France who recommended us a few places in Havana and told us their experience. The French guy told us we really had to go to this bar but we couldn’t really understand what he was saying. After 10 times of hearing ‘Hard Café’ we thought “Oh… art café….” Hahaha. However we were exhausted and took our first taxi home! It wasn’t one of those cool cars but it wasn’t a ‘normal’ one either. It looks like it was from a cartoon and the doors were so thin and he made me slam it 5 times as I couldn’t close it properly even though I thought I was breaking it.
Day4: This day we decided to go to the beach. At the main square there were tourist busses leaving to the beaches. Luckily, because every single local bus I had seen was packed with people and did not look comfortable at all. We were told to get out at the hotel Tropicoco as the beaches would be clean and nice as it was by a hotel and taken care of. We got out at the hotel and were surprised because we expected a super fancy beach hotel like the ones from Cancun but it was yet another abandoned looking grey building. When we got to the beach it was full of Cubans drinking. Literally with huge bottles in the sea and plastic cups. The whole beach was full of empty bottles and cartons and cups. Which was such a waste as the water was clear and blue and the sand was pretty white... We walked a bit further where there wasn’t so much garbage and stayed there for a while. It was so incredibly hot and we did not stay too long as we felt uncomfortable because of the people there being all creepy. We then went back to the centre and had again a hot chocolate at the Chocolate Museum! We were also told that we had to try the pizza as it was cheap. Well that was the weirdest pizza ever. It was like sweet bread with a bit of tomato sauce and goat cheese. As we walked further through the city we heard a lot of music and singing. We followed the crowed and saw that there was a huge group of dressed up people dancing and singing and making music, so nice! I am not sure what it was for but we enjoyed it. As we were walking past a very pretty building we decided to look inside. Then one of the security guards asked if we wanted to go to the roof to have a view over Habana, of course for a small amount. We agreed and went up. It was not open to anyone as it was a building for lawyers or something but I guess he wanted to earn some extra money. The view was so beautiful as you were in the middle of the ocean and the city. We had a whole photoshoot there but when I climbed over the edge to take some pictures with my feet hanging in the air the guard suddenly appeared and immediately took us down hahaha. After that we visited a market full of antique things and also a lot of books. All about communism, politics and informative subjects of course. We decided to take a taxi and we arranged a good price to go in one of the cool cars! It wasn’t like a Cadillac more like a bright green small grandpa car, super cool! We were sitting there enjoying the sun and wind driving past the ocean until we got dropped off in front of our house. That night we went to the castle to see the 9PM show in ‘la Cabaña’ they light up the castle and there’s a lot of people selling souvenirs. They show the famous change of guards how they used to do in Cuba including a ‘cañonaso’ which meant that they were going to fire a canon. As everybody was standing like 5 meters from the canon and they were counting down I thought ‘wait this must be so loud why are people not covering their ears?’ I was a bit confused and closed one ear and oh my god. When they fired it I almost went deaf haha. SO LOUD. But so cool! The canon ended up in the ocean in front of it…. And they do this every day and they have been doing it for a very, very long time. Sounds sustainable doesn’t it? Haha anyway. The castle is in front of the Malecon so you need to take a taxi to go through the tunnel underwater to get there. It has an amazing view of Habana all lit up.
Day5: On our last day we wanted to visit the famous ice cream shop from Cuba called ‘ Coppelia’. Apparently Cubans are obsessed with ice cream and eat like a salad bowl each, so of course we wanted to try it out. However we had talked to a local and they said it was good but nowadays not anymore. Also it was in the ghetto and we had had enough of that. We went to see some cool graffiti of ‘Che’ and ended up in this amazing art street of Habana! The streets were filled with paintings on the walls and a lot of art galleries and handmade art and wauw!! We fell in love! Also, as I have a good eye for everything that includes food, we tasted the most amazing ice cream called ‘Heladoro’. I promised to promote them a little as they have only been there 3 months but serve the best ice cream. We stayed there for a long time and talked to the owners who had a whole photoshoot with us and the logo of the shop haha! We then had to wait like 40 minutes to change money and we ended up paying 18 euros for it… great. I had still some money left so again we went to the Chocolate museum and allowed ourselves to ride home in a bright red and white Cadillac. When we got home the taxi to the airport was already waiting for us. At the airport it started raining cats and dogs and already some flights got cancelled but luckily our one left on time. Getting on the plane they gave you some papers to fill in. Some for foreigners and some for Mexicans. I told the lady I was Mexican and received some papers. However later on I realised she still gave me the foreigner one. Then arriving in Cancun there was a line for foreigners and a line for Mexicans. I walked towards the Mexican one and I got stopped and send to the other one. He simply did not believe I was Mexican. And I said I had a Mexican passport and he literally made me show it to him and still then he didn’t believe me. Feels great. Haha. That night we had to go to our 19h class where we almost fell asleep. All by all it was the weirdest but also coolest experience! The water was gross and made us sick but hey it is all part of it right?
P.S. Turns out I nailed my exams as I got a 9.9 on my German exam, a 29/30 out of my tourism exam and I received my scuba diving license. Happy me!
P.P.S The Casa Particular is called Havanate and I really recommend it! Lovely people, nice and clean house and delicious breakfast for a good price.
Foto's bij verslag (4)
15 oktober 2015 03:44 | Door: Abuelos: Norma y Javier
No esperábamos menos de tu relato. Muy enriquecedor y espléndidamente narrado. Gracias por habernos llevado de la mano a través de la siempre alabada Habana. Besos.
17 oktober 2015 10:58 | Door: Tía C
17 oktober 2015 11:11 | Door: Tía C
¡ Bravo, Ana Laura !
Te vas refinando en tus relatos. Una descripción muy detallada y amena de tus maravillosas experiencias. Buena promoción de La Habana: bastante objetiva y balanceada entre los puntos fuertes y las carencias del lugar. Invitas a viajar a ese mundo mágico y nostálgico pero con esperanza de modernidad y gente aún auténtica.
Definitivamente merecida tu excelente calificación en tu clase de Turismo !
17 oktober 2015 11:18 | Door: Tía C
PS Y, también, felicidades por tus excelentes resultados en alemán y en buceo