From April 7 to April 21, 2011
Rest assured ; this article is not because you popularize Wikipedia better than us, the story of the history of the Cuban revolution and the rise to power of Fidel Castro and Che. But preferably experience in Cuba and our point of view.
Difficult to resist revolutionary Cuba and its unusual history by being only 500 km from Havana. Two months ago we had booked our trip from Cancún go for € 235 with "Cubana Airlines" for 10 days on site. 1220 km long, the island of Cuba made it the largest island of the Antilles. But to achieve it, we must provide the means. The flight of a little more than an hour is an ordeal in itself. Hardly embedded in the camera, you quickly realize that the airplane is no longer young and is downright antiquated. Besides, even if one has asked the question, we really did not know what war it dated. Apart from the still written instructions in Russian, a takeoff of smoke in the plane's corridor and a somewhat laborious landing ... we arrived unscathed in Havana, relieved.
We meet at the airport comical zigoto Tony, met in Cholula in Mexico, who decided to accompany us during our trip to Cuba. Note here that for the first time after seven months we travel 3 and that this third party was unknown to us before you travelers! A peak when a hundred friends envy our trip ...
Cuba Cuba arouses attention and intrigue ... What would Cuba without his cigars Monte Cristo and Cohiba, Havana Club Rum without its 5 dollars a bottle without its old American cars, without his Cuban music (Buena Vista Social Club) and without his Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara?
It is in a very different world than other countries in which we dare to disembark. The Cuban system at first glance may seem complex and familiarization may surprise many. Our first main goal was to tame the three currencies of the country to dodge all doubtful tricks or more directly to be conned. Certainly, one can say that this is part of the discovery of the country and its charm but we still a good mid afternoon to obtain and understand the proper currency (almost) principle. To allow you to see things a little clearer, here is what we have understood.
On the floor Cuban, you will pocket 3 currencies: the US dollar, the Convertible Pesos Pesos Cubanos and (or also called CUC). The dollar will never be denied. However, if you do not want to ruin you, he better do so. Remove ATM, for example, the equivalent of 400 dollars, which will be given in Convertible Pesos (1CUC = 1USD, so 400 CUC). With these CUC, you will be able to obtain Pesos Cubanos in exchange houses or "Casa de Cambio". The exchange rate is Pesos Cubanos 1CUC 25. Do not change about a quarter (so 100CUC) your CUC Pesos Cubanos currency because you can use them to pay for meals, not exported local products, taxis and sometimes your room homestay. Primarily, CUC will you pay for all the rest, that is to say, the bus rides, supermarkets products and nights of hotel. No need to draw you a picture, the CUC is actually well the currency of tourists and during your stay are many Cubans who will try to charge you 25 times the normal price. Enjoying your confusion between the coins, they will often announce the price in CUC when he is actually displayed in Pesos Cubanos. But when did a quick calculation we head quickly realizes that a poor mayonnaise sandwich for $ 5, it's just hogwash! Last, do not make the mistake of providing too much of Pesos Cubanos because the conversion rate to the CUC is worth absolutely nothing! Likewise for your CUC exchange them into dollars before leaving Cuban territory because it will no longer be possible once out of the country. This small detail developed, it's time to talk about Cuba, its people and its capital, full of sumptuous buildings.
The old Cadillac haunt the streets of the old quarter of Havana in ruins. Few would have resisted the little bars and cabarets warm atmosphere "mambotesque". When it is not a capitalist slogan that covers the walls of the city is the famous - probably the best known in the world - photographic portrait of Che (Alberto Korda) that work. We walk for hours in the capital that has been overwhelmingly perceived us as a living museum, where time seems to have stopped 50 years ago ...
However, the attractive facade of a beautiful antique shop window can easily hide something much darker in his back room. Behind the scenes first impression is that of the precarious situation in which Cubans trying to survive somehow their average monthly wage of $ 15. It's not for lack of discussions with Cubans who openly told us that the political system in place is a hell with no way out. Themselves still surprised to get by financially. A country where the fundamental freedoms of expression and movement are reduced. The constant police presence in the streets allows its maintenance. From the tourist point of view it is perceived positively to our security. However, for Cubans, it is accepted as a form of oppression and an April night got us a good example. So we had dug up a room at the inhabitant to 15 CUC for three, we meet our neighbor Cuban, who, proud of his country, kindly invites us to show us the surrounding bars and clubs nights. Few blocks towers of houses away and we're checked by a police officer. We see our friends Cuban stress of minutes minutes. A while later, the agent decides to keep its nationality card for a "single audit" and to affix a fine of 25 dollars (almost two months salary). Finally, he asked him to please go on his way without us. Do not understand why it caused him much twist, we urge the discussion with our broken Spanish. The uniformed man answers us that it is forbidden for Cubans to walk in public space with strangers. Exasperated this aberration that did not leave us indifferent, we were pushed to explain the situation of our mouth. In short, it took us a good ten minutes of trading for the police officer wants to leave us leave together, making her his card and tear the fine he had carefully packed for 5 minutes without listening to a word what we could tell him.
The miserable salary of Cubans pushing necessarily trying to fend off their first job, when they have one. There is no need to look far to know where the money ... a simple round trip in a tourist street can do the trick. The most glaring example is the black market parallel to the real Cigars factory Cigars. A real scam, which, after years of development comes to something stunning. If our memory serves, there is not a single half day where we did not offer us fine cigars fresh from the factory for half price. They tell you that their brother or very good friends with them working in the factory of cigars and he brought out the fresh cigar boxes. To convince you of his deception, it will make you feel his cigar package and even to make you smoking one. And as you know there nothing you will say in a tone well NIGOT "Mmm, oh yeah" !! Until then, you will find that the price is negotiable so it will make you doubt the value of the product. Be realistic, a box of 25 Cohiba cigars No. 4-25 dollars are fake insured. We wanted to policyholders, so we went for a ride in an official store. It showed us that the price of a single cigarette could go up to 14 dollars each. The calculation is quick, minimum $ 250 box of cigars ... how is it possible to have only 25 dollars if it was actually true? But we wanted to play the game to the end. How far the negotiations was possible and whether they would one day we admit that it was wrong! Take our word, all the cigars sold outside official stores factories are fake! Day by day, making us attack cigar every 200 meters, we thought it was time to end and be 100% sure. We then bought a real cigar Cohiba number 4 and have smoked the same time as their supposed "true Cohiba". There was no doubt. The false turns off rapidly, the smoke is not too dense and taste in the mouth has nothing to do !! Since our dear seller still would not admit us his scam, we made him taste our true cigar! Finally facing formal proof, he eventually we confess discreetly outbid by further lowering prices ... When it comes to doing business, Cuban are tireless. In conclusion, it was later learned that the best fake imitated cigars are made of quality tobacco significantly lower than the real ones. For everyone else, they are banana leaves that you can smoke ...
After a few days in Havana, we took the direction of Varadero, the Cuban St Tropez. A party place on the coast where prices disco entries within the nonsense when we know the Cuban average salary! Without too trainer, we soon arrived at Santa Clara city where Che and other of his guerrilla comrades were buried. After hesitating to go through Playa Larga in the famous Bay of Pigs, we preferred we get to Trinidad. A city that has not lost its colonial charm. Surrounded by mountains, old cobblestone streets and pastel colored houses still offers us once again that feeling of retro scenery. We end our loop Cienfuegos, a port town with the name of revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos.
Ten days are finally very short visit to the island. Our only regret will not visiting Viñales and its surrounding valley, located west of the island. Also the little aftertaste that Cubans have left us because of their constant interest of our money. On the way back to the capital, we see for the first time in direct training of a tornado. AWESOME (or album) !! Finally, we find our old Havana that had so impressed us the first days when we take off the head with a fleeting stay but rich in discovery.