The Travel 2
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How can you describe an experience? How can you put it to words? When it comes to describing our adventure in Cuba, I am always at a loss for words. During our stay in Cuba, we constantly asked ourselves “How are we going to describe this to our families and friends?” That is how lost for words we were, and are.
It never happened to me, until now. We snapped so many photos to document everything, and took videos of whatever we thought was outwardly different. Still, how can you describe the smell of freshly brewed coffee, or the vibrant colours of a façade? How can you genuinely explain the most horrible bus ride you have ever had? To this, I say; go visit Cuba. Experience it. Get lost. Talk to locals and share their passion for art, particularly salsa music, and dance. Eat with locals and try their beautiful cigars. And never say “No” to a shot of rum. There is no such thing as drinking too much Havana Club.
Contradictions in Cuba
Cuba is an oxymoron. I can name a few times where I thought that this island is mainly contradictions.
Cuba is the country where you won’t be asked your age to buy rum, yet you need to show your passport to purchase Wi-Fi cards.
Tourists may eat what their heart desires for a few pesos, yet many locals do not afford specific foods. This is due to measly salaries and lack of access to variety (of food). Locals are often forced to go for the typical roast pork, yuca con mojo, and congrì rice. The production and distribution of beef, for example, is strictly controlled by the government (as are many other things in Cuba), and beef is, more often than not, only served in tourist restaurants.
Havana is the city where one street is shabby-looking and filled with unpleasant smells, yet just one block away, you find one stunning plaza with breathtaking views.
Forget the Norm
Do not visit Cuba if not with an open mind. Once you throw your beliefs out of the window, and bar the formalities, you will soon understand that Cuba is one of the most welcoming countries. In all of our travels, we can say straight up that Cubans were the nicest and most helpful people we ever met. You are never lost in Cuba, because there is always someone to offer directions. Cubans will try to help despite the language barrier, and they will throw a “Tranquillo, amigo” at you in every situation.
The Latin-American mentality prevails on the island. Cubans are self-confident, baring bold and extroverted characters. They are very forward, and men are very fond of firing cat calls at women passing by. Cuban women love to show off their figure, and their salsa music fully embraces this characteristic. However, no tourist should think of cat calls as a threat. In fact, Cuba is also the safest place we have ever been to. Locals told us that they have strict regulations followed with harsh consequences for non-law abiding citizens.
For the love of alcohol, rum and cigars. Cuba might easily be a heaven in this department.
Spoilt for Activities
In Cuba we hiked, caved, snorkelled and went horse riding. We ate with locals, but also with other tourists. We had conversations with locals about the pros and cons of living on an island (since we are islanders ourselves), which finished off with rum shots, and Cuban coffee.
Cuba has beautiful Caribbean beaches where you can sip on a piña colada. Water sports, especially diving, are very famous on the island. In Piñar del Rio, known for the best cigars in the world, one can roll a cigar and enjoy it there and then.
This northern Caribbean island is anything but monotonous. From diving to mountain climbing, you can do it all.
Photos from our horse riding experience in Valle de Viñales, Piñar del Rio, Cuba.
Cuban history cannot go unnoticed. Since both of us are European, we were always immersed in European history but lacked insight to western history.
Do as you would before going on any other holiday. Read, research and Google, to learn as much as you can before going. Informing yourself beforehand will surely help you understand what to expect. It is what we did before landing on the island, and it helped us accept and understand the nation’s mentality.
Top tip: Familiarize yourself with Che Guevara and his story. During your stay, you will become infatuated with Cuba’s most admired man – El Che. From cars to huge posters in living rooms, his face is everywhere.
Thinking of Cuba makes my heart wistful. Firstly, our trip to Cuba was long-desired. We had been jokingly talking about going, and now that we went, it seems surreal. Reminiscing makes us want to go again.
Cuba is undergoing many changes; political and cultural. Cubans are slowly opening up to western ideas and norms, as Cubans become more thirsty for progress and yearn to see themselves living better lives.
Secondly, Cuba has been seriously damaged by hurricane Irma. It is heart breaking news. Many houses on the island barely stand on their own, so to think about the aftermath of a hurricane in Cuba is devastating. If you wish to help directly, visit Marimundo .
If you are travelling to Cuba soon, you can pack some things with you. The website mentioned above goes into all the details. Cubans appreciate (and are in need of) a lot of stuff. From USB sticks, to pencils, toiletries and quilts, anything is appreciated.