Trinidad, as we would find out later in the day was further away, than we previously imagined. It turned out, we had no idea. The thing is that when planning your trip, you actually can’t even imagine what the country is like, and no guide in this world can prepare you for what is about to come. Something we would find out as soon as we landed in Cuba.
The island of Cuba looks quite small, “island-ish”, one could say – that is on the map. Once you get there you figure out that Cuba is almost as big as England, and then you start thinking differently in terms of how to get to all your destinations that you nicely put together while preparing from the comfort of your home. And when your realization comes together with the chaos that awaits you (lack of transportation, all forms of bureaucracy,…), then your trip finally starts.
The size of Cuba
Our planned trip looked like this:
Havana 3 nights
Viñales 2 nights
Trinidad 4 nights
Varadero 5 nights
Havana 1 night (before taking off)
Also we would have rented a car, so that we are able to move around freely.
Then we would have booked in advance all of our accommodation, so that everything would go swimmingly.
Instead it looked like this:
Havana 3 nights
Trinidad 3 nights
Varadero 5 nights
Havana 3 nights
Viñales day trip from Havana
There were no cars left to rent, all of them were booked out. Now do the maths and calculate how many cars there are available in the whole country.
The second option were the tourist busses (European standard), but also they were booked out. Again do the maths.
The third option (the only one left) was a driver. That is how we moved through the country.
Having your own driver does have lots of advantages however. First of all, they are not much more expensive than the tourist busses, but they pick you up in front of your casa, and you have the freedom to make stops on the way, to explore more of the country.
We just had a booked accommodation in Havana and Viñales. Turned out the accommodation in Havana wasn’t the one we booked and the one in Viñales, we had to cancel. Our landlords found an accommodation in Trinidad an hour before we left and a tourist agency took care of the one in Varadero.
Now that we were all set for our trip to Trinidad, which is 315km away from Havana, we were told it will take us approximately four hours to get there, with stops. Together with the German/Dutch couple we were looking forward to the trip. Charm was added to the journey when a classic American car picked us up. Or so we thought. Namely that wonderful charming car was a vintage 1952. Charming, yes, if it was “pimped” to the new(er) technology. But it wasn’t. It was quite run down, not able to drive faster than 70 km/h, and we had a feeling that it was falling apart while we were in it. Add that there are no seat belts available, since in the 1950s they were not thinking that far into the future, and the trip is “perfect”. Ok, here we go…
Ready. Set. Go.
First we sat in front. I was squeezed between the driver and my husband, who is 192 cm tall, so imagine how much space he needed and think further and imagine how much space I was left with. When we took turns, the German/Dutch couple changed places with us. In the back it was far more comfortable. You get by far more foot space than on the plane and the 1950s cars are so big that even a suitcase fits in the back of the car and you still end up being comfortable. If only the gearbox was not that loud, it would be even romantic. To cut the story short, after eight short hours, we finally got to Trinidad. The highway is quite calm, since there are not too many cars, and you also see horse carriages and bikes on the highway. The stops were also quite nice. Altogether a great experience.
Our stay wasn’t far from the one of our Dutch/German companions. Still we said bye… for now.
It was already evening when we arrived to our home for the time being. We took a quick shower and were off to first find something to eat and then to explore what we could for the rest of the evening.
We stumbled upon a plaza which was at the same time a wifi hot spot. There we had a drink and french fries. We had no wifi cards left and they were also sold out for the night, but at that point it didn’t matter. The plaza had so much life and Cuban singers were regularly performing. For the first time I heard a beautiful song live, called
“Hasta siempre, comandante”. It was incredible, the song moved me to tears. Maybe I realized for the first time, that Che Guevara wasn’t just an idol of the past. He was still a hero and a leader who was much loved, respected and appreciated. His death inspired poetry and romance. Cubans were singing to him with all their love. Che Guevara’s fight was inspired by love, love was leading him all the way. And the people were and are thankful forever.
The rest of the evening we enjoyed the music and the atmosphere. The day ended wonderfully.
The next day after breakfast at the landlord’s, we took off to explore the town. Trinidad is a much smaller town than the capital Havana, this way we were much quicker to experience it and three nights with a short getaway to the nearby beach were completely enough.
Trinidad is a very special town. In terms that I have not previously seen or experienced anything similar. The town is completely preserved. Founded in the 16th century, it did not move with city development past the 19th. That means that every building we saw or visited was built between the 16th and the 19th centuries. And what happens after, does not exist in this town. That applies to the house where we lived, to every single building that we visited or walked by. Most of the streets are still cobble stoned. And as such it is no wonder that the whole town of Trinidad is under the UNESCO protection.
Often we would see horses and horse carriages, still a widely spread means of transport. It only remained to get some clothes from the past times and we were again in the past.
View from above and Plaza Mayor
Like in Havana, Trinidad is a very lively town with music and art. Everywhere we went, there were art galleries. Another skill, Trinidad is famous for, are the handicrafts. Especially in the leather and fabrics department. The town market offered all kinds of those and I was happy to purchase one or the other handmade item.
Art galleries everywhere
We were lucky that every museum we wanted to visit, had its doors open. Also we were able to walk up the tower and experience the town from above. All of that is accompanied with art and the history of the Revolution. In Trinidad we also experienced fine dining, something we lacked in Havana, by booking a table at two restaurants of our choice, that both were set in 16th century mansions. Although Cubans in general seem to be forgetful, especially when it comes to what you order, it still was a wonderful experience and beautiful atmosphere.
Fine dining in Trinidad
We ran into our Dutch/German neighbors from Havana on two occasions. Once we ended up at the same beach, not having planned for it and took the cab back together to the town. Another time and it turned out the last time we saw them, was at a restaurant, where all of us ended up having a pizza together.
In general it was easy to approach or being approached by others. Cuba had lots of tourists in the time frame when we visited. In Trinidad, we ended up getting to know a girl from the USA who lives in Norway, another American, a German (there were lots of Germans) and a Swiss-Turkish guy. Exchanging information is vital in a country that is still undeveloped when it comes to tourism. Also the limited access to wifi helps.
I was kind of sad, when we were leaving. Havana was this beautiful, cosmopolitan and worldly city. We were going back there, so I had still something to look forward to. But Trinidad, we were leaving behind. The beauty and charm that this town had to offer, well I had to say good bye to that and it made me sentimental because, God knows, when and if I will ever return again. I soaked up everything that this town had to offer and took it with me, preserving it in my mind and my soul, just the way, Trinidad itself was and is preserved all these centuries.
Enjoy the post. Next stop, Varadero.
xx Azra/Swedish Avenue