VIVA LA CUBA!
There are so many things to be written for Cuba… I do not know from where to start .. Before my Cuba posts, I want to tell something about ‘You must know before Cuba trip..’
I am not sure if there is somewhere else in the world so special and so unique as Cuba. It was much more than a trip to Cuba for me..
I will publish my posts related to this amazing country but first it is better to have some information about this special place. How Cubans live? How is life in a communist/socialist country? What is Money for them? So you have to think on those issues before going to Cuba.
I questioned myself and way of living life when I was in Cuba. The life style of the Cuban people and the social structure are so different and interesting..
We…! Not I..!
The time as if had stopped in the 1960’s in Cuba.. The houses are very old, even run-down. There are many old cars from the 1960’s. All are antique. The consciousness of the society has the idea ‘we’ not ‘I’. All are equal except some minor differences. If your house is old, mine is old.. You can not renovate your house as you wish. If my neighbor is in a lower standard of living I can not carry myself towards up. Communism/socialism, the governed states, does not allow this, but this is not the reason, poeople have already accepted this fact naturally. They are encoded at the time they were born. They all are covered with ‘We’ consciousness, they don’t know what ‘I’ is.
This situation for sure has already impressed me. I, as a person who is quite disturbed by the fact that nothing is fair and the people are living in bad conditions that they do not deserve, saw that everyone is somehow equal in Cuba.
Recipe for Happiness
Our description related to happiness and the Cuban perception are very different from each other.
The state serves all requirements of each Cuban . First of all, health and education are provided equally. So parents do not worry about their children and the future.. This is how a luxury feeling, please just consider..
Certainly, it is not easy to understand the life in Cuba and the reason of why the people are so happy despite their poor looking conditions. I think you must have ‘high level mind’ to understand all those issues and also deeply understand Fidel and Che.. If you can reach this high level mind, just then you can understand the virtues of the system and the value of living as ‘we’… Almost everytime, our happiness depend on material things. A good house, a good car, a good income.. Come on, confess it, your happiness definition is based on the materiality.. It is natural ! Because we all deeply worry about our future, moreover our child’s future! But actually, all of these are not related to happiness and all these financial concepts are not enough for happiness. So Cuba is a country where poeple completely pass beyond these things. That’s why they are so happy and smooth. They live in a system which is beyond our mind lines and yes, they are happy..
The most valuable thing Cuban people have is their revolution-Cuban Revolution. They never behave contrary to values of revolution.. Becasue they had already internalized those values.. As I said, they were somehow encoded.
Ernesto Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and Raul Castro are very important for Cuba. They are 4 horsemen of revolution not apocalypse. You can see many graphite, word or sign of Che all over Cuba. Cubans adore this romantic revolutionary from Argentina who gave Cubans their freedom as overthrowing dictator Batista. So please don’t visit Cuba without learning Cuban Revolution well.
Che’s city Santa Clara, Che’s mausoleum and Museum of the Revolution details will be on the next posts and videos..
Literacy rate in Cuba
Literacy rate in Cuba is 99.8 percent, being in top 10.. Novels of world classics are read to workers in cigar factories while doing their jobs.. So cigars have interesting name such as Monte Cristo, Romeo and Juliet ..
The most expensive thing in Cuba: Communication!
Internet like most of the things is on the black market in Cuba.. You can not find easily. You’re already in a different world, so it is should not even be in your care. If still, you want internet and you say ‘I will give the Money, no problem, you cannot reach internet easily. Because there is no 3G, they have just G 🙂 We paid 5 CUC (about 5 euro) for internet access of 1 hour at the hotel. But we could not even provide a proper connection. It remained so. I recommend you to turn off all data connections of your mobile phone against the possibility of astonomic bills. Unintentionally your phone may try to connect by 2G. Prefer to use SMS instead of having a telephone call in Cuba.
Is Cuba a safe country?
Yes, quite safe.. Crime rate is very low in Cuba. We went to the city’s even worst ghettos with Aysam, to discover and take photographs of Havana streets and lead our memories to eternity.. We did not face any bothering. Some people can come close to you and sell something, don’t care. There are no pickpocketing, theft, etc.. But beware not to leave any stuff in any place. Because your belongings may have already been nationalized and would have been a gift to the Cuban people before you return 🙂 Remember, you are in a communist country.
You will not see any homeless Cuban lying on the streets. Because as I said, it is impossible to be homeless due to state take possesion of everybody and provide a home..
If you want to feel like Cubans; make salsa, drink rum and lite cigar!
Dance is the meaning of life in Cuba: Salsa & Cuban Music
Especially in Havana, you will deliver your soul to Cuban rhythms. Cuban music is really incredible. It is a delicious mix of Caribbean, Latin American and African rhythms..
Rum (Ron for Cuban)
The tear of slaves.. (Yes, this is rum’s meaning, I will tell why on the next posts) Cuba’s national drink.. Rum is everywhere in Cuba.. Cocktails with rum, coffee with rum, icecream with rum, fried banana with.. This is really an awesome drink.. We will talk about rum detailed in the next post. I will also give the original recipes of all Cuban cocktails with rum.
Cuba has cigars which have amazing flavor that can tempt even those who hate the taste of cigarette.. Cuba means cigar.. We also visited the Cuban cigar factory of course and it was an interesting experience. We saw a fine craftsmanship. I felt myself in a movie studio while watching workers who wrapped tobacco in the very hot weather (there is no air condition, almost nowhere in Cuba) and among the heavy smell of tobacco. Your cigar will have more value after your cigar factory visit. Completely handmade.. I wondered what they think while they wrapped cigars.. Who knows.. (Information for curious: Cigars are not wrapped on the women’s legs in Cuba 🙂 )
Do not just taste the various cigars, also bring when you come back your country. You know there is something called cigar culture. Cigar trimming, lighting, smoking, stubbing out, storage culture.. Learn some information about cigar storage conditions and all related to cigar culture..
Transport to Cuba-Passport Control
You do not have many options to go to Cuba from Turkey. No direct flights yet. You can use KLM via Amsterdam, Air Canada via Canada or Air France via Paris options are the best ones. Ask for transit visa requirements.. Aeroflot Airlines also have economic alternatives. Meanwhile, important information: When you land on to the San Jose Airport, do not remove your luggage label till you leave the airport. Otherwise your luggage will be forced to be checked in the luggage office. Remember, Cuba is a communist country and everything is procedure here. By the way, if you don’t want the officer to stamp Cuba entry in your passport, you can simply ask for this. So they stamp the entry on a separate document instead of your passport. Though no longer be a problem, but still for your information. The passport officer may also ask you if you had a trip to Africa in last few months.(Just in case for a disease) Just say ‘no’..
Urban Transportation in Cuba
Walk walk walk in Havana.. It is so pleasant to explore Havana and getting closer to Cubans while walking.
Taxies are also available for urban transportation. What nice taxies they are..! Most of them are very old in Cuba. Almost all Cuban cars are antique.. Make a Havana tour by a classic American convertible car.. Ours was very nice 🙂 It will be on the next post..
Coco taxies are another transportation alternative in Havana. For 3 persons. They are very cute and enjoyable.
Bici taxies are another alternatives in Cuba (not only in Havana) Bici taxies are in the form of bicycles, non-motorized. Used for short distances. Bicis are cheaper than cocos. We didn’t use bici taxi. We didn’t want a person to carry us under the very hot weather for money.
Also you can use the local bus transportation within Cuba between cities. Click here for the detailed info.
Best time for Cuba Trip
We went in July and tested how much the sun might be burning. It wasn’t easy to go around in Cuba under the hot weather. We were almost to evaporate. August and October is likely to have storm so it would be better not to go in that period. I think May 1st is very best time for Cuba. How special to celebrate labor and freedom in front of giant Che portrait in the Revolution Square, who knows..
You have 2 alternatives for accommodation in Cuba:
We stayed at Nacional Hotel in Havana, a hotel with a history from 1930’s. Staying in this historical hotel which hosted the most famous names and filled with many valuable memories has very well fit with Cuban atmosphere. We enjoyed it very much. Nacional Hotel and the other ones in Cuba will be in my next posts.
Casa Particular means to stay in a home of a Cuban family. There is no better opportunity to learn the Cuban people and Cuban life, so I thought on it, but my comfort lust outweighed and at last we chose to stay at a hotel because I wanted to have my own bathroom. If you want to get more information about casa and make a reservation click here .
There are 2 types of currency in Cuba. CUP used by Cubans (Peso Cubano) and we as the tourist use CUC (convertible pesos). (You are lucky if you have a Cuban friend. You can buy your drink with CUP so cheaper than buying by CUC.
Think as 1 CUC = 1 EURO
You can change Euro at your hotel. Normally hotels are not recommended in Europe because of the high comission but this is not a problem in Cuba. Exchange rates are same everywhere, and hotels are more safe.
Important information: Be sure that you get your overage of cash as CUC (convertible pesos written on), not CUP. Otherwise, you’ll loose about one eighth because of CUC and CUP currency.
What to eat what to drink in Cuba?
I was very surprised starting from my first meal, after misleading information I get from blogs about Cuba! They cried down so much about Cuban cuisine. Most probably they go to a Michelin Restaurant everyday! The organic chicken, pure honey, amazing exotic fruits, the natural juices.. What do you expect more? We already know, this is not a stylish chic travel. The only thing you must not do in Cuba is to order wine! You only would not drink wine in Cuba. It is really suck. Forget wine and drink amazing cocktails with rum, local beers and natural fresh juices. At our lunch-dinner time, the biggest problem was the terrible hot. Because there is no air condition in the restaurants. They have just propellers but worth nothing as you can imagine. Folding fan would be a good idea.. you can eat lots of chicken, sea foods, black beans and variety of soup.My detailed Cuba Cuisine posts will be here soon..
We drunk pina colada everyday during Cuba trip. They were so organic and nice cocktails we drunk ever.
What to buy from Cuba?
Here is my shopping list in Cuba;
* Plenty of magnets (My Cuba magnets are the most precious part of my collection)
* Rom (we bought 3 years old Santiago De Cuba and 7 years old Havana Club. They took their place in the World Drinks Collection of Aysam) and shot glasses with Cuba signs on (we have a lovely set we got from various countries)
* Mug with Cuba signs on (it took its place in my cup collection and I think I will drink my coffee in this cup for long time)
* Havana cigar (We bought Cohibo Robustos which has woody and leather flavour, slightly spicy)
* Panama hat from San Jose Market (I believe it is original 🙂 ) and some hand fan from the same market.
* Alicia cream of course, which is a very famous cosmetic cream. I will use and give feedback. I will report updates here.
* You can also buy books about Che, Che t-shirts and caps, salsa cd’s from street salsa musicians. Cubans are also very talented in painting. You must see the beautiful pictures in San Jose Market in Havana.
Things to Bring to Cuba
*Plenty of tissue-wipes and liquid soap in a size you can carry with you. When you use a public toilet, or a restaurant-cafe, they give you only small napkins. You can find a soap sometimes but they are very very thin, hand soap. (Except hotels.. If you are staying in a hotel, put the shower gel or shampoo to your bag)
*American-Compatible electric socket converter (110V)
*Euro for CUC (don’t prefer dollar, they get commission)
*Fly repellent spray
*If you go to Cuba in summer, high level protection sunmilk and sun cream. (Cuban sun burns bad, Aysam’s colour turned into Latin American’s chocolate brown, it is very nice, but for those who want to stay white as me, bring suncreams and long-sleeved filmy shirts-blouses. Otherwise, you can broil like a lobster)
*Lollipops, colored pens, notebook etc. etc. to make Cuban children happy.
I can not understand those who say that Cuba experience was disappointing. I think they appraise Cuba depending on their magnificent country standarts, not Cuban conditions. Of course who evaluate Cuba with their capitalist habituations will return certainly unhappy. But as I mentioned early in the post, their sense and value of life is very very different from us. They live in a style which we can not comprehend in our minds easily. So it is important to take into account this point while forming our ideas related to Cuba. It is a must to clear our minds, to liberate our souls from capitalism. Then we may perhaps understand Cuba.
“Can you draw the picture of happiness for me Abidin ?? Can you draw the Picture of Cuba in the middle of 1961 summer? “
Nazim Hikmet asks to famous painter Abidin Dino…
Here is Cuba, I think, is the exact Picture of happiness that Nazim looked for..
As I said, there are many things to be written about Cuba.. Fidel, Che, the Cuban people, Havana streets, Che’s Santa Clara, Varadero which I do not understand why people do not like and other Cuba cities.. I’ll be talking about, accompanied by dozens of photos and videos..
Let Cuba posts begin..