Visiting Cuba – Day 5


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Having a host who promises to make arrangements for a perfect dinner that night sounds good, doesn’t it. Depending on her promises we leaned back and looked forward to our night out at Paladar Doña Eutimia. Until then we decided to walk into town and cross the Bahia by boat for a visit to Casablanca.

Strolling through Vieja Habana opened up new views of cruise people and their land tours. I figured out that a cruise is not the right thing to do for me: The cruise ship is waiting at the pier while all passengers are herded up in tiny groups for a tour through town. It seemed crowded, load and nothing that you can enjoy.

While passing by and looking for something to visit we saw hotels that offered colonial style housing and nice front sides. Heading for the landing pier of the ferry to Casablanca we visited the Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market.

Here you can stroll through aisles full of art, cigars, and thingy you really don’t need. But, to be very honest: It’s worth seeing. Be aware of the traders: The are constantly trying to grab your attention and your willingness to buy things.

From the Terminal de Ferries the boat took us – to CasaBlanca. approximately every 20 minutes tells the schedule.

 

Be ready to have your bags inspected when entering both terminals (Casablanca or Regla). It’s likely to be a quick, cursory inspection so just make sure your bags/purses are open and it’s not to cause a bottleneck for people behind you. BTW, fare for the ferry is 20 centavos in moneda nacional, about a penny. I recommend to have a CUP coin. If the toll taker tries to tell you that your fare is 1 CUC because you are a tourist, simply say no, pay in moneda nacional and get on. All CUC collected goes in the toll takers pocket. You will also notice some Cubans simply saying “no tengo dinero” or “I have no money” and boarding without paying anything. Casablanca is a great way to take a break from the hassle of tourist dominated Habana Vieja.

Leaving the ferry you will find on the left side the Hershey Electric Railway. A very interesting old train system which is still “operating”. But you have to be aware that frequent breakdowns are very common. You should not plan or depend on any schedule.

Climbing up to the top of the hill you will find your way to Parque del Cristo de La Habana from where you have a perfect view towards Vieja Habana.

In walking distance to the El Cristo statue you’ll find a military academy and a fortress: La Cabaña – Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña. All military documents (rockets, tanks, etc.) you find there represent the Socialism Friendship of the former USSR, DDR and Cuba.

Heading back home from Casa Blanca we decided to take a taxi or bus. We asked two men for directions and they invited us to join in because they were heading to the bus station where you can cross the Bahia through a tunnel, as well.

We walk for almost 20 minutes downhill and reached a four lane highway where we had to cross without a dedicated pedestrian crosswalk. That was quite easy because all drivers paid attention to the bloody crossing pedestrians. They are used to it!

Getting on the crowded bus we had to pay one CUC/person to get back to Viejo Habana. It was a ten minute ride until we got off the bus and breathing fresh air again. This was an experience you should make while you are visiting Havana. It’s an inexpensive but very narrow way to meet Cubans.

Walking back to our B&B we figured out that this day was the most enjoyable day of our vacation so far. Having dinner at Castas & Tal made it even better.

Continue reading “Visiting Cuba – Day 5”

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Visiting Cuba – Day 4

IMG_1271The story about day 4 I do write in German because I don’t know whether or not you do like reading it in English or German. I would very much appreciate to hearing back from you, my valued reader/follower, about your preferences.

Endlich schien die Sonne wieder und der Tag war zum Sightseeing zu Fuß nutzbar. Nachdem die ersten Tage sehr mit gemischten Gefühlen gefüllt waren, sollte es jetzt etwas gelassener angegangen werden, um die Eindrücke der ersten Tage vertiefen zu können.

Der Plan bestand darin, die Altstadt nochmals zu besuchen und sich einige der Sehenswürdigkeiten und Attraktionen näher anzusehen, die man bei der Stadtführung bereits kennengelernt hatte. Die Landkarte (Cuba West mit Stadtplan von Havanna eines kanadischen Anbieters) war sehr hilfreich, da die Navigation per iPhone oder Android sich als teuer erwies. Wer diese Kosten aber nicht scheut, kann natürlich auch gerne über Roaming arbeiten. Zu empfehlen ist es aber nicht, da das Wifi-Angebot in Kuba sehr begrenzt ist. In Havanna kann man zum Beispiel nur an HotSpot-Punkten des lokalen Anbieters Zugang erhalten. Und selbst das ist schwierig, da dort meist 100 plus Menschen sitzen, die auch ins Internet möchten. Die App: ALaMesa hat sich als hilfreich erwiesen. Sie stellt neben den Angaben zu den Restaurants auch eine Karte bereit, die in der bereits geladenen Datenbank hinterlegt ist, sodass man keinen Internetzugang benötigt, um seinen Weg zu finden.

Das B&B (Casa Zenia Habana, seit Januar 2017 bis heute, März 2017 ist der Übernachtungspreis um 20 % gestiegen) liegt nur etwa 20 Gehminuten von der Altstadt entfernt, sodass man gut zu Fuß dorthin laufen kann. Die Straßen sind meist uneben und weisen zahlreiche tiefe Löcher auf. Daher ist zu empfehlen, festes Schuhwerk zu tragen, denn mit Sandalen besteht leider Verletzungsgefahr durch Umknicken. Auch muss ich hier noch eine Anmerkung zum B&B machen: Es ist laut (keine Schallisolierung und -schutzfenster) und liegt an einer Straße, die sehr stark befahren ist. Zudem gibt es einen Bike-Taxi-Sammelplatz direkt daneben. Die Fahrer sind 24/7/365 immer vor Ort und machen viel Lärm (Rufen, Musik, Geschrei). Wem das nichts ausmacht, der … Auf jeden Fall immer versuchen, nicht das Eckzimmer zur Seitenstraße zu erhalten. Es ist nur die Hölle. Die Beschreibung auf der Webseite ist leider sehr geschönt und entspricht nicht der Realität. Die meisten Bewertungen auf AirBnB entsprechen nicht dem Realzustand und sind geschönt. Das dargestellte Zimmer hatten wir für sechs Tage: ohne Kleiderschrank und nur einer Hutablage mit fünf Kleiderbügeln.
Casa Zenia Havanna, room facing the balcony

AirBnB-Anmerkung zur Casa Zenia-Habana in Havanna, Kuba auf der Angebotsseite

Die Wohnung befindet sich im Herzen von Havanna. Sowohl der Malecon, als auch die Altstadt und andere Sehenswürdigkeiten, wie das Capitol, sind zu Fuß in wenigen Minuten erreichbar. …

Leider kann man als Reisender auf der vorgenannten Plattform keine Bewertung abgeben, wenn man nicht darüber gebucht hat, ansonsten würde ich andere Reisende auf die Zustände hinweisen..

Das Durchstreifen der Altstadt war schön und bescherte viele neue Eindrücke. Neben Jugendstil und Kolonialbauten, gab es in sozialistischer Mangelbauweise hochgezogene Gebäude, die nicht vertrauenswürdig aussahen. Obwohl schon einiges investiert worden ist, fehlt es an allen Ecken und Kanten aber an Rohstoffen und Geld – so sieht es jedenfalls für den Touristen aus.

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Wem das nichts ausmacht, der sollte sich auf den Weg in dieses Land machen und sich entführen lassen. Ob diese Reise dann zum Genuss wird, bleibt abzuwarten. Wer auf Nummer Sicher gehen will, sollte All-Inklusiv-Urlaub in Varadero in der Provinz Matanzas machen. Dort reiht sich ein Hotel an das andere und der Kontakt zu den einfachen Bürgern, die nicht im Bereich Fremdenverkehr tätig sind, geht verloren.

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Continue reading “Visiting Cuba – Day 4”

Visiting Cuba – Day 3


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Oh, what a day we had to say: getting up in the morning after another noisy night we figured out that it was heavily raining and the temperature dropped down to 18 °C. Still very warm compared to the winter temperatures back in Europe (around 0 °C) but unexpected and surprising. The wind was blowing in from the East over the Atlantic and there was noch sign, that this weather situation would change shortly.

Without an umbrella or even raincoat we had to make up our minds to do something interesting that might make our day. The Hotel Nacional was on our to-do-list, so we decided to take a taxi to get there. All taxi-drivers have been trying to grab our attention, but we picked the first one, negotiated the fare (6 CUC) and got into an old Lada car. The driver was quite proud of his car, but the wipers didn’t work and he tried to find his way by looking through the rain-wet windshield. In another big city this would have scared us to death but here: The traffic was unexpected low and – because of the fact that we were driving over the six-lane Malecón – no trouble could be seen. When he stopped at a red light, he opened the front door window and moved the wipers by hand. You see, from time to time we got something to see in front of us. But we’ve made it to the Hotel Nacional without an accident.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is one of Cuba’s most iconic hotels. It combines the features of an old Las Vegas Strip hotel with a picturesque Havana location and has hosted a range of famous visitors, particularly screen idols from Hollywood’s golden years. Several historical rooms have been preserved and can be viewed on free guest tours. If you like great entertainment, beautiful views and the idea of strolling in the same beautifully kept gardens once enjoyed by Hollywood royalty, you should try this hotel. Every Saturday from 4pm till 8pm the vintage car and bike club, Amigos de Fangio, show-off their treasures, below the Hotel Nacional.

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We’ve spent some time at the bar area where a picture gallery shows many celebreties who visited this place before. You might get the feeling that the time didn’t move forward. But when you do look closely you will see that the old Wurlitzer Jukebox does have a CD changer installed and the picture gallery is updated with new photographs of late visitors.

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Then we explored the hotel and the gardens – although it was raining. But who really cares about rain when he is on vacation? It’s a kind of unexpected break and can be “wonderful”.

When we got out off the Hotel Nacional we walked to the nearby Restaurant 21 Bar to have lunch. The service was excellent as the food, too. Waiting for the rain to stop pouring from the sky, we decided to take a taxi back home to our B&B. This ride was a kind of tricky: We had to enter the opposite the restaurant located Hotel Capri to ask the doorman to get a taxi for us. Almost 15 minutes later it arrived and we jumped into the car with an unfriendly relatively old driver. He found his way back to our B&B and we had to pay double the price we’d payed for the way to the Nacional. Because of the fact that taxi drivers don’t use the taximeter, we did get trapped. A bad experience but obviously our fault. We should have asked before entering the car – or we should have argued with the taxi driver. But then our Spanish needs to be better otherwise we wouldn’t have a chance to “win” the arguement battle. My recommendation is: Learn some Spanish before you fly to Cuba. In travel guide books it’s said that many people do speak English or even German but … The truth is: Most of the locals speak only a Spanish with a dialect colour in it. You definitely need to get used to it.

Back at our B&B we got some rest before we went to Castas & Tal on Galliano #51 esquina San Lázaro for dinner where we did have very tasteful dishes and excellent wines.

Oh, what a day we had to say: getting up in the morning after another noisy night we figured out that it was heavily raining and the temperature dropped down to 18 °C. Still very warm compared to the winter temperatures back in Europe (around 0 °C) but unexpected and surprising. The wind was blowing in from the East over the Atlantic and there was noch sign, that this weather situation would change shortly.

Without an umbrella or even raincoat we had to make up our minds to do something interesting that might make our day. The Hotel Nacional was on our to-do-list, so we decided to take a taxi to get there. All taxi-drivers have been trying to grab our attention, but we picked the first one, negotiated the fare (6 CUC) and got into an old Lada car. The driver was quite proud of his car, but the wipers didn’t work and he tried to find his way by looking through the rain-wet windshield. In another big city this would have scared us to death but here: The traffic was unexpected low and – because of the fact that we were driving over the six-lane Malecón – no trouble could be seen. When he stopped at a red light, he opened the front door window and moved the wipers by hand. You see, from time to time we got something to see in front of us. But we’ve made it to the Hotel Nacional without an accident.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is one of Cuba’s most iconic hotels. It combines the features of an old Las Vegas Strip hotel with a picturesque Havana location and has hosted a range of famous visitors, particularly screen idols from Hollywood’s golden years. Several historical rooms have been preserved and can be viewed on free guest tours. If you like great entertainment, beautiful views and the idea of strolling in the same beautifully kept gardens once enjoyed by Hollywood royalty, you should try this hotel. Every Saturday from 4pm till 8pm the vintage car and bike club, Amigos de Fangio, show-off their treasures, below the Hotel Nacional.

img_1166

We’ve spent some time at the bar area where a picture gallery shows many celebreties who visited this place before. You might get the feeling that the time didn’t move forward. But when you do look closely you will see that the old Wurlitzer Jukebox does have a CD changer installed and the picture gallery is updated with new photographs of late visitors.

img_4565

Then we explored the hotel and the gardens – although it was raining. But who really cares about rain when he is on vacation? It’s a kind of unexpected break and can be “wonderful”.

When we got out off the Hotel Nacional we walked to the nearby Restaurant 21 Bar to have lunch. The service was excellent as the food, too. Waiting for the rain to stop pouring from the sky, we decided to take a taxi back home to our B&B. This ride was a kind of tricky: We had to enter the opposite the restaurant located Hotel Capri to ask the doorman to get a taxi for us. Almost 15 minutes later it arrived and we jumped into the car with an unfriendly relatively old driver. He found his way back to our B&B and we had to pay double the price we’d payed for the way to the Nacional. Because of the fact that taxi drivers don’t use the taximeter, we did get trapped. A bad experience but obviously our fault. We should have asked before entering the car – or we should have argued with the taxi driver. But then our Spanish needs to be better otherwise we wouldn’t have a chance to “win” the arguement battle. My recommendation is: Learn some Spanish before you fly to Cuba. In travel guide books it’s said that many people do speak English or even German but … The truth is: Most of the locals speak only a Spanish with a dialect colour in it. You definitely need to get used to it.

Back at our B&B we got some rest before we went to Castas & Tal on Galliano #51 esquina San Lázaro for dinner where we did have very tasteful dishes and excellent wines.