Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Impressions of Cuba

After our encounter with the Cuba coast guard we arrived in Havana on April 28. The customs check in process was one of the most intensive that we have experienced to date (and that is saying a lot).  Every department needed to send a crew to check us out, a doctor came on board to check our health and finally a rather cute drug dog snuffled about before we were finally allowed to leave the check in dock and move into the Hemingway Marina.  The rather out of date pilot described the marina as faded but rather elegant, well equipped.  What we found was not more that some cleats to tie up along the cement wall of the canal, some broken down buildings and a grass field.  Kees and Martha were of course there are we quickly became friends with Joop and Albertine from the Zeezot, great people, also Dutch.  Of the 10 odd boats present, 4 of them were Dutch. 
Marina Hemmingway

Seb and I have both long wanted to visit Cuba.  Whether to follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and the ‘Old Mand and the Sea’  or to see first hand the impact of the legendary Fidel Castro. Cuba has such a rich history and the weight of this history can be felt with intensity. So many impressions.  The faded glory of the mansions in Havana with their crumbling concrete and ornate wrought iron balconies, the iconic 1950s American cars, the equally iconic images of Che Guevara, messages along the highway confirming the ongoing commitment to the communist regime, deep conversations with incredibly educated and  politically engaged locals, huge turnout and cheers at the labour day celebrations which happened to be on my birthday, May 1st, red cliffs, caves, donkey riding, cigars, oxen tilling the fields next to a tractor out of use as there is no fuel available…so many memorable impressions that it is difficult to process and come to a conclusion about how I feel about this place.  Fascinating.

In our short time in Cuba we spent two days with Kees and Martha in Havana.  It was great to share this experience and the impact with such good friends. The 5 of them pampered me with a great birthday dinner and we explored the streets of Havana, walking for hours and hours. 

While planning a trip inland, we tried to rent a car but quickly found out that we could not use our credit cards or our banks cards, meaning we were essentially cashless. Our bank in the Netherlands apparently routes its overseas transactions via the USA and therefore these were blocked. Luckily we had a little cash and we could borrow the rest from friends. 

Once able to rent a car we traveled inland to Vinales where we stayed in various casa particulares, the officially sanctioned accommodations that are essentially the extra bedrooms in people homes. The next few days we spent exploring the area taking long walks with our guide visiting caves, smoking cigars and drinking really good coffee. Again many wonderful impressions of a fascinating country.  We hope to come back someday and we hope that it does not change too much in the meantime.

No comments:

Post a Comment