Friday, January 27, 2017

Travel Cuba Photo Dump and More Stories

In my prior post I talked about some of the fascinating parts of visiting communist Cuba today. These first two photos help to illustrate. I only saw one clothing store while visiting 4 different cities, and this is it. A used clothing store in Villa Clara.
Clothing (used) store in Villa Clara, Cuba
Similarly, here is Debora checking out the goods at one local store that is representative of many. Look closely to see the selection of deodorant, nail polish and cigarettes.
Debora window shopping

One of Cuba's most famous residents was Ernest Hemingway. He lived on some land on the outskirts of Havana from 1939-1960 and his house is still just as he left it. Here I am toasting to him with a daiquiri at the famous La Floridita bar. His most famous Cuban quote is: my mojito at La Bodeguita, my daiquiri at La Floridita. This bar was the only place I visited that served severely overpriced drinks.
Drinking daiquiris with Hemingway at the famous La Floridita bar
Debora and I also visited Hemingway's house. It's full of hunting trophies and hundreds of books, a cozy place on a nice sized chunk of land with a pool and tennis court. Apparently Hemingway supplied Fidel with some guns to aid the revolution. The vintage taxi we took out to his house needed a little engine adjustment en route. Many of these old cars have newer Hyundai engines in them, and the exteriors and interiors are near spotless.
Our vintage taxi to Hemingway's house needed tweaking halfway there
It seems that many of the vintage cars are driven by the son or grandson of the original owner. A Cuban can make way more money driving a taxi for tourists than being a doctor or engineer, which are paid a flat government wage.

There were lots of horses, too. Many locals outside of Havana use a horse and buggy setup to get into town. Here's a picture of me on the way to go swimming in a cave outside of Vinales, the most scenic portion of our trip.
Horseback ride to go cave swimming in Valle de Vinales

This was from a different horseback tour ride to a waterfall outside of Trinidad, Cuba. 
Cowboy Kirk
But if you know me, you know that I prefer to ride a steel horse. This first photo is in Valle de Vinales, a couple hours west of Havana. This is where they grow the best tobacco. The mountain in the back is called a mogote. So beautiful.
Hills in background are called "mogotes"
 And this photo is riding to the beach near Trinidad.
Bicycling the gorgeous countryside near Trinidad, Cuba on way to the beach
Speaking of tobacco, this gentleman is a campesino. He's a farmer of tobacco and his family has been doing it for generations. 90% of his tobacco is sold to the government (at a friendly price) who produces the Cuban brand names that you see for sale around the world. 10% he keeps and sells to tourists like me. He says that the government uses chemicals in the fermentation process, but that he does not.
Kirk with a campesino who has been growing tobacco and making cigars his whole life

Drinkin' rum and smokin' stogies, Cuba style
The few cigars I smoked in Cuba left no lingering aftertaste the morning after, as I've experienced in the past on the few occasions I've smoked a cigar in the States. I also drank more local rum than I planned to one night with zero negative effects the next day. Quality matters.

Care for some light reading material? All the new books that I saw for sale were government propaganda. There are some used booksellsers out on the streets, however, if you're looking for something a little less Communist.
Light reading material. All propaganda.
In 1959 Che Guevara led a team of revolutionaries that used a bulldozer to tear up track and derail a train at this spot in Villa Clara. The resulting battle effectively won the revolution for Fidel. Today the place is a monument and Villa Clara has many Che monuments.
Site of blown-up train that won the Revolution for Fidel in 1959
Fun band in Villa Clara playing in a bar beneath the image of Che. There is also a big mausoleum to Che with statues and gardens and stuff. A tourist can walk through the mausoleum and see where Che is entombed. Since Che died young (assassinated by the CIA in Bolivia in 1967) he was held up as a martyr by Fidel. Fidel just died a few months ago and his ashes are in a much more modest gigantic boulder near his birth place in Santiago de Cuba.
Local bar and band

Baseball! The nastional pastime of Cuba. And it was playoff season when I was there. The stands filled up by gametime with maybe 5,000 people. The stadium was beautiful, if a little old and rough around the edges. Reminded me of a AAA ballpark in the USA. Usually all sporting events and concerts are free in Cuba (Communism for the win!), but this playoff tilt cost $.04 (not a typo).
Ham sandwiches for sale before national playoff baseball game

Lots of great music, too. Bands like this were common in the tourist town of Trinidad. I enjoyed listening and gave them $1.
Typical Cuban street musicians

Here is Debora relaxing at dawn in the main square of Trinidad, a really beautiful city.
Debora relaxes at sunrise in lovely Trinidad, Cuba

Need your bicycle fixed? This is the place in Vinales.
Bicycle repair in Vinales, Cuba
Debora and I spent our last night at this hotel in Vinales. The views here are spectacular and we had a great time riding bicycles and horses back through the mogotes and tobacco farms.
Hotel pool looking over Valle de Vinales
I think that's it for Cuba. I had the pleasure of spending 3 days in San Diego, CA USA with my sister and aunts and now I'm writing this from Sapporo, Japan. Crazy to be in Japan after 14 months in Latin America.

No comments: