Casa de la Trova - Santiago
This is the place I frequented most in Santiago. Either listening to the bands playing or participating in the dancing led by locals who as usually invite the foreigners to dance whether they know how to do it or not. Don't hesitate to try a few steps cause it doesn't really matters if you are performing well or not. It's a lot of fun anyway.
Being there and listening to these wonderful musicians is a travel back to the legendary times of Trova music. It seems little has changed. The style , the atmosphere the way they are dressed, the voices.. It is the first Casa de la Trova and it has almost become a national Museum by now, carrying the history of years in Cuban music. The authentic sound of Cuban music is carried on by old and famous or young romantic musicians who participate in the wonderful task of keeping their wonderful music alive.
Photos of famous Trova composers and singers on the wall complete the picture.
It is on Herredia street...
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el cerdo al palo
Almost every house has a pig in their yard or ... balcony! They almost have them like pets, although their final purpose is to feed the family when the time comes. This time can be a birthday celebration or any other festive day of the year. They usually roast it on the spit.
The whole procedure starts a day before when they skin it and wash it. The day of the celebration they put it on the spit and take turns in turning it around over the fire. Usually the whole family, friends and neighbors come together to share the tasty pork accompanied with salad, rice, potatoes and of course the necessary rum.
I tried a few bites on New Year's Day! Although i don't eat red meat, I wanted to know the taste of a Cuban pig.... It is like any other pig in the world...lol ... tasty and juicy. In Greece we do the same with a lamb on Easter Day. There are lambs in Greece that are born and raised just for this purpose.Related to:
- Food and Dining
My best stay in Cuba was in this wonderful peaceful, verdant and friendly place. I felt welcome, relaxed and didn't want to leave. I stayed for 2 weeks and not even one moment did I feel bored or annoyed. I enjoyed amazing views from my apartment, excellent beaches to explore, good meals in the owners' family, and wonderful opportunities for walks around the beautiful green area . Local people are friendly and hospitable, eager to make friends with the tourists who are open and willing to share their thoughts and laughs with them. There are some big resorts on the main beaches but there is a lot of space for indepedent travelers and locals, too.
It is said that when Christopher Columbus first arrived there he said: “this is the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen”
“Guardalavaca” in spanish means “guard the cow”, because in old times there were pirates and thieves stealing cows from the villagers who were mainly cattle raisers.
It has some of the best beaches in Cuba, the water is crystalline and the color is beautiful. No current, no waves, perfect for swimming.
You can get on the double floor bus to Pesquero beach, Esmeralda beach and several more beautiful places nearby.
There is an exchange office for foreign cash and some nice shops for gifts and items of daily use. I think there is an ATM in a big resort, but don't depend on it.
In the upmarket hotels near the beach you can find more shops and a daily open craft market.
If you don't want to stay in the expensive hotels you can stay in the village.
There are small shops in the village and an open market.Related to:
Casa de la Musica - Trinidad
This Casa de la Musica in Trinidad was my favorite. It is located on the "Escalinata", which is a road made up of large stairs adjacent to the Cathedral. Every night most of the visitors and a lot of locals gather to enjoy the live bands and drink a mojito sitting on the stairs, or chairs if they have booked in advance.
Some professional dancers usually open the dancing encouraging the female tourists to dance Salsa with them. The Cuban – style salsa is called Casino. Soon the dancing floor is full of locals and tourists as well. There is usually a lot of fun.
I spent hours watching the Cubans dancing with exquisite grace and agility, all of them looking professionals. I made it a habit to check Casa de la Musica before going to bed..: )
Live bands play during the day, too, filling the air with the typical musical Cuban songs..
The “entrance” is 1 cuc
Dancing lessons are offered.
Click to see Video 1
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Trinidad was a nice surprise, although I had heard a lot about its beauty from fellow travelers. On the first day I felt I had moved back in time, in the 19th century. I grabbed my camera, hungry for photos. After a few days I relaxed and started enjoying strolling in the streets absorbing the charm of this unique town.
I enjoyed the romantic atmosphere, the intimacy of the people, the trotting of horses resounding in the cobbled streets . The colorful colonial houses with the red tiled roofs, built in a tight row. The wooden carved bars protecting the windows but also leaving them open and hospitable, and the large wooden doors embellished with small carved details. I started joining the music events and following the steps of Cuban partners on the dancing floor. I tasted every delicacy cooked with care by my hostess, my good friend Maribel.
The country side offers nice hikes and horse rides, and its beautiful beaches, La Boca and Ancon are among the best in Cuba.
But what conquers you for ever is the warm hospitality and the high spirit of the people.
Dancing is their first priority...! Casa de La Musica on the picturesque step road - “Escalinata” is the central music scene of the city. Live bands give the rhythm and dancers professional or amateurs - they are both excellent - move skilfully on the dancing floor.....Cubans dance amazingly!
The majority of Casas Particulares are in the old city center and they are lovely...
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The Great Celebration - Guantanamo
It's a great coincidence that I was there on Dec, 17, when Obama announced the change in American -Cuban relationship and the release of the FIVE, the 5 Cubans who were held in american prisons for 16 years without any charges, who after that became "heroes" for the Cuban people.
Guantanamo is the most symbolic city of the bad relations between the two nations, as its beautiful bay is held illegally, as the Cubans claim, by the Americans. Which of course all Cubans resent.
Cubans felt a gust of freedom and justification blowing towards their country. The city celebrated the news with big parties, parades in traditional costumes and crazy dances in the street. A huge mass of people were singing and dancing as only Cubans can. Amazingly! The whole city was there participating in the great event. Every body was there shining, smiling and singing ...and me in the center, jumping and dancing with them..... It was great!!!
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Iglesia Parroquial de la Santissima - Trinidad
On a Sunday morning, as I was passing by the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santissima ( Church of the Holy Trinity), I heard the harmonious chanting of the people attending the Mass. I entered the church and stayed for a while to absorb the melodious atmosphere.
Its simple neoclassical facade often appears in photos of Trinidad. In the interior it looks larger and more grandiose.
The 18th-century wooden statue of Christ, "The Lord of the True Cross", is much revered by the local population. Especially because it was brought in the city by a strange chance of destiny. The ship carrying it to Veracruz was deviated by bad weather and finally had to leave the cross in Trinidad.
There is also a large altar dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy).
Your best chance of grasping its charm is during Mass time at 8pm on weekdays, 4pm on Saturday, and 9am and 5pm on Sunday.
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- Religious Travel
Plaza de San Francisco de Asis - Havana
The convent and church of San Francisco de Asis occupies one side. One can climb the tall tower to enjoy the view. Towards the eastern side, the cruise Terminal Sierra Maestra is used by big cruise ships. While I was near I saw some tourists coming out in shining vintage cars, I suppose this is part of the cruise entertainment...
On the north side the tall imposing building is the Lonja de Commercios (Chamber of Commerce), built in a rennaisance style, which was used as the Stock Exchange before the revolution. Now it houses important offices.
The modern sculpture in front of it, was donated by Vittorio Perrota in 2012 and is named “La Conversacion”. It was created by the French sculptor Etienne. I liked it. It represents the necessity for the countries of the world to communicate.
The Fountain of Lions ( Fuente de los Leones) in the middle was designed by an Italian sculptor, and is often used as a resting point for the pigeons flying in circles around the square.
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- National/State Park
- Historical Travel
A classic Cuban destination. It is very touristic but I still had my chance with the family of the room I rented. They invited me for breakfast every morning, and for a couple of dinners, too. We talked a lot. Nice people. Warm and very polite.
I swam a lot in the superb sea of Varadero , and never got enough of it. I took videos and photos of the unique white sand beach and the Caribbean color of the sea and it looks different every day, but always fascinating. The sunsets are magnificent!
I rode the open double bus. It was an enjoyable riding on the top of the bus. It goes quite a long distance along the peninsula and costs 5 cucs. It makes some stops at big resorts and you can get off anywhere you like and get on again with the same ticket. It makes a stop in front of Hicacos Natural Park with a lot of flora and fauna species to see and several caves to visit. Apply sunscreen and hold your hat in your hands if you sit on top; I saw some hats flying away...
In my previous trip I stayed in a big resort at the end of the peninsula which was very comfortable and relaxing but I never decided to go to the city of Varadero. You get very lazy in these resorts...
This time I went around the city every day, visiting restaurants, craft markets, shopping centers and having a closer experience with the local people.
View the Travelogue "The 8 faces of Varadero beach"Related to:
Santa Clara, a green and breezy town, is known mostly because of Che Guevara. It was the stage of his final battle against Batista.
There are several monuments of Che in the city. There is a museum at the place where he finally triumphed against the troops of Batista, derailing a train. It is called Tren Blindado. A few meters away there is a monument of Che holding a baby in his arms – Che y el Niño - and a big statue in the Revolution Square (Plaza de Revolucion) where Che was buried.
He used a hill overlooking the whole city, Loma de Capiro, from where he coordinated his movements. You can go up the hill on foot. It is so pleasant that I stayed on the top for more than an hour, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the amazing views of the city among lush vegetation, royal palms and tamarind trees. There is a monument dedicated to the final successful battle on the top.
In the center of the city Parque Vidal is the beating heart of the city. The excellent Teatro de Caridad is the most beautiful building in the square, and one of the best colonial theaters in Cuba. The Art Museum is there, too and the neoclassical Palacio Provincial, now housing a library.
I went to Parque Vidal almost daily as it was the setting for all kinds of musical events, protests or celebrations.
The Viazul Station telephone number in Santa Clara is 222524.Related to:
- Historical Travel
The train station in Μοrοn
The train station in Μοrοn is one of the main railroad crossroads of Cuba. It is found close to the city center and the train crosses one of the main streets .
I had in mind to cover a short distance by train because I am a train fan but as soon as I entered the station I changed my mind. It was so crowded with locals trying to get ready in time for their train, that I thought it would be easier to ride a camion to Avila and then a Viazul bus to Santa Clara.
The station is an elegant colonial building of the early 20th century. Look up to see the beautiful skylight on the ceiling. The waiting room is nice , too, with old time pictures hanging on the walls.Related to:
Museo Provincial “La Periquera' - Holguin
Following a group of cute ballarina- dressed little girls I ended up at the Museum La Periquera. I went on inside, paid the entrance of 1 cuc but refused to pay 5 cucs for photos, as I was more interested in photographing the little ballet than the museum itself.... The staff smiled and let me take all the photos I liked for free.
This museum is actually a Museum of Provincial History exhibiting musical instruments, clothes, items of daily use and furniture of older periods. It also holds the famous 1309-35/1330 Hacha de Holguin “ the axe of holguin” the symbol of the city. It was quite interesting, after all.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Holguin is known as the City of Parks. Its surrounding area is mostly mountainous but very scenic.
Some of the many Plazas are built close together so it's easy to visit them on foot. There are surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings and churches. In a pedestrianized street, called Mauduley Boulevard which is leading to Park Céspedes I found an artifact exhibition, which is almost permanent.
The main Square is the large and lively Galixto Garcia Park, where you can meet people of all walks of life. Students, elderly, beggars, street artists and passers by made a colorful kaleidoscope of the city life. There was a loud band playing in the square while other artists were performing their shows for the locals and tourists who happened to walk by. Holguin's Casa de La Trova is there as well as Museum “La Periquera”.
Céspedes Park a few minute walk away is dominated by the beautiful Cathedral of San José. The imposing Cathedral of San Isidro is the main element of Peralta Park, another leafy square. A huge mural is on the wall of a building on Maceo street, called Mural de Origen. It depicts the history of Cuba and Holguin from indigenous times until the freedom of slaves.
Plaza de la Revolucion is a few streets east of the center. A monument dedicated to the Cuban heros and the tomb of Galixto Garcia are found there.
A trip to Gibara near the sea makes a nice daytrip, but you can also stay for a few days.
Personally I chose to get in a collective taxi which took me to Guardalavaca in one hour for 5 cucs, and it was really a good choice!!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Museo Provincial - Guantanamo
Housed in a plain building, this interesting museum has four main parts.
The room of the “Aborigines”, their original ancestors, the room of natural history with stuffed animals, insects, reptiles, butterflies of the region.
There is a room dedicated to their cooperation with Russia in space expeditions. There was a cuban astronaut flying in one of the"Soyuz" spacecrafts.
There is also a room exhibiting the furniture of older period.
They told me there was one more room but it was closed at the time, as it was being renovated. Maybe , I thought, it was the room about Gitmo prison and they had just closed it urgently for obvious reasons, after the change in politics with the Americans.
Entrance fee is 1cuc.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Guantanamo is holding three World Heritage Sites. Actually Guantanamo means "the land among rivers" referring to the three rivers that have their sources on the impressive mountains in the north.
Its big bay occupied by the American naval base made Guantanamo known to the world. Unfortunately few visitors come to know the real Guantanamo. This city is inhabited by peaceful and polite people who like living a quiet life and expressing themselves by dancing and singing. The cultural symbol is the internationally known song, the "Guantamera" and they are famous for the carnivals and dancing fiestas, expressing their joyful idiosyncrasy.
Its August carnival is famous for its colorful costumes, dancing and music playing.
However, Guantanamerans take every opportunity to make it a fiesta, go out in the streets, dance and celebrate.
With the opportunity of celebrating the freeing of the five Cubans held in American prisons, I had the excellent chance to get an idea of the great parade.
The main square, Parque Martí is spreading around the Cathedral of Santa Catalina de Riccis. It is said it's the smallest Cathedral in he world.
It has of course its own Casa de la Trova on one of the corners of the park.
I spent several hours resting in the square watching and chatting with the people .
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