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Diving in Playa Giron

Our Casa Particular in Playa Giron was very nice, even though we were missing a toilette seat. Instead we had turtles, a parrot, a dog (or was it a hamster?) and a crocodile - for real! There is not much to see in this village besides very good dive sites and a restaurant where you can get 4 main courses plus four beers and a soda for round about 8 CUC ( = 8 USD)! Playa Giron has only one huge resort which could easily be a movie set for a zombie blockbuster. The small bungalows fall apart, grass is growing inside and most windows are broken. Around the bungalows are palm trees with coco nuts laying around everywhere. At the beach side of this hotel is a masterpiece of architectural art: a massive wave breaker. Its appearance is brutal. Most probably Cemex (one of the biggest concrete producers in the world) was not only sponsoring the local grocery store… However, this beach also features a bar with great mojito for only 1 CUC ( = USD). We had a first great afternoon with Jimmie and Kari 😉

The next day we went diving. While doing so we met Tobi and Christiane ("Meet Tobi and Christian" post will follow soon).The rest of the day we went to an all-inclusive beach. Thanks to Tobi and Christiane the transport was free and the way back one of the highlights (as far as I remember). The evening ended in a bar with round about 2-15 Mojito per person.

The haunted bungalow hotelIMG_20140530_155650

Nice and welcoming parking lot @playa gironIMG_20140528_142634 Award winning wave breakerIMG_20140528_161712 IMG_20140528_164215 IMG_20140530_155110

Beach without wave breaker (close by)IMG_20140530_155211 IMG_0843

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Trinidad and the Countryside

Trinidad is located in the south central of Cuba. Its surounded by mountains and sugar cane plantages on three sides, however, the next beach is just 14 km away. Its one of the first cities established by the spanish, here the clocks stoped ticking in 1850. Old-fashioned 19th-century horse carriages drive along the cobblestone-streets some houses have been nicely restored and you see people sitting on the streets and playing domino everywhere. But besides that there is not a lot to see. The best thing about Trinidad was the casa which was perfectly clean, good located in the city center, with a private terrace and hammock only for us to use. Also it offered the best dinners and breakfast we had in Cuba so far. And all of that for a good price. Its called "Casa Elio Ramos". Every morning we got loads of fresh fruit, juice, omlets, pan cakes, coffee, hot chocolate and bread. But see your self on the pics 😉

During the first two days we took it slowly, walked through the narrow streets, relaxed on our terrace and in the evenings sat on Plaza Mayor where people dance salsa and drink Mojito or Cuba libre.

One day we went to Playa Ancón which is mentioned in the lonely planet as one of the best beaches of cuba. But in the last 6 weeks we have seen various beaches and therefore you can call us beach ruined. Sadly it was a disappointment compared to what we have seen.

The other day we went on a horseback tour (someone whos name shouldn't be mentioned took a carriage) to a forest called Parque El Cubano and hiked to a waterfall. The bath in the freshwater was fantastic and underneath the waterfall is the entrance to a huge cave which is only reachable by swimming. Caves have someting creapy and magical at the same time (this one somehow reminding one of Indiana Jones). In the afternoon we visited a tiny Fábrica de Tabacos and bought our first cigars (10 local cigars for 5 $). After having a great dinner at the casa we went out with Kari and Jimmy (see we meet category) for some drinks and ended up in a really fancy club called Disco Ayala. Its a hillside cave in Trinidad that has been converted into a club where people dance to a wild mixture of salsa and house music (we got told this place is mentioned in the Neon as one of the 66 places to party around the world).

Kari and Jimmy also want to go diving in Playa Giron therefore we decided to go together. The next day we are on our way. Looking out of the window felt sometimes like watching a western movie because you see more cowboys riding along the countyside than cars passing by. In Cuba they still use horse carriages for transportation and for field work.

Our room in TrinidadIMG_0620 Dinner at the hostelIMG_0627 Riding in the countrysideIMG_0645 IMG_0646 IMG_0655 IMG_0660 IMG_0661 Mangos! Shit loads of mangos!IMG_0666 A cigar factoryIMG_0833 IMG_20140524_155112 IMG_20140524_165859Working on my disputationIMG_20140524_214047Breakfast on our private terraceIMG_20140525_095710 IMG_20140525_134034Playa AnconIMG_20140526_145009 IMG_20140526_164649 IMG_20140526_191814Plaza major - where the magic happens during nightIMG_20140526_191834Niels was forced to ride a horse....IMG_20140527_112201 IMG_20140527_112618No more space in the LadaIMG_20140528_095500

Way to Cayo Santa Maria and our stay

Once again the alarm clock was set to 5 am on the 21th of may. Packed with our backpacks we found our way to the place our bus was supposed to leave at 6 am. After two hours of waiting and several times asking the receptionist, we got told that the bus forgot to pick us up. By now we are well-experienced travelers, therefore we brought sandwiches and fruits. With a delay of 4,5 hours our pick-up arrived. Instead of a bus full of people we got a private car with a driver. The drive from Havanna to Cayo Santa Maria took 5 ½ hours. Cayo Santa Maria lies at the western end of the Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey in the north of Cuba. Its only reachable via a massive 48 km causeway called EL Pedraplén. No Casa Particulares are located on Cayo Santa Maria therefore we were forced to exchange our backpacker life into an 5 Star All-Inclusive Resort life. We expected a high class 5 Star Resort, but recognized soon that there are diffrent 5 star hotels in the world 😉 The resort was nice, but did not meet our expectations.

The luggage was brought to the room and we decided to take a drink at the pool bar. Followed by a drink at the beach bar, another one at the bar at the lobby bar and and and… We tried various different cocktails / colors and met three polish guys from Breslau (Edyta, Marvin Nr. 1 and Marvin Nr. 2) with whom we hung out. The following two days we enjoyed the beach, the pool and the drinks (not the food!).

Pool and pool barIMG_0617





Edyta, Marcin No. 1 and No. 2. Thank you for the nice time!!!IMG_20140524_131324

Impressions of Havanna

Good to know about Cuba: it has two parallel currencies! One is the cuban peso/moneda nacional (CUP/ Mn) the other one being the convertible (CUC). In theory, tourists are only supposed to use the CUC, but in practice, you can exchange the CUC into Mn. The exchange rate is 24 Mn per CUC. We got a pizza in a restaurant for 5 CUC and on the street for less than 50 Mn. Therefore, its worth to exchange CUC. But most services and luxury goods (and you'd be surprised what luxury goods can be) are only payable in CUC, as for example taxis, restaurants, accomodation and sightseeing.

The most common accomodation for backpackers are casa particulars. Those are rooms for rent in private houses. Casas can be booked via tripadvisor but in cuba internet is limited and veeery expensive (at least6 CUC per hour). It is easy to identify casas from the outside because all certified ones have a sign with a blue illustration. Prices range from 20 to 40 CUC per room and night. But we found out that you have to bargain for getting a good deal.

We spent 4 days in Havanna. Wondering around the old city (habana vieja) and visiting the sights of Havanna like the Plaza Revolucion, Plaza Vieja, Malecon etc. Havanna is a controverse city. On the one hand there are some extremly nice streets and squares and on the other hand you will find ruins and dirt everywhere. The Habaneros seem to like music alot atleast you are sourrounded by it everywhere in a unbelivable high volume.

Oldtimer everywhere

First night in a cuban bar

Secondhand book market at Plaza de Armas


... and dirt

Colonial style houses

Havannas overview from the camera oscura point at the Plaza Vieja
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Plaza Revolucion

Local ferry to be the Casablanca opposite of the old city

Forts of Casablanca

Skyline of old havana from Casablanca
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