English is not our native language. But because of our english speaking friends and all the people we met on the road we will try to translate. We do our best so please be patient. :)
We are sitting on our small balcony above the rooftops of Havana. The sun is just going down over the Malecon. The sky is red. You can hear Cuban music coming from one of the neighbors houses. From another one you can hear Spanish voices. Birds chirp like crazy, a gentle breeze lets us smell the scent of Cuban food, dogs are barking, cars horns are honking.
And there it is, the perfect moment.
The charm of travelling is for us to be on the road, seeing new things, getting out of our comfort zone, extend our personal horizons. You get all of this in Havana. But there is another feeling that is sneaking in. When you see Havana, you feel like you've arrived.
If you are like us travelling a lot, sometimes you kind of feel dull about new destinations. Feel like ... you have seen everything before, every city looks the same. But then suddenly there is this moment, where you discover a new country, a new place that triggers this feeling. That feeling that you’ve arrived even though you are far away from home. Cuba gives you exactly that feeling.
Cigars, coffee, good food, rum, salsa music, ocean, heat, Oldtimers, revolution. We do not know what comes to your mind when you think of Cuba but these were pretty much our expectations about Cuba and honestly, our expectations were exceeded. But let's start from the beginning.
Canada - 1 year full of adventures comes to an end. But before we go back to Germany, we planned a special trip. We have 1 month left and 2Adventuress takes a trip around the world.
We took the greyhound from Banff to Edmonton. Where we stayed with our good friend Wayne and his wife Rose. Wayne picked us up at the airport one year ago, visited us in Banff and then drove us again to the airport one year later on our last day in Canada. 1 year Canada, over 20,000 km with our car. Countless new friends and stories we will probably tell our grandchildren. But there was no time for us to be nostalgic.
Cuba is our first stop. So we went from winter right to summer. From Edmonton via Toronto to Varadero.
In Varadero we were picked up with an authentic cuban oldtimer. That was an awesome surprise and we could already check off the first thing on our cuban TODO list.
We stayed in a small guesthouse. Its a long tradition that cuban families rent out single rooms in their homes. You usually can get cheap and good cuban food as well. This gives you a direct insight into the real cuban life. We booked our rooms in advance via airbnb.com. Since we speak almost no Spanish and our host didn't speak any english it was a challenge to communicate but still absolutely recommended to explore Cuba this way. We spent our first day at the beach, with our first Cuban mojito and good food. But after 36 hours without any sleep we were ready for bed.
The next day, our host Lourdes created us an extensive cuban breakfast (bread, fruit, egg, fried vegetables, sandwich, jam, cuban pudding, fresh juice, COFFEE) ... and the coffee, the best in a very very long time (check on the TODO list).
By bus we went to the city center of Varadero. There is not much to say about Varadero as a city, because Varadero is not known for its beautiful city center, but for its white sandy beaches and the turquoise blue ocean. So we enjoyed the rest of the day laying on the beach (check on the TODO list) .
After another day at the ocean, where I (Leni) got the sunburn of my life, we took the 3 hour Bus to Havana past beautiful sceneries but also completely run down villages.
If the bus ride wasn't an adventure itself, then the taxi ride to our new accommodation definitely was. One of the oldest and rusted cars we've ever seen without the dashboard or any interior trim drove us through the narrow and winding streets of Havana directly to our new home. This is Cuba! Who ever has a car that still drives, is automatically a taxi driver.
Our accommodation was pretty much central and perfect to explore the city by foot. Our room was across several backyards and stairs and directly above the rooftops of Havana with a huge roof deck.
Havana is (at this moment, I stop and think about all the cities we've been to) definitely the (here I stop again to search for the appropriate adjectives) Ok ... Havana is definitely one of the most interesting - and perhaps by its own shabby Charm - the nicest and most beautiful city we have ever stayed in (here I stop again to make sure that Jana and I are on the same page). If there is a place that we would recommend to you, then it would be Havana.
We spent our first day with a carriage ride (maybe I should explain how we got there)
After a good breakfast we made our way to the capitol. We wanted to take a 'Hop on Hop off'-bus tour, which is totally touristy, but always good if you wanna know more about a city in a short amount of time. We arrived at the bus station and the whole bus was fully packed with tourists... A huge cruise ship was staying in the harbor for that day.
Quite quickly the surrounding taxis, oldtimer drivers, tourguides and carriages smelled our insecurity. Like hunting for prey we were circled and by the seat of our pants or honestly for quite superficial reasons, we decided for Juan as our Tourguide with his coachman (the Big Guy). Juan was around 45 years old, spoke very good English, smelled good and was a real Charmeurs. What more could you ask for!? (later we found out he also has a house in Edmonton / Canada, it´s a small world.)
Juan showed us not only all the tourist-hotspots, but also his favorite Cafe (Oh Dear, the coffee..) where he buys all his cigars and also helped us to get tickets for my (Leni) Top 1 on my Cuba TODO list (more later). We finished the day after a detour to Hotel Nacional and the Malecon (coastal wall) and Juans recommended restaurant.
The next day, we just walked through the city, had coffee in a rooftop cafe, took a small ferry to the other side of the city and had a great dinner like every night for the last week.
On our last night in Havana we planned something very special. Surely, each of you remembers, the music your parents played when you were younger. For me (Leni) that was 'Buena Vista Social Club'.
So of course, we wanted to see some of the best cuban musicians and singers. An unforgettable evening, impressive artists, captivating music and good company (we found ourselves at a table with a lovely couple from LA that helped us with the best seats and the worst but cute server :-D). We could not have imagined a better end to our Cuba-trip.
So we are still sitting here, at our perfect spot above the rooftops of Havana, smoking a cigar (super disgusting) and think about the last 6 days. It already got dark and the lines in my little notebook are getting more blurry.
Now we have to pack our backpacks again.
But this was definitely not the last time in Cuba, there is so much more to explore.
Now however a new adventure is waiting... Mexico here we come.
More photos here .
Our cost for 2 people:
flight 600 €
accomodation 185 €
food/drinks 200 €
Taxi/Oldtimer/Bus/ferry-ride 75 €
carriageride 30 €
Buenavista Social Club tickets 60 €
cigar and random stuff you buy 120 €
all together for 2 people: 1485 €
Jana und Leni