Kukuriku Kuba

We escaped. Through the eye of the needle. We took off at 8pm and about 10 minutes earlier we found out that the borders are closing at midnight. Full lockdown! For a week we were uncertain whether we should go at all. The plane tickets were in a our drawer for 8 months and after so much waiting the very thought that we might have to cancel everything made us cry.

First time on an overseas trip with a child and in this situation. You are brave, they told us, you are crazy, others said. We don’t know what we were but we set off on an adventure. The first challenge: a total of 16 hours of flying with a child who is used to a lot of movement. Our flight was during the night and that proved to be a winning combination. Lots of sleep, some food, a cartoon or two, an infinity numbers of question โ€˜mom when are we going to arriveโ€™ and we were there.

I read that everything was slow in Cuba and that it would only take us over 2.5 hours to get out of the airport. It took us half an hour. Thanks corona ๐Ÿ™‚

A driver was waiting for us with the sign โ€˜Ivan Ivanaโ€™. Like in the movies. Another check mark on the bucket list ๐Ÿ˜. We exchanged money, bought internet cards and off we go. Two currencies are used here; tourist or convertible pesos CUC and their domestic pesos CUP. CUP has 25 times less value than CUC. A local buys a banana for 1 CUP, a foreigner for 1 CUC, approximately  1โ‚ฌ.

We booked accommodation in Havana through Airbnb and the plan was to book rest of stays through a good old oral agreement. A little room was cute, exactly what I expected; three beds, a bathroom in which water barely flows, but it flows, single-layer toilet paper and a colorful yard. Hosts, the cutest hosts ever. They practically don’t speak English, but my persistent watching of soap operas as a kid paid off. Wife, husband and grandmother. They brought us juice, for Mihael some crackers and bananas. We sat down, talked about how’s in Cuba and how’s in Croatia. They thought that Croatia was bigger and were surprised when I said that the winter was warm, with about 5C average temperature. During winter in Cuba temperature is 25C.

They do not lie when they say that Cuba is like a time machine. It takes you about 50 years back. You realize that immediately. And just let yourself go.

We walked through Central Havana, all old, ruined and dirty, just some facades in screaming colors. The closer we got to Old Havana, building were newer ๐Ÿค”.

In the Old Havana is everything a man/tourist needs; hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops… Everything is more or less renovated, and what is not, it’s being renovated.

We visited couple of museums. There’s nothing explained in English. Workers, who should explain some things to you, are just sitting and napping on chairs. But if you found someone to explain something it will cost you even though you properly paid for the ticket. And they will explain it in Spanish and 3 words of English ๐Ÿ˜„. Soaps thanks again.

We also took a boat ride to the peninsula. Ticket price: 30 cents (2kn). Confused, we looked at the price and then at each other and again at the price, not believing that after the overpriced Old Havana, we will take a boat ride for 2kn. On the peninsula is a military headquarters, a statue of Jesus ala Rio, Che Guevara’s house and a lighthouse. Wind blow like hell but the view was beautiful.

The shops in Havana don’t have the vast majority of things we’re used to, but rum is everywhere. And if there is no water, there is rum ๐Ÿ˜†. To them, rum is like rakija to our grandfathers, it cures all diseases.

The majority of cars are oldtimers. The ones that are for rent are pimped, others are not. Of course we had to take a ride in one because when in Cuba. The man who drove us spoke excellent English, took us through all of Havana, explained some things and of course took us to a cigar and rum shop. Interestingly, the Chinatown in Havana has no Chinese, and Chinese restaurants serve Italian specialties๐Ÿ˜†. It’s only logical ๐Ÿ––๐Ÿป. We also rode in, as Miha says prdilice, something like a tuk tuk in Thailand.

Food. Lobster. And that’s it! I’m kidding, there’s more but for someone who’s eating a lobster for the first time, it’s a revelation. It’s not the cheapest story, although nothing in Cuba is cheap for tourists, but it pays off. Not to mention Mojitos, at least two a day. For disinfection yes ๐Ÿ™‚

The good thing about the corona is that there were no crowds. In restaurants we are usually the only ones, the waiters besiege us, the singers sang only to us. VIP ๐Ÿ˜

We also met a painter named Jose. Mihael wanted to play with the children that he teaches painting. He showed us his paintings, we bought two. Then he took us to mojitos and told us he will show us how to live cheap in Cuba. Great! He also wanted to go to Vinales with us. Great! The only problem, his wife didn’t let him go ๐Ÿ˜‚.

After Havana we went to Vinales. We managed to catch a ride with another Cuban. Taxi collectivo and buses didn’t drive because of the corona. But in Cuba there is always someone willing to drive you. Casa was recommended to us by Martina (thanks Martina ๐Ÿ˜˜) and the recommendation was really great. A young woman with a 9-year-old daughter. They immediately offered us juice, freshly made, of course. Yummy. But she also explained to us that by Tuesday all tourists have to leave the country and we have just received a message that our flight has been canceled. So lets seize the day. We had lunch and went directly on horseback tour through the valley. A cowboy Pablo with his 3 horses; Moro, Carmelo and Negrita. He explained that horses are on automatic ๐Ÿ˜‚. And they were, they knew when and where to turn, when to stop. We stopped on a tobacco plantation where Jesus, in excellent English, explained the process of drying tobacco and making cigars. We smoked a cigar, drank mojito and rum and bought homemade coffee and honey and cigars of course. And thank God we did because we ended up having to buy souvenirs at the airport ๐Ÿ™ˆ. With a few more mojitos along the way, we rode horses at sunset. Heart was full โค๏ธ.

In the morning, Yuya informed us that we can no longer stay with her. We needed to go to the Hotel Central, where the remaining tourists had to stay. In fact, we didn’t know how we would get back to Croatia because all the remaining flights costed โ‚ฌ 3,000 and more. We contacted the embassy and, thanks to them, very quickly we got a seat on a flight that Germany sended for its citizens in Cuba. Thank you Germans โค๏ธ. Okay, we had a flight, so let’s seize this last day. We went to a large mural on a rock and took a walk to another rock where we were supposed to climb. Weโ€™re a little sad because the rock looked great, but a couple of mojitos fixed the sadness. Senor had a Jute, their endemic big โ€˜ratโ€™. Mihaels new pet ๐Ÿ™ˆ. He also picked bananas for Mihael directly from the tree.

Now we had to leave the country. We arranged a taxi, but they forbade them to drive. We had a special bus, but the bus was leaving at 10am and didn’t go to the airport but to the 3 hotels in Havana which were designated for the remaining tourists. That way we would missed the flight. But Cuba has a solution for everything. A man from immigration called his superiors, and asked for permission for 2 taxis (another Germans had the same problem) and in a half an hour we are on our way.

Although it was a little bit stressful in the end, now we have an anecdote to tell. We did not regret the trip although it was for such a short time. We rested our heads and souls, speaked Spanish, tried new dishes, saw new things and drank a lot of mojitos. Cuba, we’ll see you again.