Traveling across Cuba (By 4Ernesto)

Winter 2003; our wedding took place in December the same year. We were thinking of traveling to Europe but then Cuba suddenly popped up. It was a destination we both wanted to go and at that moment it seemed perfect since we had enough money to spend and no children to leave behind.

We went to several travel agencies but what we had on hand at the time was disappointing. They all offered three or four days at Havana and ten to twelve days at Varadero (a tourist beach resort). Besides that, the price we had to pay was huge. What we really wanted was to visit the whole island, which is quite big since you need two hours by plain to go from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. Another negative aspect was that we had to pay “all inclusive” for our stay in Varadero, and take extra journey trips from there which meant that we would pay a full day for a stay in Varadero but we would not be there. So, we decided to examine other options.

We bought a Cuba travelers’ guide from a bookshop and we started reading it. It seemed quite good because we could find anything we could ask for; hotels, maps, restaurants, advice on how to travel on the island, and other websites where we could find more information. It even had information about the culture, the food and the weather. Having in mind that we wanted to visit the whole country we designed a trip according to our taste. We visited the given websites and we communicated with Cuban agencies asking them prices for what we were looking for. They were very quick in responding to us with hotel names, prices and every little detail we asked them for. After checking all possibilities we decided to buy the air tickets from the travel agency in our country and the rest through the internet. By doing that we managed to organize a trip as we liked it and save almost 1/3 of the amount we should have paid if we booked everything from an agency.

The day of departure came. Our connecting flight was from Frankfurt. The trip was quite long and a bit tiring as it took us almost 14 hours to arrive in Havana. The minute we stepped food on the ground I felt quite strange. Funny thoughts came in my mind. I turned to my husband telling him “What happens if nobody shows up to pick us from hear?”, and we started laughing but before we commented further on that, we saw a lady coming towards us asking our names. She was sent by the travel agency to give us the first instructions and take us to the car that would drive us to the hotel in Havana.

It was an old 4 star hotel in the middle of the city called

Raquel Hotel

. The architecture was excellent, and the employees working there were very friendly. We had a small trouble with hot water since the boiler was broken, but fortunately it was fixed the next day of our arrival. The cuisine was fine, we had the chance to taste a delicious soup made of beat-root. Opposite that hotel there was a primary school. The children looked so beautiful in there school uniform, they reminded us of our life in school, laughing and playing all the time.

We stayed in Havana for three nights. We visited a lot of museums but unfortunately not all. The one that really impressed us was the “Museum of Revolution”. All the history of the Cuban revolution against Batista’s regime was there. We were informed, impressed, surprised, and above all happy because we had the chance to see how people really fight for there freedom…

Viniales is a destination that everybody must go when visiting Cuba. There, we were able to visit cigar plantations and buy original Cuban cigars in low prices. We visited also the cigar factory and we saw how they make them. There we found out that the different brand names given to them are not because of the maker but because of the different varieties of tobacco plants. During that trip we had the chance to visit the whole area of Viniales and buy some beautiful wooden figures and some others made of banana leaves. A factory making rum was another place we went. Men were very pleased they had the chance to buy fine rum. But the most exciting of all was

Tropicana Cabaret

, with an excellent music, excellent show and excellent service!!!

The next destination was Santiago de Cuba, the second biggest city in Cuba. The hotel was new and its location was outside the town. The view of the city at night was wonderful from the hotel, with all those lights shining like stars. There, we had the chance to make a tour of the city and visit

La Grande Piedra

. From there you could see the whole Santiago territory and the mountains of Sierra Maestra where the first revolution groups started the guerilla warfare. The hotel service was excellent. The dining room was large with everything you could ask for. Food, drinks and sweets were delicious!!

We visited Baracoa as well, a small town eight hours away from Santiago de Cuba, the 1st settlement that Christopher Columbus build on Cuba. The people there were very friendly, and we had the chance to dine in a small house that was renovated and converted to a restaurant. There was an exotic coast, scenery that can only been seen in movies.

Just visit it!!!

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