In the last couple of weeks, Cuba has been permanently a topic in the global news. Cuba has been also in my thankful thoughts – thankful because I was lucky to experience this unique country before the possible upcoming political and social changes. So let’s go back to 2014 – a year full of happiness, emotions, challenges and changes (private and professional), a lot of work and efforts, love and celebrations. I got married in June and yes, it was a great and beautiful summer wedding with some perfects weather, unforgettable moments and tonnes of positive vibes, collected during our honeymoon.
These were the most emotional two weeks of my life! Two weeks fraught with vast curiosity, the culture crush with the loveliest and most compassionate people I have ever met! And of course, their local stories that will have a special place in my heart forever. Oh, Cuba! There are any words to describe the allure spreading over my thoughts when I was going through all the pics that have captured some of the greatest moments during our honeymoon.
Let’s do something different! I noticed there are many memories and stories from Cuba popping up in my mind. So I’ll go randomly through my posts and I’ll try to share with you the most interesting facts I learned from the Cubans we met, and of course – from my face-to-face local experiences.
Our Honeymoon and why Cuba?! Cuba is one of the most romantic places I have ever seen! Great beaches (the Caribbean beaches are actually hard to top), the unique nature and music that spreads love in the air, good drinks, delicious food, the most positive people, a lot of history and retro cars,… actually, everything that will make your honeymoon (and not only) unforgettable!
Our hotel Royalton Hicacos (here) was located in Varadero – a resort town which is located 140 km east of Havana. I’m absolutely in love with
Varadero, its white beaches and turquoise warm water… But aside from the many hours spent with Havana Club in the sun, we made several land tours in order to learn as much as possible about Cuba.
I would not recommend booking a car in Cuba! Not because it is dangerous, but probably because you’ll need some time to get used to the streets’ situation (without a navigation system, without mobile phone reception, missing street signs and driving logic, …). I would neither recommend booking a group trip (nothing less romantic than this)! Talk to the locals – there are plenty of private offers “with no bill needed”! The perfect way to enjoy YOUR time in a cool retro car with a Cuban driver or rather a storyteller and private guide at the same time! I will never forget the time spent with the guys and our infinite and “all-inclusive” talks …
Our first trip was from Varadero to Havana – 140 km in 2.5 hours! Significant enough for the road situation … And probably, this “highway” was the best one … Never mind!
Another, as I found to be an interesting topic in Cuba is the currency as they have two different – CUS (Cuban Convertible Peso) and CUP (Cuban Peso). The grotty political reality in Cuba differentiates the rich from the poor even by the credit spread – the CUC (is 1 CUC = 1 USD) is used and owned by foreigners or the rich people in the country and the CUP, or the “national coins” (1 CUP = 26.5 USD), is the currency of the “mortals”. You cannot exchange CUSs outside the country. Our “Exchange” shop was actually the info point at our hotel.
It is absolutely ridiculous, but if you donate some CUCs to somebody on the street, they won’t be able to use the CUCs because everybody would think that the money had been stolen (as this currency is used only by foreigners and the reach people in the country, and of course by people who work in the tourism industry). As a “rich” Cuban, you can use CUCs in order to buy luxury products – by luxury it is meant soaps, shampoos, antiperspirants, etc. … and with CUPs, you can buy e.g. fruits and vegetables. As a foreigner, it is almost impossible to put your fingers on some Cuban Pesos (CUPs) and I even think it is, again, illegal.
Driving through the Chinatown of Havana, we went “shopping” – what else than Cuban Cigarettes! But … one of those queer moments in my life, when we were standing in the middle of a living room of a Columbian Chicka (with a cigarette in the left hand and a bag full with some precious “made in Cuba” products in the other hand) who was watching (and grumbling at the same time) the Colombian football team playing in a match of the World Cup 2014 and at the same time she was making some offers like “Buy 3 boxes – Pay for 2″…
We bought 4 boxes (each box has 20 cigarettes) for the price of one in a regular shop. These cigarettes have been outsourced during the production due to some defects (like incorrectly printed labels)… And some of those who work for the factories smuggle the boxes and sell them on a much lower price compared to the normal market.
Moving on to our next stop: Plaza de la Revolución! Here you can find the memorials of the two most important revolutionaries in the Cuban history: Che Guevara with “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always) and Camilo Cienfuegos with its most famous quotation “Vas bien, Fidel!” (You’re doing fine, Fidel!).
One of the most beautiful building I saw in Havana was The Hotel Nacional de Cuba which is a historic luxury hotel located in the middle of Vedado. The view of Havana Harbour and the sea is absolutely magical! Interesting fact: not far away from this Hotel JayZ and Beyoncé had celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary. Interesting fact, because they actually had to take an accreditation from the US government in order to visit Cuba…
Next cocktail stop was the sky bar “Plaza de Armas”. After some alcoholic “refreshment” we headed to the most interesting part of Havana and my second post from Cuba series!
Enjoy the day!